When Surrey take to the field in the 2007 County Championship there will be familiar looking figure amongst them, a testament to that thing we all love, the sportsman who refuses to give up.
Chris Schofield was the last proper leg-spin bowler to play for England, he played two tests in which he took not a single wicket. An unusually tall wrist spinner with a gangly action and hair not unlike Billy Whizz, he nevertheless turned the ball a long way and was seen as talented enough to be given one of the first central contracts in 2000, albeit surprisingly and far too early. Having not bowled at all in his first test, in the second his bowling was as much a stranger to control as Rik Waller is to salad and talent. The selectors put an 'x' in their collective notebooks.
Schofield was sent back to his county to develop his talent away from the glare of the test arena. It was always going to be difficult to build a normal career with confidence shattered following his shambolic handling by the ECB , and so it proved . With his figures on a seemingly constant downward spiral with the ball, and first team appearances becoming increasingly fewer, he was finally released by Lancashire in 2004 after coach Mike Watkinson deemed him surplus to requirements.
Refusing to let the disappointments wreck his career, this man of willowy frame showed a surprisingly iron-clad determination to drag himself back into the county arena. His long journey back has been via minor counties Suffolk, the Surrey and Durham second XIs and working as a painter and decorator in between. Surrey have been impressed enough to give him the contract this year that he has chased stoically for the last three.
What Schofield's story illustrates is two things. The first is that the ECB are at times very stupid, the second is that the world class leg-spinner is coveted perhaps more than any other talent in the modern game. In 2000 the fever in English cricket to find a home-grown Shane Warne, or at the very least someone better than Ian Salisbury, was cloying; Schofield was a talented kid caught in the crossfire of muddled thinking. Now, at the still tenderish age of 28 and turning out regularly for Surrey, maybe the international selectors could come calling again. If they do, it will be all credit to Schofield himself.