- Reece Topley set to play in World Cup opener against New Zealand on Thursday
- England bowler missed out on T20 World Cup glory after suffering a freak injury
- He suffered a serious ankle injury when he trod on ‘Toblerone’ boundary marker
Reece Topley cannot erase the memory of the routine fielding session that brought a premature and crashing end to his last World Cup.
‘I replay it in my head and think about letting the catch go rather than going for it. Things would have been so, so different if I’d done that,’ Topley tells Mail Sport, about the incident during an England practice in Brisbane last year that left his T20 World Cup dream in tatters.
‘Even now I think, “If I hadn’t injured my ankle maybe I wouldn’t have also later done my shoulder”. It’s like the butterfly effect.
‘I think, “If I’d let that catch go I would have been playing in the first game of the World Cup a couple of days later against Afghanistan”. Instead I was watching from the sidelines.’
Topley, 29, was watching because he had badly ruptured ligaments and damaged muscles around his left ankle trying to take a catch when he trod on one of the eight-inch-high foam ‘Toblerone’ boundary markers that were a feature of the T20 World Cup in Australia.
Reece Topley is fully fit after recovering from a serious ankle injury and dislocated shoulder
The England bowler missed out on T20 World Cup glory after suffering a freak injury
‘I actually wish I hadn’t stayed and watched that first game and had gone home straight away instead, because it was tough,’ Topley tells Mail Sport.
‘Thinking about it now does bring back memories of eventually travelling home on my own with my leg in a plastic boot. That’s my memory of the World Cup. I don’t have anything else.
‘It was at the start of the World Cup and I was bowling well. Then when I got back to London I was walking around in the boot and people were recognising me.
‘They were saying, “We miss you” and it was nice of them but I knew we wouldn’t because our batters can chase down anything.’
Topley was correct in thinking England would do just fine without him. They won that World Cup in Melbourne by beating Pakistan in the final, with the left-arm seamer who was meant to be spearheading their attack watching on TV back home in London.
It was said at the time that Topley, as an original squad member, would receive a World Cup winner’s medal. But he does not even have that small consolation prize. ‘No, I never got a medal,’ he says. ‘I’m not really too fussed about that because I never played a game.’ No medal and no regrets, it seems, from governing body ICC whose advertisement-laden boundary markers were proved to be dangerous by Topley’s accident.
‘There was no apology from the ICC,’ he says. ‘I don’t think I was the only player to be injured by one of those sponge boundary markers, so hopefully they have been looked into.
‘If not they should be. It wasn’t a freak incident. It was a health and safety issue.
‘People say they love seeing amazing boundary stops but when these markers are halfway up your shin it makes them harder and nullifies the point of making them soft because they crumble.’
Now is the time for the bad memories to stop because Topley, plagued by back injuries earlier in his career that almost forced him out of the game, is fully fit after recovering from both that serious ankle injury and the dislocated shoulder that also brought a premature end to his IPL.
Topley in line to play in the 50-over World Cup opener against New Zealand on Thursday
Topley is now in India with England and has every chance of playing in their 50-over World Cup opener, against New Zealand in Ahmedabad on Thursday.
‘I have moved on from it and there’s another World Cup to prepare for and hopefully I’ll play a bigger part in this one,’ he says.
The next seven weeks in India provide a bowler who is highly regarded by England captain Jos Buttler and coach Matthew Mott with the chance of a happy ending to what over the last year has been a story of ‘the rug being pulled from under my feet’.
‘It would be huge to be a World Cup winner,’ says Topley.