Reece Topley still has ambitions to join the Test team after showing his ‘bouncebackability’ with England’s best-ever ODI haul of 6-24, says his father and former Essex sailor Don
- Reece Topley struck six for 24 in England’s 50-over series equalizer against India
- But four years ago his career was jeopardized by a series of back injuries
- The 28-year-old bowler now seems assured of a fruitful time in white ball cricket
Don Topley never doubted that his son Reece would survive the ‘dark ages’ that once saw him effectively retire from cricket and return to the home of cricket as a record-breaking England bowler.
The former Essex seaman, along with his wife Julia, watched with pride as Reece scored the best numbers, six to 24, in the history of one-day internationals at Lord’s in England’s 50-overs series leveler against India on Thursday.
Then Topley Sr. spoke of the long and hard road back from where Reece left his contract in Hampshire four years ago, when he succumbed desolately from a series of stress fractures to his back that led to career-threatening surgery.
England’s Reece Topley delivered the best numbers in one-day internationals history
“We’re so proud of him not only because of his cricket but also as a character because he couldn’t have completed his entire rehabilitation without some serious rebound ability,” Topley told Sportsmail.
“He kept going to the well and coming back again and again and fewer people might have waved a white flag. I don’t mean to be snippy, but I’d like to have someone like him in the trenches with me.”
Trouble for 6ft 8 in Topley, a left arm so talented he made his England debut back in 2015, culminated in 2018 when he turned his back on the game and told Hampshire enough was enough.
“From a young age I always had the answers for him when it came to cricket, but when his injury problems were at their worst I just didn’t have the answers,” Don said.
“I threw a children’s party the day he had his back operated on at the hospital next to Lord’s. I couldn’t concentrate and sometimes I hid in the toilet and thought about Reece being put under the knife. I struggled with that.
Topley struck six to 24 in England’s 50-over series equalizer against India on Thursday
“He then left Hampshire knowing he would turn down any contract offers and would only come back if he was right and willing on his terms,” said Don, now a BBC County commentator after 20 years as a master at the Royal Hospital School in suffolk “There was no physiotherapist counting the hours or a coach counting the days before he could come back. He did it of his own accord and we were only there to support him.
“He has taken small steps to revitalize his career. He went to Australia and played a bit of net bowling with the Melbourne Renegades and Victoria. Slowly but surely he came back and had a mutually beneficial T20 campaign with Sussex. Then he thrived in Surrey and is where he is now.’
This point culminated in Topley producing consistent performances for both Surrey and now England which, coupled with his consistent fitness, saw him destroy India in a place where his father once scored a spectacular one-handed ‘catch’ to Malcolm Marshall to sack as a substitute outfield player for England in the 1984 Test against West Indies, only to climb over the Mound Stand-rope.
“We never doubted his talent and we knew it was about him getting back to full fitness,” Don said. “We as a family have so many memories of Lord’s, from my catch to various finals with Essex and I remember taking Reece to a test there as a boy.
“He’s always bowled well there and won wickets but this was his first game for England at Lord’s which made it very special against a great Indian side. He’s always had a good feel for the location, which is so often the go-to for left-handers bowling from the Pavilion End. Now he will see his name on the roll of honor every time he visits.’
England set a series decider on Sunday after beating India in the second 100-run ODI
And Don, who also acted as Zimbabwe coach for the 1992 World Cup, believes Reece, now 28, could still visit Lord’s as a test player.
“He still has ambitions to play Test cricket. And I think England spoke to him about their Red Ball ambitions. I hesitate to say his injury woes are behind him but I think his body is maturing. He’s been at it a long time but he’s only 28 and I think he can have his prime between now and 32 and fulfill his potential as a full bowler.
“The caveat is that he and England know he is yet to be managed. That’s the key. The schedule is such that it can be dangerous for bowlers and that will make it more difficult for him to play Test cricket. I think if Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad go, we’ll never see that longevity in bowlers again.
At least Topley now seems assured of a fruitful time in white ball cricket. “There were dark days when he wondered if he wanted to go through with the surgery, if it was all worth it, but it’s entirely up to him that he got through it and got to where he is now,” he added Don added.
“He had the desire, the dedication and a huge heart. You have to have talent to play international cricket, but if you don’t have heart you won’t have a very long career. People in cricket recognize his character and that’s why they’re happy for him.”