By Sam Dalling
“I had some dark days I won’t lie.”
A frank admission from Durham quick Brydon Carse.
Having burst onto the scene in 2016, the seamer was all to play a central role in the club’s attempts to return to the top-tier of the domestic game following their relegation for financial reasons at the end of that season.
But the cricketing gods had other ideas.
Such was the extent of his injury woes, you can count on one hand his appearances over the next 24-months.
All that time on the side-lines takes its toll on the mind.
As well as missing out on the field, you’re also robbed of the social aspect of the game.
The hours on the road with mates. The dressing room banter. That feeling of being included.
Blink and you’re in a dark place. To escape a rut requires great courage.
Others can provide support, but the desire to turn the tide can only come from within.
Luckily Carse had the foresight to recognise he needed help and plucked up the courage to speak a sports psychologist.
“It was horrible. At the time I was living with Gareth Harte and George Harding – they saw me in my darkest days,” he said.
“I’m very outgoing and like to keep myself busy and spending times with my friends, but I wasn’t the best person to be around.
“I did a lot of work with the sports psychologist. I don’t mind saying this; at first, I was hesitant to go and see him.
“But then it just became someone to really speak to. You can only say so much to your mates and the people you live with.
“They can give you all the support, but you need someone to speak to that’s completely away from the game and viewing you in a whole different way – it definitely helped.”
For a quick bowler like Carse the body is everything. His ticket to ride. His stock in trade.
But steaming in over after over takes its toll, and there’s nothing quite like the impact of the delivery stride.
The risks are greatest for a young paceman still growing into their adult frame, a lesson the South African born man learned the hard following a sudden growth spurt at the back end of his teenage years.
“When I look back at my junior years – right through up to 19 – 20 – I was a very small kid,” he explained.
“I didn’t really bowl quickly. I didn’t really bowl that much to be honest.
“I developed quite late and shot up when I was going on 20.
“The big thing was I was probably still growing into my body and trying to learn how to how to bowl quite quickly.
“Coming from not bowling many overs to playing four-day cricket wicket week in, week out, it was probably all a bit too much of me.
“I probably wasn’t strong enough. I just hadn’t had the load of overs through me.”
Fully fit and raring to go, Carse returned to training a few weeks back.
Having been named in England’s 55-man preliminary squad, a one-day international bow is very much on the cards this summer.
A meteoric rise for a man who only made his List A debut last season.
The right-armer finished the Royal London cup campaign as Durham’s joint leading wicket taker and was a regular in the T20 competition.
And his natural pace – the quick regularly touches 90mph – was thought ideal for the Lions’ tour down under over the Winter.
Reflecting on the season, Carse explained that once his confidence in his body returned, his form started to take care of itself.
“The big driving force last season was staying fit and staying on the park.
“I’d be lying if I said that for the first six to 8 weeks I wasn’t finishing a four day or one-day game and giving it a big tick.
“Not because of my performance, but because I was about getting through the week with no pain and no niggles.
“It was perhaps not the best thing for my cricket as I wasn’t focussing on it 100% – I was focussing more on my body and how that was reacting.
“Once June and July came though I was getting through four-day games and my overs were up there with the top two or three seamers at the club.
“I kind of forgot about my body and my results started to pick up.”
Modern thinking dictates those blessed with express pace should be restricted to short, sharp spells.
Quick bursts, designed for maximum damage.
And that’s exactly how last Durham skipper Cameron Bancroft utilised Carse in 2019.
To good effect too; an impressive haul of 36 County Championship victims was just reward for a man who’s had to battle so hard at such an early stage of his career.
But while happy to be used in this manner, Carse admits that his next fight will be to convince captain to let him put in more of the hard yards.
“Shorter spells are what I was used for – 4-5 overs.
“There were probably times where I was itching to bowl a longer spell and I got my way now and again but it was all part of a process.
“I think he [Bancroft] would agree that over the first few months of the season he was still learning his way.
“But towards mid-way and the end of the season he had a very good understanding of how to use certain players, me particularly.
“Going forward, I do enjoy that role but definitely feel that I can bowl the longer spells as well.”
Despite only having been in the North East a relatively short time, Carse seen a huge turnover in the club’s playing staff.
When the South Africa born all round made first class bow in 2016, the side looked markedly different to the one that takes the field these days.
Scott Borthwick, Keaton Jennings and Mark Stoneman made up the top three; all have since departed for pastures new.
And the club has also lost the services of experienced internationals Paul Collingwood and Graham Onions.
The former hung up his boots, while the latter set off for Lancashire at the end of the 2018 season.
Losing five huge characters will rock any dressing room.
But sport notoriously works in cycles and having added a couple of strong personalities, Carse feels Durham are close to rediscovering a winning formula.
“Personally, I think you’ve got to have strong characters in a changing room to be a good side. We lacked that in 2017 and 2018.
“When I broke into the first team you had some big characters who had all played for England,” he said.
“When we got relegated for financial reasons after the 2016 season it had an effect – we lost some players and had to rebuild.
“But the guys we’ve brought in – Cameron Bancroft as captain, Alex Lees, Ned Eckersley and Ben Raine – they’ve all got a wealth of experience in first class cricket.
“They are all very good at what they do and are strong voices in the dressing room.
“Now we are probably one or two players away from having a really good side.”