Marsh Sheffield Shield 2019-20
By the book: How Worrall returned to full swing
South Australian swing king reveals how a stint in a charity bookshop in Bristol aided his latest recovery from injury
18 February 2020, 02:35 PM AEST
Due to the overtly aggressive nature of their craft, fast bowlers habitually tend to be neither bookish nor benevolent.
So when South Australia swing specialist Daniel Worrall sought quiet refuge away from the world of cricket as he came to terms with yet another serious back injury that placed his playing future in doubt, he found it by working in a most unlikely place – a charity bookshop.
Worrall was playing for Gloucestershire in the UK's county competition last year, hoping to push his case for inclusion in Australia's Ashes squad when he broke down with injury that was later diagnosed as a stress fracture in his back.
It was the third time in as many years the 28-year-old, who played three ODIs for Australia's men's team on their 2016 tour to South Africa, had succumbed to back problems.
His previous stint with Gloucestershire in 2018 had also been cut short when he developed a stress fracture in his foot, and his returns to playing with SA were further slowed by soft-tissue injuries to the extent he's played just 18 of a possible 38 Sheffield Shield games since earning his Australia cap.
But such as his potency with red-ball in hand, the right-armer sits among the top 10 Shield wicket takers during that time with his 86 scalps coming at an average 24.81 and a strike rate of a breakthrough every eight overs.
That efficacy is even more pronounced with the English-manufactured Dukes ball that has been employed in the second half of Marsh Sheffield Shield seasons for the past four summers, with Worrall claiming 52 wickets at less than 23 (strike rate 47.92) with the dark-red ball that swings more pronouncedly.
But it was in England last summer, as he contemplated another long-haul rehabilitation program from a serious back injury, that Worrall sought anonymity as a retail clerk in Oxfam's charity bookshop located in the bohemian Bristol suburb of Clifton Village.
"I was just working in the bookshop, did a bit of travel and tried to stay away from cricket because it was doing my head in," Worrall said yesterday after bowling SA to a 109-run Shield win over WA by claiming 5-10 with the trusty Dukes ball in the game's final session.
"It was just a good chance to freshen up, get away from cricket and get a bit of perspective which I think was important."
Having spent several months eschewing cricket, Worrall returned to Adelaide last July and set about the familiar road to recovery, albeit taking a slightly less direct route after consulting with the SA Cricket Association medical and fitness staff.
His previous comeback programs had involved pushing himself hard to reach full fitness, before throwing himself into a punishing on-field regimen that saw him send down more than 115 overs in three completed Shield games before he limped off with a hamstring strain at the WACA last March.
Having learned his lessons from past frustrations, the Victoria-born swing bowler advocated a more measured return from his most recent setback and finds himself in a much happier, healthier place as a consequence.
"It wasn't ideal last time around, I bowled a bit too much too soon, and just broke the same bones and took a bit longer to heal," Worrall said of his recent back issues.
"I just kept coming back a little bit too soon and the same stresses just opened back up.
"So I'm grateful to the SACA staff who changed their thinking a little bit and allowed me to take a bit more control of my rehab, and take a little longer than they would have liked.
"I know it was hard to let me go a bit slower, and show a bit more caution this time.
"But not playing any of the four-day stuff in the first half of this season really got me in a space, mentally and physically, to come back and go full throttle rather than just trying to ease my way back into four-day cricket.
"I think the Big Bash was a good opportunity to bowl some overs, and I feel fit and strong."
Worrall began his latest comeback with Melbourne Stars in BBL|09, and admits his transition to Shield cricket tested his stamina as WA's batters dropped anchor in their first innings at Adelaide Oval last weekend, soaking up 130 overs (of which Worrall bowled 25) to score 254.
The changed perspective that Worrall gained as he stacked shelves, priced books and frequented the nearby coffee shops in the bustling university town of Bristol means he doesn't plan to pursue more county cricket at the completion of this Australia summer.
Instead, he'll be returning to the books albeit for his own academic advancement than the pursuit of philanthropic goals as advanced by Oxfam.
Having once more fought his way back to full fitness, Worrall's next goal is to complete the law-commerce degree that he began when he first relocated to Adelaide from Melbourne a decade ago.
"I'm ten years into a four-year degree," Worrall laughed in the aftermath of SA's first Shield win at home in three years.
"So I'm actually looking forward to staying in Adelaide (this winter), getting fit and just enjoying a bit of time at home.
"I'm just taking it one day at a time, literally – not even one game, just one day.
"At this stage, I'm just going to stay at home and finish Uni and get the rest of my life sorted.
"I'll finish Uni in July, and just work it out from there."
Not that the character known universally as 'Frankie' (in deference to legendary former West Indies captain Sir Frank Worrell) is abandoning his ambition to reclaim a place in the Australia men's line-up.
Given his prowess with the Dukes ball, he sees Australia's next Ashes campaign to the UK in 2023 as a reasonable and realistic career aspiration.
He'll turn 32 around the time of that tour, and the skills he learned during his injury interrupted time with Gloucestershire coupled with the results he's achieved by swinging the ball in Australia has him eyeing a similar role to veteran seamer Peter Siddle, who was recalled for last year's Ashes trip at age 35.
"You just learn to play different conditions, and different players," Worrall said of his experiences outside Australia.
"The England players play the Dukes ball so differently to the Australian players.
"But as a bowler, it doesn't matter who you bowl to, you just go over there and learn new skills.
"You saw in the Ashes, Sidds has been in England a few times (playing with county outfit Essex) and he's a genius with the Dukes ball just from plying his trade and learning on the job.
"That's all you can do I reckon, just keep getting better each time you go over there."