George Dobell, Chief Cricket Writer, offers a word of caution on the hopes of 2005 Ashes hero Simon Jones towards an England recall.
It says much about Simon Jones’ precious talent that he is already being touted for a return to the international side.
He has bowled only 32 overs in List A cricket and, before Friday's championship match against Essex, 27 in the championship this season. Yet he is the focus of a disproportionate amount of media attention and the temptation to rush him back to international cricket is growing.
That’s understandable. At his best he would be, for sure, an asset to any team. Blessed with pace and the ability to swing the ball, the Welshman has more than a hint of Dale Steyn in his bowling.
One recent spell, in front of the television cameras at The Rose Bowl in particular, caught the attention as he was timed at more than 90mph. There aren’t too many bowlers in county cricket who can match that.
The problem remains that fragile body. Like many of England’s better players, his international futur has a major question mark over it. Can you imagine picking a team of Jones, Andrew Flintoff, Marcus Trescothick and Steve Harmison?
Jones still appears to lack confidence, and mobility, in the field while regular watchers question his ability to deliver second and third spells.
If there is any pressure to rush Jones back, however, it certainly does not come from the man himself.
“I’m not thinking about England,” he said. “I don’t want to look that far ahead. The press is very influential, so it’s great to have positive things written about me, but I don’t take any of it that seriously.
“I’ve not had any calls from the England selectors. Kevin Shine [England and Wales Cricket Board bowling coach] has been down here and had a chat, which I really appreciate, but I haven’t thought much further than that.
“I’ve never felt better. I’ve never been fitter going into a season and I’ve never felt better a month into it. People can talk all they like about how I feel but it’s just speculation. I know. And I know I feel good. There’s no stiffness and no problem with second spells. I was timed at 88mph in my second spell at The Rose Bowl, wasn’t I?
“I’m in a happy place right now. It’s been good for me coming here [Worcester]. I had become a bit stale at Glamorgan and I needed to get out of my comfort zone. There’s a really exciting, young side here and it’s been good for me to feel part of a team that’s going in the right direction. Obviously that hadn’t been the case for a while at Glamorgan.
“I’ve got to thank Worcestershire, really. They’ve got me fitter than ever and put a lot of faith in me. It’s nice to be part of a strong bowling attack and I’m looking forward to replaying their faith.”
His coach at Worcestershire, Steve Rhodes, is delighted that the gamble he took in signing Jones is paying off. But he still urges caution.
“He’s bowling like an England fast bowler,” Rhodes said. “He’s had a great recovery and his spell at The Rose Bowl was bloody good.
“But you must remember he needs some more cricket under his belt. He needs more overs. He’s moving in the right direction but it’s still a case of fingers crossed at the moment.”
Mark Newton, the club’s chief executive, says: “He’s probably exceeded expectations. He’s a pleasure to work with. He’s working very hard and understands the rewards; not just here but around the world. Quality fast bowlers are always in demand.”
That comment about ‘around the world’ is interesting. Bearing in mind his injury history, Jones could be forgiven for looking towards the Indian leagues with an envious eye. Certainly, if he, or his Worcestershire team-mates, are offered Indian Premier League contracts next year they will find their club sympathetic.
“None of the players have approached me about that,” Newton said and then added “yet” after a pause.
“If they do I will be very understanding. My personal view is that players should be able to play wherever they see fit. I’d hate it if someone told me I couldn’t make a living anywhere I saw fit and you couldn’t blame the players for thinking the same way. There are some incredible opportunities in India at present, and it probably is inevitable that one or two will want to go.
“I’d have no problem with that. I’d let them go, and come back, and we’d work around that. We do have a responsibility to the club, though, so it could only be for official competitions.”