Behrendorff back bowling after hitting recovery milestone
The left-arm seamer who destroyed England at last year's World Cup has returned to action after back surgery, and the future is looking bright
27 February 2020, 07:30 AM AEST
Australia limited-overs paceman Jason Behrendorff this week hit an important milestone in his recovery from back surgery, returning to the nets for the first time since his operation last October.
It was a gentle reintroduction to bowling for Behrendorff, who posted footage on his social media of his first delivery from halfway down the net, with the focus more on getting his body used to the range of motion.
It was a small but significant moment for the towering paceman that was a key cog in Australia's bowling arsenal at last year's 50-over World Cup.
"It came out all very slowly and I'm obviously just starting again, but it's very nice to be feeling somewhat like a cricketer again," Behrendorff told circket.com.au this week.
"The reason we went halfway down the wicket was instead of trying to get the ball all the way down off just two steps – you have to put a lot of extra energy and force to get it that far down the wicket – as opposed to not really worrying, just going halfway down, getting used to the movement and wherever it ends up is ok.
"After all the running and stuff in the gym, the last little piece of the puzzle was getting back to bowling and letting my body know it's ok to start to move this way again.
"It'll be a gradual process over the next few weeks and months to get back up to full speed."
Behrendorff opted for the same radical spinal surgery that resurrected the career of Test quick James Pattinson in his search for a long-term solution to his ongoing lower back issues.
His most recent recurrence of a stress fracture came last September after he took nine wickets in five matches during the back end of Australia’s World Cup campaign.
Behrendorff ruled himself out of the entire 2019-20 domestic season to head to New Zealand next week for the operation.
He now finds himself in the unusual situation of being in pre-season mode in the latter stages of the Australia summer.
"The next major thing for me will be getting back up to bowling speed and being able to do all the cricket skills of fielding, throwing and so on," Behrendorff said.
"To this point it's basically been the rehab side of it, getting moving, starting running, moving in the gym and ensuring my body is functional and can move in the way I need it to.
"Now the handbrake can come off. It'll be more of a cricket focus now and that's got me really excited to start."
The time away from the game and endless treadmills of rehab from a back injury is something Behrendorff is familiar, but this latest layoff has had one major off-field upside: an entire summer at home with his family and young son, Harrison.
"Having Harrison has given me the greatest perspective on life I've ever had," the 29-year-old said.
"The hardest part of my rehab was post-surgery when I couldn't move well, I couldn't pick him up, I couldn't play with him. He didn't understand … that was a really tough period.
"To actually get a huge amount of quality time at home with my family is something I haven't taken for granted and I'm really glad I've been able to do that.
"Once I'm back up and running again I'll be busy, flying, playing here there and everywhere. I'm really making sure I enjoy every moment of this period I've had at home."
Behrendorff remains hopeful that return to cricket will come overseas this winter at some level – he was on a T20 contract with Sussex last summer when his latest back stress fracture revealed itself – and has one eye on the T20 World Cup.
"I'd love to be part of that T20 World Cup. Who doesn't want to play for Australia, and especially in a World Cup at home," Behrendorff said.
"I'd definitely love to be up and running for that but I also understand if things don't work out and I’m not ready to go by then, then that's ok too.
"Red-ball cricket is definitely something I'd love to get back to as well. It's a format I really do enjoy.
"It was a huge decision to make a couple of years ago to focus solely on white-ball cricket – that paid a lot of dividends; I got to play for Australia and in the end got to play in a World Cup.
"But I'd love to get back to playing four-day cricket. The (2020-21 home) season will start with a lot of white-ball cricket anyway so once I get back up and running I'll take it as it comes and see where I get to."