Aussie experience will fire up Bears' bower Stone
Report by Brian Halford
OLLY Stone is backing three months down under this winter as the ideal preparation for him to play a big role in Warwickshire's pace attack next season.
The fast-bowler arrived at Edgbaston from Northamptonshire last autumn but had to wait for his Bears debut as he completed 12 months rehab following a major knee operation.
He then showed that the surgery had not diminished his pace at all, looking seriously quick when he entered the fray in the NatWest T20 Blast before a bruised heel sidelined him for the closing weeks of the season.
That was frustrating, admits the paceman, who will be 24 next week - but only a minor irritation set alongside all the evidence that the operation was successful.
And Stone will jet off to Perth, in Western Australia, next month on a mission to return to Edgbaston in the spring well-placed to rattle a few batsmen on the Bears' behalf in 2018.
"I'll be in Perth for just over three months to play some grade cricket to keep my body ticking over," he said. "I'll play some cricket in all formats and spend some time in the gym and just enjoy being able to play cricket and not be having to spend all winter in the gym on rehab. It will perfect for me, having not played a lot this year.
"So then I can come back ready to go again in April because I'd love to contribute a lot for Warwickshire next year. It was nice this season to come back and bowl quite fast and it was good to know I could still bowl push batsmen back. The winter objective is for me to get my fitness up so that I can do that in four-day games and not just in T20."
Warwickshire's supporters had long a wait to see Stone in first-team action due to his injury, but the Norwich-born player was signed by the Bears as potentially a linchpin of the pace attack for many years to come. That is what he wants to be and, despite the late-season injury, his overall progress since surgery has been very encouraging.
"It was frustrating to get the heel injury because all the rest of my body was ready to go," he said. "But while I was in rehab I was told that when I first came back it would not necessarily be the knee that was the issue but everything else needing to catch up with the strains of bowling again. I have had a few little niggles but it is nice to know that my knee is strong and can cope with what's needed.
"At the start of the season we said whatever first-team cricket I played during the season would be a bonus so to play what I did is a massive positive. Now I will start bowling again in the next week or so before I go to Australia and then keep working during the winter."