Onions: Nothing to prove
Durham seamer Graham Onions insists he has nothing to prove as he anxiously waits to see if he will remain as England's forgotten man.
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The 31-year-old was a shock omission from the England squad that went to Australia for the Ashes in the winter, despite his 70 wickets at 18.45 playing a huge part in Durham defying the odds and winning the County Championship Division One title last year.
No one took more wickets, no one who took more than 20 wickets did so at a lower average and no one took more five-wicket hauls.
Yet it still wasn't enough to earn him a spot on the plane that headed Down Under, a painful snub that he freely admits left him 'heartbroken'.
With summer Tests looming this year against Sri Lanka and India, England are still to name a successor to head coach Andy Flower so Onions must wait to see if a new regime will mean a new start.
But the Gateshead-born paceman remains steadfastly confident in his own ability and insists that if he keeps on taking wickets for Durham, then an England recall will follow.
"I have nothing to prove to anybody - some people might say I have but I don't see it that way at all," Onions told sportinglife.com in Abu Dhabi, where he was part of the Durham squad playing the MCC in the annual Champion County match.
"I keep training hard and putting the performances in - as a professional sportsman that's all you can do. You come up against adversity along the way and I suppose it makes you more determined to up your game.
"I'm 31, a bit more experienced now but I want to play for England more than I ever have. I'm convinced that if I keep on putting in good performances for Durham then I can't keep being ignored.
"I won't beat around the bush - it was heartbreaking not to be selected for the Ashes. The telephone call came and it was obviously very disappointing news.
"It was hard to believe to be honest because you work so hard and put everything in. I'm not a big one for stats but I knew that mine showed that I enjoyed a good season for Durham.
"But I'm a big believer that if you put the hard work in then you'll get your rewards and I still stand by that. If I can do the same again this season then I'm convinced I'll be knocking on the England door.
"I don't want to look too far ahead, I just want to bowl well for Durham. If I bowl well, then wickets will come and hopefully then so will England selection.
"It's probably six weeks before the squad for the first Test is named so it will be an exciting six weeks."
Onions admits Durham face a difficult task to retain the county title won so convincingly in 2013 under the captaincy of Paul Collingwood, after starting the season as favourites to be relegated.
It was their third championship crown in six years, but for Onions it was the most satisfying.
"I remember thinking at the start that you want a competitive season but I wasn't sure what to expect," said Onions.
"A lot of people, certainly in the press, said we would get relegated as we had no kind of superstar, no overseas player but we proved people wrong.
"Durham seem to be county that people don't have faith in to produce the goods but we prove them wrong. It will be interesting to see where they put us this season ... Relegated? Win the league?
"We've lost players this season but we know what it's like to win the title now and that will be a help for us.
"For sure it's going to be a competitive league once again. In my view the quality is getting stronger so it makes our win last season even better.
"Every team we face will have some good players but I'm certain we have what it takes to at least compete. If we work hard and train hard then we will not be a million miles away."
Onions believes that the county's up-and-coming young players will have a vital role to play if Durham are to retain their crown in 2014.
Seasoned campaigners Dale Benkenstein, Callum Thorp and Will Smith have all left the Riverside and although they have signed Australian all-rounder John Hastings as an overseas player it seems certain that Ben Stokes could spend much of the summer with England.
Skipper Collingwood is now an England coach and could also be called away, as could all-rounder Scott Borthwick who debuted for England in the Ashes and Onions himself.
"The challenge now is to keep progressing and I'm not saying we're going to win it again but you try to better what you've done previously," said Onions.
"Some of the younger lads will have to stand up so it's going to be a pretty big challenge and everyone is excited by it.
"It happened last season. We would lose someone but someone else would come in and put in a performance.
"It was a big team effort. Scott Borthwick and Mark Stoneman got 1,000 runs, myself and Chris Rushworth got over 50 wickets but so many of the young lads put their hands up and performed.
"We haven't got players we can rely on all the time but that's the exciting part because we're not sure how these young players will perform
"So for me last year's title was the best of the three the club has won. We were written off but we proved the critics wrong."