GUYANESE fast bowler Reon King is anxious to return to the senior West Indies team after two years in the wilderness.
In an exclusive interview with this writer from Newcastle, England, where he represents South Northumberland in the North East Premier League, King said he has learnt a lot since being dropped and as a result is a much better player with plenty to offer the regional team.
"I did a lot of work on my cricket, especially fielding. I refined my bowling action and worked on getting fitter and stronger, and as a result I am now injury-free, my confidence is back and my fitness level is high."
During this time he also completed a Level 2 Coaching Course as well as read numerous books on psychology.
With a beautiful run-up and nice high action, King was touted as the natural successor to greats Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, before injury and loss of form resulted in his omission from the regional team after the second One-Day International in Kenya in 2001.
Now, he explains that his mechanics are a lot better and "when bowling the ball is coming out very well".
"I've also found back my off-cutter, which was my main wicket-taking ball, and which I lost during the period leading up to my exclusion from the team. However, during the Carib Beer competition, and over here in England, I have been able to bowl that delivery again."
The lanky pacer said his plans to get back into the West Indies team suffered a big blow when he was left out of the Guyana team for the Carib Beer semifinal against Jamaica. "I was really looking forward to that game, to continue the reasonable season I was having. I had 14 wickets in three games before I got injured in the fourth round and was sidelined for three matches.
He, however, put that disappointment behind him and headed to England where his 42 wickets at 15 runs apiece, pushed his team 41 points clear at the top of the points standing after 17 matches.
In the league which also includes Jamaican Franklyn Rose, King's tally of 42 victims is second only to countryman Neil McGarrell's 45.
Although keen to represent the West Indies, King may have ruled himself out of the team's year-end engagements after accepting an offer to play first class cricket for Northerns Cricket Union in South Africa. The season runs from October to March, which means that King would miss the Red Stripe Bowl and Carib Beer, competitions in which he must appear to be available for selection.
According to the 27-year-old, "The decision was a tough one to make but was done with a view to further developing my game. I see playing in South Africa as an opportunity to develop my all-round cricket and as a catapult to getting me back into the West Indies team."
"One of the questions I was asked by the Northerns coach was if I wanted to play for the West Indies, because they didn't want somebody with nothing to prove, and I have something to prove to myself and West Indies cricket."
King said he believes he still has the ability to play and perform at the highest level, and welcomes the opportunity provided in South Africa, a "different and professional environment".
He explains that he has been in touch with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) to discuss his decision to take up the South Africa contract.
King, who made his Test debut in the fifth match of the 1998 South Africa tour, captured 44 wickets at 27.77 in 14 matches leading up to the second Test against Zimbabwe on the 2001 tour. He also claimed 73 wickets at 23.3 in 48 One-Day Internationals.