London: Graham Thorpe said on Tuesday his selection in England's 16-man squad for the forthcoming Ashes tour of Australia represented the "biggest challenge" of his career.
Surrey left-handed batsman Thorpe, 33, has not played a senior match since taking an indefinite break from all cricket following England's first Test victory over India at Lord's in July. That move was prompted by the collapse of Thorpe's marriage and questions over access arrangements to his two young children Henry, five, and Amelia, three. Since taking time out Thorpe, who earlier in the season announced his retirement from International One-day cricket, has had several meetings with the selectors. And earlier on Tuesday they proved that Thorpe, who impressively averages over 45 against Australia, had persuaded them that he was mentally ready for the rigours of a five Test trip 'down under' by including him in the tour party. Thorpe conceded that this represented a leap of faith on the selectors' part, one he was eager to reward. "This is as big a challenge as there's been at this stage of my career," said Thorpe in an interview on BBC Radio's 'Sport on Five programme' on Tuesday. "It's a great opportunity for me to start up again and work with the other players in the England cricket team again. "For a long time I was unsure whether I would be able to go given the recent circumstances. I've been lucky the selectors have been so understanding because I'm sure they'll see it as a bit of a gamble. "I always said that once things settled down off the field I would be able to make a clear decision about whether I could go to Australia," Thorpe said. Thorpe added that improved relations between himself and his estranged wife had eased his situation. "I don't see too many problems off the field, it's become very amicable between the two parties. "Last winter was a difficult time but these things happen to all sorts of people. I have had a lot of publicity about my problems which is perhaps why I've found it difficult to deal with." Thorpe hopes to return to senior cricket on Wednesday by playing for already crowned county champions Surrey against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl and said his time away from the game had made him reconsider his career. "Being away for five or six weeks sorting out my personal life has also given me a lot of spare time and I've realised I'm fortunate to have been given this chance," said Thorpe. "The most important thing is that my commitment and work levels are high. No one can guarantee success on the field but you can prepare in the right way and I want to get back playing for England. "If I didn't believe I could play cricket for three months knowing what could happen during that time I wouldn't have put my name in the hat. "I have the ability to play at the highest level and I want to play at the highest level and it's important I'm committed in all areas."
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