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Rankin considered future after nervy Ashes experience

George Dobell
May 27, 2014 « 'Murray needs to love the game again' | WILL TEST Rashid's burst takes Yorkshire top »
Boyd Rankin: "I still want to bowl fast and I still want to knock people over. If it is the only Test I play, then so be it ... It's just nice to be back" © PA Photos
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Boyd Rankin has admitted he thought about giving up cricket in the weeks following his chastening Test debut in Sydney.

Rankin, who took three wickets on his return to county duty with Warwickshire after five months on the sidelines, conceded that "I let myself and the rest of the team down" in that final Test of the Ashes series.

The 29-year-old Rankin, who retired from representing Ireland to pursue his dream of playing Test cricket, managed 20 overs in the match, but was twice forced off the pitch with an attack of cramp brought on by nerves and never achieved the rhythm that had seen the likes of Ricky Ponting and Marcus Trescothick hail him as the most challenging fast bowler they experienced in county cricket over previous seasons.

But Rankin has subsequently discovered that he went into the game carrying a serious shoulder injury and said he still hopes he can "show what I'm capable of doing" on the biggest stage.

"I wasn't anywhere near where I wanted to be in that Sydney game," Rankin said in his first interview since the tour. "I had torn half the cartilage off my shoulder in a fielding session we had a couple of days before the Test. So I was struggling with that and I had a back spasm during the Test as well.

"I felt I had to play. I had to take my chance, but I don't suppose I did that, really. I tried to fight hard through that. It was still a special occasion for me, but I did feel I let myself and the rest of the team down. It's been tough coming back from that.

"I don't feel I took my chance. I'm sure a lot of people weren't impressed. Hopefully I can still show people what I'm capable of doing. I didn't do that during the winter.

"It was a tough period for me when I got back. There were a few days when I was thinking 'should I still be playing cricket?' There were quite a few questions asked. But I learned a lot from the experience and I believe it has made me a stronger person. All I can do now is put in some strong performances and see what happens. I know, deep down, what I can do."

Rankin's shoulder injury was only diagnosed when he returned to county duty with Warwickshire. But the fact that he went into an Ashes match so palpably unprepared will raise more questions about the environment on the tour, with Rankin pointing out that the lack of match practice he had before the game left him struggling for confidence and rhythm. It might also raise questions about the wisdom of England forgoing a net session two days ahead of a Test to focus on fitness and fielding.

"It wasn't a great environment to be in," Rankin said. "It was a really tough tour to be on. A lot of the lads were struggling. It wasn't a great tour, but I hope I've learned a lot from the experience and if it comes again, I hope I can do a lot better.

"I only found out about my injury a month ago. I asked for a scan and then had a call which said: 'You might need an op. You could be out for four or five months.' It's still giving me some pain, but it's calmed down quite a lot now.

"We had a fitness and fielding session two days before the Test and I did something to it then. They didn't pick it up at the time.

"The hardest thing during in the tour was constantly bowling in the nets and not getting any game time. The only way you could work it better would be for the lads who are not playing to play some cricket in terms of matches. But it was difficult to be out of the side and then go straight into a Test. It would have been nice if there was some match practice away from that."

Despite the disappointment, Rankin said he has never regretted retiring from Ireland duty and that he would have no second thoughts should England select him for another tour.

"I would never turn down a tour," he said. "I still want to bowl fast and I still want to knock people over. If it is the only Test I play, then so be it. I would never change what I have done. I've always said I wanted to try and play at the highest level and that is Test cricket.

"I'm trying not to look too far ahead. I just want to get back to enjoying playing cricket. It's nice to be back playing with the Bears and I've felt in decent rhythm these past two days. It's just nice to be back."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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