Martin Andersson is both delighted and relieved to know he can live without the all-rounder tag while he battles back from a career-threatening injury.
Andersson broke into the Middlesex first XI at the end of last season after a successful loan spell with Derbyshire, only to suffer a double stress fracture of the back last winter.
The 23-year-old still cannot bowl, so remains shorn of one of the key skills which led Middlesex to offer him a professional contract in 2018. But it seems it really is ‘an ill wind that blows no good’.
With extra time to work on his batting, a ‘Daddy hundred’ for the second eleven against Essex last month won him a call-up to the Seaxes’ top-five for the last two Championship matches of the season, where a maiden first-class fifty against Division Two champions Lancashire further underlined his promise just with willow in hand.
“It’s something that’s given me a bit of confidence at the end of the year to know I’ve been able to get a place in the side with just one of my skills,” said Andersson.
“Before the injury, I saw myself as 50/50, but having been able to work on my batting for another year without being able to bowl, I’m now slightly favouring the batting.
“Hopefully when I can do both again, I can still potentially earn my spot with either one of them.”
The first signs of the trouble to come surfaced last December when Reading-born Andersson was 10,000 miles away playing club cricket in Adelaide.
He returned home and tried to carry on, only to break down during March’s pre-season friendly against Hampshire.
Out of options, he underwent surgery, two screws being inserted in his back to correct the problem. Andersson was confined to bed for a fortnight.
Scary as that was, he became able to see the surgery, with huge help from Middlesex physio Pete Waxman and his team, as the first step on the long journey of recovery.
“I’d had trouble with my back for quite a while until there was no alternative way to get through it,” he continued.
“So, in a way it was easier to have the operation and then to set targets for different stages, like at six weeks, 10 weeks, three months to try to follow certain goals with rehab through running and cycling. So, there was a fairly clear path to follow and I was massively helped out by the physio team.
“They came up with quite a basic routine to start with, just a lot of core stuff, but upped it quite quickly from about the six-week point to starting to carry weights around and setting loads for my back to enable it to get stronger again.
“I’ll probably stay off the bowling until December because there’s no point overloading myself too early. I’ll just do a lot of fitness all round to make sure my body is ready to go mid to late March, whenever the first game is next year.”
Aside from the physical rehabilitation, it was mentally and emotionally gruelling too, a road doubly difficult for one of cricket’s more introvert characters to travel.
“Having family and friends around and a good support network has helped me massively,” he added.
“It took a fair bit to get me to talk about it, but after a while I opened up.
“It has been about talking to as many people as possible really. A lot of the seam bowlers have gone through a similar sort of thing with long-term injuries, so speaking to them helps as well.”
Article by Jon Batham of the ECB Reporters Network