KFC BBL|06

Injury heartache fuelling Ferguson's fire

Redbacks star itching to get back to cricket after devastating ACL injury

Dave Middleton

05 May 2016, 03:48 PM

A simple twist, an innocuous pop, a familiar sinking feeling – Callum Ferguson knows the pain and heartache of a serious knee injury all too well.

He also knows what it takes to get back on the park and return to cricket an elite level.

Fielding at deep backward square leg in a Melbourne Renegades trial game last December, Ferguson took off to field the ball. Moments later, a season that had seen him rushing back towards Australian honours was over. Surgery, the sidelines and endless gym sessions beckoned.

But Ferguson has been here before, he knows the path back, and he's as hungry as ever to force his way back into the spotlight again.

Before the break for the KFC Big Bash League, Ferguson had been lighting up the Sheffield Shield. Again.

He averaged 52 with four centuries in the 2014-15 Shield season to put his name firmly in the debate for Australian squad selections, and had carried that form into last summer.

Ferguson had scored 478 runs in five Shield matches before the BBL break, averaging 53.11. He had hit a new career-best 213 against Tasmania just a fortnight before the injury and averaged 46.85 in the Matador BBQs One-Day Cup.

WATCH: Ferguson scores Shield double ton

Then his season went bust along with the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

"I knew pretty well straight away, having been through it before playing for Australia six years ago," Ferguson told SACA TV this week.

"It was a pretty similar feeling.

"With the season going so well with the Redbacks, and I felt like I was playing pretty good cricket at the time, it was really disappointing."

The word 'disappointing' is one of the bigger understatements. Perhaps only Usman Khawaja truly knows how Ferguson must have felt.

Khawaja did his knee on the eve of the BBL|04 campaign in a similar manner, a training ground mishap with the Sydney Thunder. He later admitted he thought his cricket career could be over.

But in a tale that must warm Ferguson's heart, Khawaja rebounded and last summer came back fitter and stronger – physically and mentally. Khawaja dominated the summer landscape, restored to the Australian Test team, scoring century upon century and lighting up the Big Bash amid an ever growing clamour for him to play for Australia in all three formats.

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Ferguson knows the path, knows the rewards, and says he's up for the fight.

"I came back from the last knee injury really hungry to do well, really hungry to make runs, really hungry to win games for South Australia and really hungry to get back into the Australian team," Ferguson said.

"I've felt like from a mental standpoint I was much stronger for the experience.

"I've got a feeling I'll come back from this knee injury in a similar state of mind; rearing to go, itchy to get back out there and just loving playing again."

Ferguson is dying to scratch that cricket itch. Sixteen weeks on from surgery and at the onset of winter, he's still in the gym, putting the strength back into his knee.

Ahead of last summer, Australia coach Darren Lehmann went on Adelaide radio to declare Ferguson and Redbacks teammate Travis Head were "really close" to national honours.

WATCH: Ferguson stars in Matador Cup

The 31-year-old's early season Matador and Shield form only strengthened that case.

And then, while Ferguson was recuperating and hitting the gym, Head went on to make his Australia T20 debut and has earned selection in the ODI squad for the Qantas Tour of the West Indies for a tri-series including South Africa.

Ferguson was a rising star before a serious knee injury prior to the Under-19 World Cup in 2004, and again at the 2009 ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa.

The second injury cut short an impressive one-day career for Australia where he averaged 46 in 25 matches.

While Ferguson has been on the domestic scene for more than a decade, and has been touted as part of Australia's next generation for seemingly just as long, he firmly believes times is still on his side.

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The fact that he twice busted his knee before he turned 25 could in fact prove to be beneficial well into his thirties.

"I missed some time in the first half of my career with my knee; I had one in the Under-19 World Cup (in 2004) and missed time then and then obviously I blew my knee out in the Champions Trophy (in 2009)," he told cricket.com.au last summer.

"I feel like those periods of time out of the game probably have me being a little bit younger when it comes to playing years. I feel like I've been freshened up a little bit.

"Especially after the second operation when I spent 12 months out of the game, I felt like that freshened me up.

"So I'm certainly hoping that I'll be playing well into my thirties and I feel like I have plenty of time left in the game.

"I'm setting myself for the aim of getting back into the Australian team, that's for sure."

WATCH: Ferguson claims a Matador wicket

First port of call, however, will be a return to a young Redbacks side eager to go one better than last summer's Shield final defeat.

Ferguson said he felt "helpless" on the sidelines as South Australia charged into their first Shield final for 20 years.

"It was quite emotional, riding a lot of highs and lows emotionally," Ferguson said of the Shield Final.

"It was bitter sweet at times, and really tough watching when we were going through difficult periods of the game.

"Really difficult to watch as the game was slipping away and Victoria were take control, you just felt helpless.

"But certainly very exciting and great to watch the young guys come in and do so well.

"It bodes well for the future."

With Mark Cosgrove and Tom Cooper axed from the Redbacks list and Head, Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson increasingly on Australia's radar, Ferguson has an important role to play for the Redbacks.

But there can be no doubting the resilience and fortitude Ferguson holds to make the journey back.

CATO Sri Lanka