Despite suffering a first-ball duck in the opening minutes of the new County Championship season, there is no cricketer looking forward to the English summer of 2011 as much as Michael Brown. Everyone involved in the domestic game was also delighted to see him score 46 in Surrey’s second innings against Northamptonshire at the Kia Oval.
The Surrey batsman, who turned 31 in February, describes the chronic elbow injury saga which caused him to miss the entire County Championship campaign last year as a downward spiral of utter frustration and despair. While thankfully not descending to Michael Yardy-like levels of depression, Brown does admit that the summer of 2010 often left him struggling to keep his spirits up.
“I’ve had 13 years as a professional, but this was the most frustrating injury I’ve ever known,” he said. “I could hit golf balls, lift weights, go the gym – but the only thing I couldn’t do was grip a bat properly to hit cricket balls. Whenever I tried to do that, the pain was excruciating.
“In previous injuries, the treatment was always straightforward, but in this case – I damaged a tendon in what was a tennis-elbow type injury – it proved impossible to put a timescale on the recovery. I had scans, I had injections, and an initial six-week period of prescribed rest came and went with still no signs of the soreness clearing up.
“Being able to come in to the ground every day and train normally made things worse; people would see me around and question why I wasn’t playing. Couldn’t I just pop a few pills and get on with it? Wasn’t I supposed to be a tough northerner from Lancashire?
“Well, at one point in my career I played for five seasons with a shoulder that dislocated slightly every time I threw the ball a bit too hard, so I know how to deal with pain. But this was something else, and as the weeks went by it became harder and harder to deal with it. My wife also lives up north, and so I would go back to my flat and things get on top of you.
“In mid-July I even tried to play a club match for Wimbledon, to test it out, but ended up playing shovel-like shots with my bottom hand because I couldn’t grip the bat with my top hand as it hurt so much. It was hopeless.”
Surgery to the elbow and also to a troublesome shoulder was finally the only option for Brown, who had five seasons with both Middlesex and Hampshire before joining Surrey in 2009. Now, as the Chris Adams-led revolution continues apace at the Kia Oval, he simply cannot wait to play his part in it.
“The one good thing that I can now see that came out of last summer is that I was forced to watch a lot of cricket. There was nothing else I could do, but I’ve always been a keen watcher and, sitting there for match after match, I was able to re-evaluate some of the core basics about batting in my own mind. I also watched a lot of cricket on television, and I found myself making mental notes.
“In some players, applying quality basics is natural, but in others it is a constant battle. The great players, of course, apply those basics better than everyone else. As for me, pre-season has gone very well, and I am very excited about the season to come. There is lost time to make up.”