Topley sets sights on next year's T20 World Cup in Australia
England quick hopes to use BBL stint with Melbourne Renegades to build his case
Left-arm quick Reece Topley is hoping to use the Big Bash League as a launching pad to build his case to be in England's first-choice squad for next year's T20 World Cup in Australia.
Topley was a late addition to England's squad halfway through the recent T20 World Cup in the UAE as a replacement for the injured Tymal Mills.
He has never played in the BBL before and has only played one England Lions List A game in Australia back in 2013, but he's hoping a full season with Melbourne Renegades will put him firmly in the frame for next year's World Cup.
"It's obviously an opportunity and it's one that I hope to take and hopefully try and impress the right people," Topley said. "But obviously, being around in Dubai, I felt I was ready if the opportunity came. Unfortunately, it never did. But, you know, it was nice to have this lined up for when I left there. And it was going to be a great opportunity to get some playing time after being on the sidelines for a month or so."
Topley found the experience in the UAE invaluable despite not getting the opportunity to play. He was particularly grateful for spending some time with Chris Woakes and new Surrey T20 captain, and Sydney Sixers recruit, Chris Jordan.
"Being around someone like Chris Jordan, trying to take things away from how he goes about it at the death and different stages of the game," Topley said. "Even someone like Woakesy with bowling up top, why wouldn't you if you've got those people around you in the changing room."
Topley has joined Renegades for the upcoming BBL with a special connection to the club having spent two summers in Melbourne during his prolonged rehabilitation from his series of back injuries.
After making his T20I debut against Australia in 2015 in Cardiff and playing international cricket over the next year including at the 2016 T20 World Cup his career stalled. But a trip to Melbourne in 2018-19 provided a great opportunity for him to train with Victoria on an ad hoc basis while he continued his rehab and it remains a fond memory as Renegades won the BBL title that year.
"I know some of the guys from being in and around Melbourne and I trained with Victoria a few times and obviously there were a few Renegades players around that," Topley said. "So I know a lot of the guys pretty well which is nice. Obviously, you're arriving to this environment having already formed a relationship with a lot of guys.
"Honestly, I was just out here training, just bowling in the nets. Lucky I'm a bowler because everyone, you know, would love a net bowler. If I was a batter asking guys to charge in at me I don't think I'd have been as popular. But I was always ready to bowl at anyone that would fancy having a net around here and it really helped me, especially while it's cold in England getting outside here bowling in the nets is a lot better than bowling indoors where it's freezing."
Topley is excited to work with new coach David Saker and bowling coach Mick Lewis, particularly on finding the right lengths and variations in Australia.
But more than anything, he is simply happy to be fit and back playing regularly.
"I'm real happy with where I'm at," Topley said. "To play consistently for I think three years now like summer, winter, summer, winter, it's obviously a big ask but I'm happy that I've been able to answer that with playing consistently and staying relatively injury-free. Obviously, as a bowler that's probably the biggest battle you face most of the time is just being fit, but I think being fit and available and then playing is definitely helping me with developing."
Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo