GRAHAM Onions is hoping to take advantage of the “fresh start” on offer this winter to come in from the fringes of the England squad.
The Three Lions depart for their tour of India today, their first since Alastair Cook replaced Andrew Strauss as permanent captain.
Although Cook was a close lieutenant of Strauss’, Onions sees his appointment as an opportunity.
“It’s certainly going to be a fresh start with Alastair Cook,” said the Durham fast bowler. “He’s certainly going to have his own plans and ways of doing things. As players it gives us a massive opportunity to force our way into his and the selectors’ plans.
“It gives a fantastic opportunity for (opening batsmen) Nick Compton and Joe Root, who’ve had fantastic summers and deserve to be in the squad. I’ve no doubt they’ll be unbelievably excited as I was when I went on my first tour and when I made my England debut.”
Despite having been comfortably the best bowler in county cricket last season, and called up to every Test squad of the summer, Gateshead-born Onions’ only international appearance of 2012 has come in a dead-rubber against West Indies.
It is a sign of England’s bowling strength, and highlights why Onions refused to take selection for this trip for granted.
“People said to me I was always going to be in the squad, but I certainly wasn’t thinking that way,” he said. “I thought I had a fantastic opportunity to go to Sri Lanka last winter but I didn’t get picked. That hurt me a lot but the selectors told me they thought they were going to be slow, turning wickets so they wouldn’t need as many fast bowlers and it wasn’t a reflection on me.
“That series was only two Tests, this time there’s four and the first two and the last two are back to back.
“The quality of bowlers England have is great. A few years ago I could have played a lot more Tests but the quality’s so much higher now it’s very hard.
“Sometimes you don’t get picked and it’s not your fault. You’ve just got to stay upbeat and positive. You can’t put yourself under too much pressure. England have got a great batch of bowlers at the moment.”
With 64 First-Class wickets at 14.98, Onions’ consistent county form was in stark contrast to his county’s. Durham’s failure to win any of their first ten County Championship matches prompted them to replace captain Phil Mustard with Paul Collingwood.
“Before the season started we were mentally and physically better than ever,” was Onions’ analysis. “It turned out halfway through we’d kind of lost direction. Paul came in and not a great deal changed physically and mentally, he just reminded us of his standards. We just got clarification of what we needed to do as a team.
“Did I ever think we were going to go down? Potentially yes. I didn’t know when our first win was going to come. We were playing well and not getting the luck in games like Lancashire, Sussex and Warwickshire. If we’d got the points for winning those games we’d have been challenging for trophies.
“We maybe didn’t deserve those results but we didn’t deserve to be rock bottom either.
“We have to take momentum from ending the season by winning five games out of six.
“We’ve got a lot of potential but if we play in testing conditions again we’ve got to handle it better because there’s a good chance it could be cold and wet next April too.”
England have a three-day training camp in Dubai before moving to India for Tuesday’s opening tour match. The first of four Tests starts on November 15 and is followed by two Twenty20 internationals. The players will be home for Christmas, but return in the new year for five one-day internationals.