Lion Onions ready to roar
Fit-again Durham paceman grateful for the support from the ECB
Last Updated: 18/05/11 7:14pm
Onions: gets the chance to press his Test claims against Sri Lanka in Derby
Graham Onions is looking forward to a "great opportunity" with the England Lions, having at one stage feared his career might be over.
"My aspirations have never changed. I like to think I am good enough to play for England."
Graham Onions Quotes of the week
The Durham paceman has been given the chance to return to England colours, over 15 months after his last Test appearance, after being selected for the game against Sri Lanka at Derby this week.
Onions did at one stage worry that he may never play again after suffering a serious back injury that required surgery.
However the 28-year-old made an impressive return to county cricket with Durham at the start of this summer, leading to him getting the opportunity to remind the national selectors of his talents against the tourists.
"There have certainly been times where I've doubted whether I'd get the ball back in my hand - whether I'd still be able to bowl quickly, and be the same bowler," said Onions. "All those things go through your mind.
"But I'm sitting here today with an England tracksuit on and with a great opportunity to play against a very good Test side."
With Test hopeful Tim Bresnan suffering a torn calf, Onions will not be the only seamer out to impress in the four-day fixture against the Sri Lankans.
Ajmal Shahzad, Steven Finn and Jade Dernbach have also been included in a 12-man Lions squad that will be captained by Somerset's James Hildreth.
Onions last played for his country in the new year Test against South Africa in Cape Town in 2010, two months before feeling what he thought at first were merely spasms or a stiff back on tour in Bangladesh.
He was eventually diagnosed as something much more serious, leading to him needing a titanium screw permanently inserted.
"I am 99.9% sure I will be absolutely fine for the rest of my career," Onions said. "My aspirations have never changed. I like to think I am good enough to play for England.
"A few people have leapfrogged me, and I appreciate that.
"It has been bitterly disappointing to be able to do nothing while my place in the England side is taken by someone else. But I am looking forward to challenging those guys who are ahead of me now - getting back into the side, whether it is next week or later in the season."
Although he was out of the picture during his time on the sidelines, Onions was not totally forgotten by the England management team.
"The ECB have been absolutely fantastic. I cannot thank them enough," he added.
"There have been tough times, and dark times. I've relied on the ECB to keep in touch when I've needed someone to talk to - and Andrew Strauss, Andy Flower and (psychologist) Mark Bawden have all been absolutely brilliant.
"When they were at the Ashes in Australia on the opposite side of the world, they had a job to do. I appreciated that, but once they did have a five minutes or so they would give me a call to ask how I was.
"Mark Bawden has been fantastic. He has been there for me, keeping me level-headed.
"You need to have other things to occupy your mind. I was going to the gym every day, and seeing the same four walls.
"He has just genuinely been a very good friend. I thank him massively for that."
Sri Lanka's squad have been bolstered by the arrivals of former captains Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara from the Indian Premier League.
New skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan marked his first match in charge with an opening win over Middlesex at Uxbridge.