By Patrick Johnston
SINGAPORE, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Matt Prior has dismissed suggestions his England career is over and has targeted April's series in the West Indies for his return from a long-standing Achilles problem.
The wicketkeeper will undergo surgery next month on the injury which has dogged him for two years and flared up in the home series against India, forcing him to step aside after England lost the second Test last month.
Many were quick to write off the righthander because of the success of his replacement Jos Buttler, who scored 200 in three innings as England won the remaining Tests to claim the series 3-1.
"I'm only 32 and everyone talks about you like that's it, it's the end," Prior told Reuters in an interview at the Singapore Cricket Club.
"People seem to forget very quickly what you have given in the past, and that actually add something to the team at one point. But that's the nature of the beast, that's sport, it moves on very quickly and I accept that.
"I'm hoping by January to be as physically fit as I have ever been, and then it's a case of getting some cricket under my belt and getting to the levels I expect of myself and proving to the selectors that I am playing good cricket."
England play three tests in Antigua, Grenada and Barbados in April after a one-day programme which concludes with the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand at the start of next year.
Prior, who is also recovering from hand and quad muscle injuries, said the timing of the ailments had been good, coinciding with a break in the test calendar, but acknowledged the strong form of Buttler.
"If I have to go as a number two batter-wicketkeeper then so be it. I'm more than happy to do that," he said on Thursday.
"The minute Jos went in the team I'm only ever there to help and I sent him a message to say if you need anything. But at the moment he is going great guns so I leave him to it obviously.
"But it's a funny old game and things turn around very quickly." Prior has averaged over 40 and taken 243 catches in 79 tests since making his debut against the West Indies in 2007.
Prior said the response of the Alastair Cook in the India series, when he rebounded with scores of 96, 79 and 70 and skippered the side to innings victories in the final tests, had ended the debate about the team's captaincy.
"We have been through tough times recently and it was just great to see Cooky smiling again and the lads up on that podium getting some of that victory champagne," he said.
"He has shown how strong he is and how he won't back down, and how much he trusts and backs himself to come through whatever. For him to come back like he did from that position is just credit to him entirely."
Prior is in Singapore as a guest of the SCC for their biennial three-day Twenty20 tournament featuring sides from India, Australia, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Hong Kong, which begins on Friday.
The Sussex keeper said the way England had dug themselves out of a hole against India could prove to be a turning point, with home series against New Zealand and the Ashes versus Australia following the West Indies tour.
"We had to break the mould," said Prior. "Winning is a habit and unfortunately so is losing and if you get that losing habit, even the ones you should win you find a way to lose.
"I think we needed something to happen to break that mould and remember how to win again and I think we have done that in those last three performances. Hopefully this will snowball into other brilliant performances." (Editing by Robert Woodward)
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