Northants all-rounder Steven Crook is confident of a return to peak fitness as he prepares for the start of the new county season on April 7.
Crook has struggled with a nagging shoulder problem for the past two years and had surgery at the end of last season.
But he’s now confident the discomfort that has hampered his bowling for a long time is behind him and he can play a greater part for Northants in 2017.
“I feel great to be honest,” said Crook.
“My shoulder has come along a lot quicker and recovered better than I anticipated, so I’m really pleased.
“I’ve struggled with it for the last couple of years so it’s nice to get it fixed and get it strong for the season coming up.”
Crook suffered labral tears to the right shoulder - his bowling arm - and has struggled to achieve his natural bowling action.
“There were a a couple of tears including a big one at the back of my shoulder, they shaved some bone off too,” he explained.
“It was pretty uncomfortable at the time but it’s feeling pretty good now.
“I’m really pleased to have come from where I was at the back end of last season to now.
“I’ve got so much more freedom with what I’m able to do.
“Over the last couple of seasons, I’ve struggled to get my arm into certain positions and not able to bowl the way I’d like to, I was just managing through.
“So to have it all repaired hopefully bowling-wise I can get back to where I was maybe three years ago.”
While Crook has been managed through Northants’ white-ball campaigns over the past two seasons, during which the county became NatWest T20 Blast champions for a second time, reached another T20 final and a quarter-final of the 50-over competition, his first-class cricket, where his all-round ability balances the side very well, has been forced to give way.
Last season, Crook bowled just 139 overs in first-class cricket, taking 10 wickets at 57.80 - his leanest return since 2009 - almost 200 overs fewer than the 2013 season, where his 43 wickets at 26.48 helped Northants to promotion.
But while the shoulder issue has limited the effectiveness of his bowling, Crook’s batting has conversely produced better performances.
Over the last two seasons, having not recorded a first-class ton for the first decade of his career, he’s made five centuries since 2014, including a best of 145 at New Road last August.
With an older Crook finding form with the bat and his bowling returning to its former fluency, 2017 could bring out the best in the Australian.