Cork and Caddick bowl in

 

IF Michael Atherton yearns to start completely afresh in New Zealand after England's belittled tour of Zimbabwe, he might yet be tempted to throw the ball to Dominic Cork and Andrew Caddick and tell them to get on with it.

Cork's belated arrival in New Zealand has been greeted joyously, but he was not the only England quick bowler who did not figure during the unrewarding weeks in Zimbabwe. While Cork was unavoidably absent because of marital difficulties, Caddick was unemployed by management choice.

The last time that Caddick suspected his England career was over, the reason could not have been clearer. He was plagued by severe shin pain, which required two operations, and for two years feared that he would be forced into retirement.

As he returns to his native New Zealand for the first time in seven years, Caddick is again contemplating an uncertain England future. But this time there is no fear of injury, just a smouldering resentment that he has not had the opportunity to prove his worth.

Caddick is a loner, someone who does not easily maintain the matey associations that make sporting omission easier to bear. His rapport with captain and coach, Michael Atherton and David Lloyd, could hardly deteriorate further if he was discovered late one night tapping out Morse code messages to the offices of the New Zealand Cricket Board.

He did not play in any of the two Tests or three one-day internationals in Zimbabwe and, as someone who regards himself as England's senior seam bowler, and who believes that he possesses the accuracy and persistence to have thrived on a succession of slow African pitches, he has not taken his omission easily.

He is also keenly aware of the usual allegations: that he lacks heart, that his commitment is primarily to himself rather than England, and that he can be aloof and opinionated. He hears them all, and is indignant at the suggestion.

"Things have got me going," he said. "They selected me as the main seam bowler in the party and I can also swing the ball when conditions are in my favour. But I haven't played and I'm obviously wondering why. I'm anxious to show what I can do.

Caddick's tour of Zimbabwe faltered from the moment that he picked up a virus on the flight from Gatwick. "It set me back about a week so I lost a chance to acclimatise to the heat and the altitude," he said. "I had dizzy spells and vomiting and it took a lot out of me."

England, impatient for him to gain match practice, chivied him into a one-day game against a President's XI. when he still looked frustratingly below par. He then bowled reasonably well in the tourists' only first-class win, against Matabeleland, but the force was with Darren Gough, who took a career-best 11 wickets in the match to Caddick's three. Mark Dekker, who made a century for Matabeleland, suggested afterwards that he had found Caddick equally troublesome.

England, though, were far from satisfied. When Chris Silverwood, the uncapped Yorkshireman, was preferred for the opening Test in Bulawayo, it illustrated the feeling, as pointedly expressed by Lloyd, that as far as the Somerset bowler was concerned, they would "like to be convinced."

They never were. England were one ball away from winning in Bulawayo, but in the second Test in Harare, they opted for an extra batsman in the shape of the Yorkshire all-rounder, Craig White, who had arrived from Australia only three days' earlier.

A case might have been advanced for Caddick's inclusion at the expense of every other England pace bowler in Zimbabwe: Silverwood is inexperienced; Gough prospers most on quick, bouncy pitches; the variation provided by Mullally's left-arm is negated by his essentially negative style. Caddick, cutting his pace and making the ball seam, would have presented an intriguing challenge.

The case against his inclusion was that England, simply, did not believe it.

He was also excluded from the last two one-day internationals, both played on seaming pitches, but that might prove to have been a blessing in disguise as Zimbabwe romped to a 3-0 victory. Few other England players can claim, with as much justification as Caddick, an immunity from the abuse that has been heaped upon them after their experiences in Zimbabwe.

England's lukewarm response was resonant of last summer. Then Caddick had won a Test comeback at Headingley after an absence of more than two years and, by taking six wickets in the match against Pakistan, he won general acclaim as England's most effective bowler in the match.

Yet when England included an extra spinner, in Robert Croft, at The Oval, it was Caddick who was omitted. His popularity was again lacking. "I worked so hard to prove for two years that my legs were right," he said. "I have heard the accusation so often that I lack heart, but if anyone else had suffered the sheer pain that I went through, they would know the truth."

In Palmerston North next week, his parents will travel up from Christchurch to meet him for the first time in two years. A four-day match against a NZ Selection XI represents the first of two four-day matches before the first Test in Auckland. Only if he is selected will Caddick be persuaded for sure that his England career is not over.