Liam Plunkett has admitted he lost confidence in his ability to such an extent he used to suffer nightmares over bowling wide deliveries in international cricket.
Plunkett is now a fixture in England’s first-choice limited-overs sides. Of seamers with 100 wickets in ODI cricket, only Mitchell Starc, Trent Boult, Shane Bond and Brett Lee have a better strike-rate than Plunkett’s 30.40. None of his England colleagues have as many as his 110 ODI wickets.
But at one stage he went more than four years without featuring in England’s ODI side. And, so chronic did his crisis of confidence become, he struggled to gain selection for Durham in 2011 and 2012.
As a result, he said his period back in the England side feels like “bonus time”, ahead of an ODI series against India that will determine who is No. 1 in the ICC rankings.
“I struggled a little bit trying to work out what kind of bowler I was,” Plunkett said. “As a youngster, I bowled quick and it swung.
“But I lost that. I fought to get it back but it never really came. I never thought I wasn’t going to play [as a professional] again, but going from Test cricket back to county second team cricket was a bit demoralising.
“I had dreams of bowling a ball to gully. This is before Test matches.”
Key to his recovery was moving to Yorkshire ahead of the 2013 season. Emboldened by the support of Jason Gillespie – then the Yorkshire head coach – and the unfussy approach he took to bowling, Plunkett gradually recovered his confidence and form.
“Yorkshire were so good to me,” Plunkett said. “One of the reasons they signed me, I think, is that I said I wanted to play for England again. I’m not sure how much I believed it then.
“But Gillespie has always been good for me. He was just black and white in terms of saying what he wanted from me. ‘Obviously we back you,’ he said, ‘and we want you to bowl quick.’
“In the net after joining the club, I hit the side netting with a ball. He was like ‘don’t stress about it, it’s only winter’. Then I had a winter in Adelaide and bowled some good overs playing for Adelaide Uni and just from then it came back.
“It was just finding my way. And I did that by just playing a lot of cricket and speaking to people.
“I remember Shaun Pollock when I played for the Dolphins said ‘sometimes picking the ball coming in is harder than when it’s going away’ especially for new batsmen. I took a lot of positives from speaking to him and taking stuff like that away from it.
“I just thought about bowling quick. And from finding that pace, I found my line and length and wasn’t stressed about where this wrist was and where this arm was. I just looked at it going through to the keeper. And then I got confident and started working at different varieties of balls.
“These days, at the top of my mark, I’m always thinking I can get a wicket. When I first came back in at the Lord’s Test [in June 2014] it was the best I’d slept in five years. It just felt nice to be back and I was confident in what I did.”
Given his gratitude at Yorkshire’s influence on his career, he seems shocked at the club’s apparent reluctance to offer him a new contract. He is confident, however, that he can win a deal elsewhere if no offers has been forthcoming by the end of the season.
“I went in to have a chat with Yorkshire. I thought I might have been offered a contract. But they said the way things are going in terms of playing for England and with T20 stuff around the world, they hadn’t seen too much of me so they couldn’t offer me anything right now. This is my last year and I have been chatting to other counties.
“I get on with everyone at Yorkshire but I would have liked to think I would have got offered something even if the base might have dropped and then you play for incentives. I felt I could still offer stuff to that team.
“I will see what they say, but lots of people are keen and there are lots of places I would like to go.”
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