Toby Roland-Jones has refused to feel sorry for himself despite being ruled out for the majority of this season with a recurrence of the back stress fracture which scuppered his hopes of being on the Ashes tour last year.
Two matches into the County Championship season, Roland-Jones felt pain in his back against Derbyshire and subsequent scans showed an eight millimetre fracture (compared to the six millimetre one he picked up at the end of the 2017 season) and he has since embarked on a lengthy rehabilitation programme.
Currently he remains in the recovery stage with no fixed timescale on a potential return, but he has been adamant not to dwell on the difficult times which have caused his Test career to be stalled after four highly promising outings. In his maiden home summer in 2017, he claimed 17 wickets against South Africa and West Indies, including a five-wicket haul on debut at The Oval.
“The mental side that’s toughest is not being able to play, firstly for Middlesex and then not having the chance to regain an England place,” Roland-Jones told ESPNcricinfo while part of the Match Day coverage of the first England-India Test at Edgbaston. “It’s always important to find a positive side to any scenario, even if you feel like the unlikeliest fella in the world or everything is going your way, you always have to try and stay level.
“That was my approach when things were going great after a Test match so at the same time, when things are tougher and there are more negative notes, you have to try and bring yourself up.”
Roland-Jones’ initial return following last year’s injury came on the England Lions tour of West Indies where he played a warm-up match and two four-day games. Given the spin-friendly conditions, his workload was not excessive and he then started the domestic season with Middlesex before breaking down.
“I don’t harbour any regrets, it’s so difficult with stress fractures to know where they are at or how hard to push them,” he said. “I’ve always been someone who would rather attack the game rather than fear my body. I didn’t want to sit back then wonder if I could have played. I felt fine at the time, I don’t know whether it was too soon … it’s hard to know, it would be wrong to regret. I was trying to play for England again.”
Despite the repetitive nature of the injuries, Roland-Jones does not believe he will need to make changes to his action when he does return to the field.
“Everyone is always looking to make technical tweaks to be at their best, but I’ve bowled for a long time without having any injuries of note so I don’t think it comes down to my action not being able to hold up to certain things. That’s something that can maybe be discussed further down the line, but it’s not been fed back to me that there’s an isolated problem.
“It’s unclear as yet when we’ll look to bowl but physically I’m making some good strides. Hopefully it will put me in a good place to come back stronger and fitter than ever, and stand up to the physical strains of bowling again.”