London: A disastrous Ashes campaign and a hernia operation which kept him out of the series against India, has made fast bowler Steve Harmison understand his bowling much better and is desperate to play for his country again.
''It has been a nightmare year. But what I believe I've learned is that I need to stop worrying and start enjoying my cricket again, playing with a smile not a frown.'' England is facing the problem of plenty with new pacers doing very well. After Harmison was sidelined due to hernia followed by a back problem, Ryan Sidebottom, Stuart Broad and James Anderson all turned in strong performances to stake their claim for fast-bowling slots in the side for the Test match against Sri Lanka starting in Kandy.
''Every time I felt like things were starting to go right, something went wrong,'' he said.
Harmison, who has been playing for the Highveldt Lions in a bid to get match fit for the Test series, gave the example of last week's match against the Cape Cobras to explain his new approach to bowling.
''In the past I would probably have agonised too much over the rubbish, but now I was thinking 'Give me the ball because I'm also bowling some top stuff'. By sticking at it I bowled better as the match went on and ended up with nine wickets and a great deal of confidence,'' he told the Daily Mail.
''Maybe I've got to accept that with my action and the way I bowl I'm going to have wayward spells, and instead of beating myself up about sending one way down leg side, I should concentrate on where the next one is going,'' he said.
The 29-yera-old Harmison, reiterated his desire to play for England but added, ''If I'm supposed to be in the side for line and length consistency I shouldn't be.
''Let's be honest, I'm not the best 83mph bowler available to England or the best at 85mph. But when things are going right, with my height and bounce, I can be the best 90mph-plus bowler.''
''Of course I strive to bowl with better consistency. I'd love to be able to bowl at 90mph-plus six balls out of six, over after over.'' ''I bust a gut to try to get my wrist position and my approach to the crease just right because when everything is in place the bowling clicks naturally. But maybe in the past sometimes I've tried too hard to bowl line and length at the expense of my real weapons; pace and bounce.
On his Ashes fiasco the englishmen said, ''What do I recall of that day, of that delivery? ''To be totally honest, even now it is all a massive blur.'' ''I said at the time that I felt I had frozen, that I had let the importance of the occasion get to me. On reflection, I think I need to clarify that,'' he said.
''Two things happened. The first was purely technical; I came out of my action too soon and let the ball go before the body was ready to release it, and when that happens the result is horrendous.
''Brett Lee did the same thing in the second Test in Adelaide, the ball ended up going between first and second slip and no one took a blind bit of notice. Mine being the first ball, obviously it went down as one of The Ashes moments.
''The second element was to do with the impact I was trying to make. Twenty four hours earlier we had all been pumped up with optimism; we were going to get across them and give them a good game.''
''There had been a lot of talk in the papers about how my first spell in the first Test of the 2005 Ashes had set the tone for that series. In the end, I might just have been trying too hard for the big effort ball, the one to put down the same kind of marker this time round,'' he added.
Harmison also said that the advice of Allan Donald, who was a bowling consultant with England in the summer, was also extremely helpful.
''One thing Allan Donald said to me when he was bowling coach has really hit home, and it was that however I was bowling I had to make sure I was bowling quick.
''My approach now is not to worry if the ball occasionally comes out sideways. If that happens, it happens,'' he opined.