By RICHARD WALSH
SOMERSET'S Ollie Sale is hoping to be fully fit ready to hit the ground running at the start of the 2018 season.
The 22 year old, originally from Staffordshire but a product of the Devon youth system, graduated from the Somerset Academy last year. He started out playing for Tavistock and had a later spell with Premier side Exeter.
After completing his studies at Newcastle University, where he obtained a first-class degree in business management, Sale signed a two-year extension to his contract with Somerset.
Unfortunately for Sale he was diagnosed with a stress fracture of the back last season and has spent the time since in a rehab programme.
The good news for the young pace bowler is his recovery has gone well and he has started bowling again.
“This is the first year that I have been here training full time and I am just loving being involved with everything,” said Sale.
“Having been away prior to this year this is all a new experience for me and it’s really good to come in every day and get the contact time that hasn’t been available in my previous existence.”
Talking about the mood in the Somerset camp Sale said: “There is a freshness about the place. There is a real energy here and the boys are all working very hard and everyone is excited to get going.”
The new management team includes coaches Sale has worked with previously.
“Jason (Kerr) was head of the Academy when I first joined and Sarge (Andy Hurry) then took over while I was still involved,” said Sale.
How is Sale finding life as a full-time professional cricketer?
“It is certainly a new challenge for me because in previous years I have had to manage my time between my degree and my cricket and everything else,” said Sale.
“Now it’s really nice to be able to focus all of my energy into cricket and give it a really good shot, become the best I can be and hopefully get into the first team.”
Has it been hard work?
“I have always worked hard so it is nothing that I didn’t expect from a physical aspect and probably everyone finds the first couple of weeks tough, getting your body used to things, but once you get over that it becomes much easier,” he said.
“Since Christmas we have been combining our skills work with the strength and conditioning which has worked really well.
“We have been trying to do stuff away from the ground as well, using the Nuffield gym and pool and working at Taunton Vale, keeping our minds fresh so when we get to the season and are here everyday it doesn’t feel we have been here for ages.”
Regarding how his rehab is progressing Sale, who to date has played in one twenty20 match for Somerset back in 2016, said: “I have been on no-bowling for the last five months since the stress fracture, but now I had a scan in January which was good news and I am having another in a month to give me the all clear then I can then crack on from there.
“I am bowling at a low level, like the other bowlers and gradually building things up.
“I am expecting to be ready to go for the start of the season and really looking forward to being able to get out on to the grass in the marquee that will be hugely exciting
“I know that the bowlers have been out to Desert Springs in the past but to actually be able to practice for an extended period pre-season on grass with full run ups is an exciting prospect.”
Looking ahead he said: “I just want to push myself as hard as I can this season and now being involved full time I feel I am very much part of the squad. Nobody wants to be in the second team all of the season.
“The reality though is that we have got as strong squad at Somerset and I know that I will be competing with Craig Overton who is a Test match bowler now. I am raring to go and I want to be pushing them and I want to get into the first team.
“However I know that it is going to be tough so I have got to take the opportunity when it comes.
“My job will be to step in to perform when I am required so I just have to make sure that I ready to do that when it happens.”
What does Sale think that he brings to the Somerset side as a fast bowler?
“I definitely think that I have got the ability to bowl quick and I am working on a number of aspects that will allow me to do that for an extended period of time,” he said.
“I also swing the ball which naturally I have done late so I hope that will stand me in good stead in four-day cricket.
“Obviously I am still developing all the time, and that is what has been so good for me being here through the winter.
“When you are away working on things you don’t get all of the conversations you do being here and that has been a great help to me.
Sale is also a more than useful batsman.
“I am working hard on my batting and since suffering my injury I haven’t been bowling so have been able to focus very much on the other side of my game,” he said.
“Hopefully this summer I will be able to contribute some runs out in the middle.”
Which format of the game does Sale think he is best suited to?
“I think that I could play a role on each of the teams and I definitely want to improve my white-ball skills and I think my batting is suited to that format,” said Sale.
“I am still young however and I don’t want to pigeon-hole myself. Once I have got a strong base I can start thinking about whether there is a direction I want to be taking that is best for the team or whatever then that will be the direction I go.
“At the moment though I don’t think I should be thinking about which format is best for me.”
Sale added: “The dream for me would be to be selected in the first team for the opening game of the season and Tom Abell throw me the ball to open the bowling. But we will have to see what happens!”