WHENEVER ”forgotten opener” Phil Jaques needed extra strength to pull through the pain barrier as he recuperated from his third – and ”definitely final” – operation to fix a bulging disc in his lower back, he’d pull his baggy green Test cap out of the wardrobe and look at it.He used the ”baggy green therapy” in the lead-up to an operation to implant a prosthetic disc in his lower back to deal with the pain of the damaged disc stabbing violently at his back and legs.Jaques then called upon it in the months that followed the surgery when he was put through a rehabilitation program that would’ve tested a masochist’s mettle.”I was really hungry to get back,” said Jaques, who averages 291 for Sutherland after three innings for the club. ”I’m still desperate to play for Australia again … there was no way I could have gone through everything I did if I didn’t have that desire.”After looking at the bottle-green fabric and national crest, Jaques would head to the gym or local pool for what he describes as short-term torture for his long-term wellbeing, buoyed by the memory of how he once ranked in the top echelon of Australian cricket.But there was also a fear that the surgery, which Gold Coast Titans rugby league player Mat Rogers successfully underwent for a neck problem, could end his career.”Any surgery, especially back surgery, could potentially spell the end,” Jaques told The Sun-Herald . ”I always had the desire to come back to cricket but my decision was based on simply getting my life back in order; getting every aspect of my life on track.”The problem was debilitating and it affected just about everything. I based my decision around that … to first and foremost get my life in order and then hopefully have my cricket fall back in place. I couldn’t stand up straight, let alone play cricket.”I lived with [the disc problem and pain] for three years. I had constant discomfort … constant leg pain, and the [pain] levels varied, and that pain was what I struggled with most.”The 30-year-old, who scored a second-innings century against the West Indies in his last Test, attended swimming and pilates classes as part of his rehabilitation, and he says he’s never been stronger.”It feels like the old me is back again,” he said. ”I also did heaps of core [strength] work so I’m definitely a lot stronger. I haven’t been this strong ever. On the running side of things I’m not as fit, but I am getting there.”Should he turn the early season into a run-fest – as many, including former NSW coach Steve Rixon, expect – he’ll need to get some speed into his legs. He opened his summer with an unbeaten century for Sutherland in their limited overs victory over Fairfield-Liverpool and followed it up with an unconquered 41 before slamming 136 against Gordon last weekend.Jaques did not play yesterday, explaining it was part of a well-plotted plan to not rush his recovery. He intends to do all he can to ensure he’s available for NSW in time to challenge the likes of Shane Watson and Phillip Hughes for a place in the state team.When Jaques helped coach the state under-17 squad during the winter, he kept his eye in by standing behind the nets and ”tracking” balls, thinking of what shot he’d play. It kept him mentally sharp, but he’s more surprised by how he’s shaped up physically.”I feel freer in every shot I play because I don’t think about my back at all,” Jaques said. ”Before [the operation] I was constantly mindful of positions I could get into and I had to make decisions on playing shots. I don’t think about it at all now.”I was struggling before because I couldn’t get my weight over my front leg. The weakness in my glute affected my right knee so I struggled basically on the outside stump to get the distances I needed to play shots properly, particularly off the front foot. It’s now fluid. I feel so much better.”
Nanjing Night Net