Onions keen to experience view from the top after two years of hurt
Graham Onions was there at the start of England's assault on the ICC's Test rankings – and now he wants a piece of the action as an official world-beater.
The 29-year-old is in the frame again as England prepare for their first Test since being presented with the ICC's silver mace as the top-ranked Test team.
Onions, whose international career was interrupted almost two years ago and then put in grave doubt by a back injury and subsequent surgery, was added to England's squad to face Pakistan in three Tests in the United Arab Emirates after Tim Bresnan had to fly home with post-operative elbow pain.
Second coming: Onions hasn't played a Test in two years
The Durham seamer has great empathy with Bresnan, or any other injury victim, after his own experiences which left him wondering whether he would ever have a chance to play for his country or even his county again.
He will therefore count his blessings that the long road back to full fitness has led him at last into the reckoning for a Test recall and the chance to add to his eight Test caps.
'Being here and spending another three weeks out here with the best coaches and the best players is something in 2009 I didn't really think I would do,' he said.
'To be standing here is something really special for me.'
Onions comes into a muddled equation for the team to face a Pakistan Cricket Board XI on Wednesday in the final warm-up match before the first Test in a week's time.
The selectors will need updates on the fitness of Graeme Swann – set for a scan on a sore thigh – and Onions' fellow pace hopeful Chris Tremlett, who has an eye infection, before they can name their line-up for the three-day fixture.
Wealth of options: Onions trains alongside fellow seamer James Anderson
Should Onions get the call, it will be an emotional culmination of his efforts to battle back to fitness. But he said: 'I'm going to have to put that to the back of my mind a little bit, because I want to perform and do well.
'It certainly makes you appreciate what you've got and how lucky you are.
'I wouldn't say when I was playing I took it for granted. But you turn up and have the ball in your hand – and then all of a sudden, as happened to me in Bangladesh (in 2009), you get injured.
'That's quite hard to take. But I'm here now and I want to make a difference as part of this team.
'They weren't No 1 when I was playing. I want to be part of that side.'
Onions last played for England in the new year Test at Cape Town just over two years ago, in which he blocked out the final over to salvage a last-ditch draw – just as he had in the first match of that series at Centurion.
Fond memories: Onions walks off with Graeme Swann after saving the match in his last Test in Cape Town
He knows all too well how such thrills can be spirited away by injury, though, and added: 'I feel really bad for Tim.
'He has been an integral part of England's side for the last year or two.
'I know exactly how he feels to be coming home from a tour.'
Onions originally accompanied England here as cover because of injury niggles for Bresnan and others.
'I did want to be part of the squad, to challenge myself and prove a point to (coach) Andy Flower and (captain) Andy Strauss that I'm good enough to be here and stay,' he said.
'Unfortunately for Tim, a door opens for me really.
'I certainly see Tim as a big loss. He has played a massive part in England gaining No 1 status.'
Back in the swing: Onions bowls during a practice session
If and when Onions is asked to bowl for his country again, he admits there will be a moment for a deep breath to remember all those months of anxiety about whether he might play again.
'I might think of it then – when I have got my whites on, my England shirt on,' he continued.
England team to face PCB XI (from):
Strauss (captain), AN Cook, IJL Trott, KP Pietersen, IR Bell, EJG
Morgan, MJ Prior (wkt), SCJ Broad, GP Swann, ST Finn, JM Anderson, G
Onions, MS Panesar, CT Tremlett.
'It is special when you play for England. It is the best feeling I have ever had when I have played.
'To have taken that away was very, very disappointing. It was a tough time in my career, probably the toughest.
'You're keeping your fingers crossed; you're doing all the training, hoping the surgeon has done a good job and kind of fixed me back together.
'It's still good to have those type of feelings and have other nerves, because it helps you perform at your best.
'If I get to play I have got a hell of a lot of people to thank really. The ECB have been amazing and got me back on track really.
'I have felt no pain or discomfort since I came out here. I am 100 per cent sure I am over this injury and ready to go.'