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Reece Topley on the comeback trail with World Cup call-up in his sights

Fast bowler set for Surrey and Hundred returns after winter of freak injuries

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Reece Topley celebrates his dismissal of Mohammad Rizwan, Pakistan vs England, 7th T20I, Lahore, October 2, 2022

Reece Topley celebrates his dismissal of Mohammad Rizwan during England's tour of Pakistan last year  •  Getty Images

Reece Topley is expected to make a playing comeback for Surrey in a 50-over contest against Suffolk next week, ahead of a full stint with Northern Superchargers in the Hundred, as he begins his comeback from a cruel run of injuries that derailed his participation in both the T20 World Cup in Australia last year and the IPL.
Topley, 29, travelled to Australia in October expecting to play a key new-ball role in what turned out to be a triumphant tournament for England, who went on to become the only men's white-ball team to hold the 50- and 20-over World Cups concurrently.
Instead, he stepped on a boundary marker while warming up ahead of a practice match against Pakistan in Brisbane, and had to fly home from the tournament for ankle surgery. And then, having been signed by Royal Challengers Bangalore for INR 1.9 crore (£190,000 approx.) for his maiden IPL stint, Topley bowled just two overs in his opening match against Mumbai Indians before landing heavily in the outfield and suffering a dislocated right shoulder.
"I knew I was going home," Topley said, recalling the incident at the Chinnaswamy in early April. "When I was sat in Bangalore with my humerus bone in front of my pec, I was just like, 'wow, how quickly can I get home to have surgery?' It wasn't like I was going to hang around or whatever. It was just, like, let's just get out of here."
Now, however, he's on the comeback trail, and given his extraordinary physical attributes - a 6'7" frame capable of generating pace, swing and bounce from an awkward left-arm angle - his recovery is sure to be monitored closely by the England selectors, as their attentions switch from the ongoing Ashes to the white-ball series against Ireland and New Zealand in September, ahead of this winter's defence of the 50-over World Cup in India.
"The Hundred is almost like end-stage rehab, I guess," Topley said at the launch of the KP Snacks community cricket pitches initiative in Tottenham. "Obviously I'll look to put in some good performances and I'll want to do well for Superchargers because we've got a great squad that wants to go all the way.
"But then, obviously, you got New Zealand and Ireland," he added. "Those games will be quite pivotal in the lead-up to the World Cup. I know that the conditions are slightly different, but 50 overs is something we don't play a lot of anymore, so that game-time in an ODI will be massively important. So I'll look to hopefully play those, and get up to speed as soon as possible."
Almost exactly 12 months ago, Topley was at the very top of his game - most notably with a remarkable haul of 6 for 24 against India at Lord's, the best figures ever recorded by an England bowler in a men's ODI. He blew away India's top-order once again in the next match at Old Trafford, and though England could not close out that particular contest, the performance ensured that he was in high demand at the subsequent IPL auction in December, where he attracted bids almost of three times his base price.
The fact that Topley is suddenly in such high demand - especially after an injury-plagued career that encompassed four stress fractures between 2016 and 2020, and the genuine belief that he might never play again - has helped him to compartmentalise the frustrations of his freak setbacks this year, and double down on the rehab to make sure he's ready for whatever opportunities come his way.
"It has gone really well," he said. "Obviously it's never nice to get injured, but then I suppose the nature of the two injuries I had this year, you can spend a lot of time soul-searching and asking questions why, but I think you've just got to get on the front foot and deal with it, and almost take a typical British attitude, stiff upper lip and crack on.
"I suppose you flip it [on its head] and ask yourself what's going to be achieved if you don't get on with things? I'm really excited to get back out there. I've bowled really well when I've played, so the fact that I'm playing again and getting out there fills me with so much excitement.
"When you are out there, you do have a big sense of gratification, you love the fact that you're playing cricket, rather in any sense turning up and thinking it's just another game. So let's hope it's the start of a relatively successful end of the summer and winter, obviously with the World Cup on the horizon."
Assuming he's able to prove his fitness for the rest of this summer, Topley will be returning to India for his second World Cup campaign, having played a part in the squad that reached the final of the World T20 in Kolkata in 2016, where Carlos Brathwaite famously cracked four sixes in a row off Ben Stokes to swipe the trophy from England's grasp.
"I suppose it's nice that you've got people that have experienced that sort of heartbreak, especially out in quite an emotional place which is India," Topley said.
"When you're playing, everyone's emotions seem to be running high, whether you're one side of the boundary rope or the other. But, equally, there'll be some new faces in that squad. There's a few stalwarts and ever-presents, but even those new faces have got IPL experience. So I don't think there's anything that's going to throw up any surprises to anyone.
"I'm really excited. There's a lot of debate about 50-over cricket, but when there's a World Cup on the horizon, there's few other things that you can say you're going to prioritise ahead of 50-over cricket.
"It's a nice run-in with the Hundred, but those ODI series against Ireland and New Zealand will be about people trying to get in the XI for October.
"From a personal perspective, I've had some success and it's really about emulating that, but I wouldn't say I've stayed still," he added. "I've got injured, but it's been a time to work on my own game and learn some new things, because people say that, if you're standing still, you're going to get overtaken, so it's about adding more strings to my bow."
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Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket