Chris Tremlett: A promising career punctuated by injuries

Chris Tremlett © Getty Images

Chris Tremlett, born September 2, 1981, is an English fast-bowler who was instrumental in his side’s victory over Australia during the 2010-11 Ashes series. With a height of 6 ft 7 in to boast of, his pace, bounce and ability to swing the ball both ways has earned him 49 wickets from 11 Tests. Numerous injuries, however, have played a big role in stifling his growth on the international stage. Karthik Parimal looks at the punctuated career of this speedster who continues to try and force his way back into the English side.

With a frame many fast bowlers yearn to possess — six feet, seven inches in height — and an impressive record at the First-Class level, Chris Tremlett’s presence was glaring on the selectors’ radar. He was thrust onto the scene at the age of 19 in 2000, but not until 2004 did his prowess become evident, owing to a productive season with Hampshire, and soon he was talked up as an able inclusion to an English attack that could possibly get the better of the visiting Australians during the Ashes of 2005. His pace off the turf, bounce — more menacing thanks to the jump just prior to the delivery — and accuracy is what made him potent.

He was duly named for the One-Day International (ODI) triangular series that preceded that Ashes and justified his selection by almost pulling off a hat-trick against Bangladesh. However, he failed to make the cut for the Tests, but was again in reckoning for the upcoming series against Pakistan in 2006. Shortly before it commenced, a hamstring injury ruled him out. That, in a nutshell, was how Tremlett’s career panned out. As of today, in 2013, he continues to battle for his place in the squad, having been named as a reserve for the last three Tests of the recently concluded Ashes. Perhaps the Australian leg of tour can announce his comeback, for that is where he established himself in 2010.

Handful on debut

Tremlett’s first appearance on the big stage was during the triangular series involving Australia and Bangladesh in 2005. In his first game, he was on the verge of hat-trick as he dismissed Bangladesh’s Shahriar Nafees and Tushar Imran off successive deliveries. The third ball failed to dislodge the bails despite hitting the stumps, thus denying him the feat, but he nonetheless finished with figures of four for 32. That match gave a good indication of how he’d be a thorn in the flesh of the batsmen, especially from the sub-continent, with the awkward bounce he managed to generate with his height and jump.

Owing to injuries and presence of other first-rate bowlers in the side, Tremlett’s Test debut had been delayed by two years. It was in the summer of 2007, at Lord’s, that he finally donned the English flannels for the first time and this against an Indian batting line-up that boasted some of the finest names. Despite a reduced run-up, his pace went up a notch and appeared more efficient. He accounted for the wickets of Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, registering match-figures of four for 104. Four years later, in 2011, he was involved in an intense battle during the post-lunch session, at the same venue, with India’s maestro Sachin Tendulkar, and it’s fair to say that Tremlett had the upper hand over the latter for the most part, although he didn’t take his wicket.

That spell of bowling moved Dravid to acknowledge Tremlett’s abilities. “We noticed Tremlett four years ago [in 2007]. I remember the boys saying that he could be a special bowler. That’s been proved in recent years and he’s developed a lot,” he said. Shane Warne, Tremlett’s captain at Hampshire for a brief period, had also predicted that the seamer had the potential to be the best in the world. Sadly, that wasn’t to be, although glimpses of why these stalwarts heaped praise on him would occasionally be seen.

The defining tour

After 2007, Tremlett was forced into a two-and-a-half year hiatus thanks to injuries and a dip in form. His sturdy frame was always going to be a factor; someone like Andrew Flintoff, too, had to call it quits way before his time due to the numerous injuries that plagued him. Nevertheless, Tremlett persisted, underwent months of rehabilitation to come out fitter and stronger. His endurance behind closed doors earned him a recall for the 2010-11 Ashes in Australia. He was not selected to play in the first two fixtures but was roped in for the third Test at Perth. It was at this venue his career turned a corner.

Apart from the searing pace, Tremlett got the ball to move in both directions and extracted the available bounce from the surface at WACA. In the first innings, he collected three important scalps and helped restrict Australia to a moderate total. In the next, he bagged five wickets, thereby finishing with match-figures of eight for 150. It didn’t win England the match, primarily because the batsmen had failed miserably, but Tremlett walked away with due credit. To prove the performance wasn’t one-off, he registered yet another five-wicket haul during the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne and four at Sydney to help England reclaim the Ashes. He finished the series with 17 wickets from three games, at an average of just over 23. He had, indeed, arrived on the big stage.

Post that Ashes, Tremlett was used as a reserve bowler during the 2011 World Cup and played two matches — against West Indies and Sri Lanka. Thereafter, he was the first-choice seamer for the series against Sri Lanka and, on almost placid wickets, churned out some of his finest performances. He took four wickets at Cardiff before bagging figures of six for 48 at Southampton — his best in Tests. He finished as the highest wicket-taker, ahead of Graeme Swann and, by far, was the best fast-bowler in either side during that series. “Rarely has such a softly spoken man possessed such a bite. Thanks to his 6ft 7in, he gained so much bounce that there were more bruised fingers in the Sri Lankan team than at a bare-knuckle fight,” noted the 2012 edition of Wisden Almanack.

Injuries and ongoing wait

During the last day of the Test at Southampton, Tremlett was used sparingly owing to a back niggle. The Test at Lord’s, against India in 2011, where he’d given Tendulkar a run for his money, would soon be his last for the next few months as the back problem worsened and had been compounded by another hamstring injury. He tried to recuperate with the help of England Performance Programme (EPP) and forced his way into the unit for the series against Pakistan in the January of 2012 at Dubai, but the back problem had recurred, halting his tour abruptly after just one Test. It was soon deduced that he’d have to undergo surgery and was hence ruled out for three months. Unfortunately, as of today (September 2013), he continues to remain on the sidelines.

Chris Tremlett: A promising career punctuated by injuries

After not being picked up in the Ashes 2013 playing XI, Chris Tremlett (right) registered his career-best figures of eight for 96 against Durham in the Division One match for the County Championship © Getty Images

For a player who was just beginning to blossom — he’d taken 36 wickets in seven Tests since his return in Perth in 2010 — the constant injuries were demoralising. He jumped to Surrey from Hampshire in 2010 and had been making decent strides forward. Although his pace has taken a small dip, his performances in the domestic circuit have done enough to keep him on the selectors’ sheet, albeit as a reserve player.  He was a key part of England’s victory in Australia during 2010-11 and that could help him get on the flight in a few months’ time again. Tremlett, however, isn’t looking far ahead. “I would look at it as a bonus if I played for England again. “After lying in theatre rooms and being opened up by surgeons, I’m grateful to just come back and play cricket at all,” he said, according to ESPN Cricinfo, while speaking at the launch of the 2013 Friends Life T20 competition.

(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)