Michael Carberry's return to England Lions will be accompanied by much heartfelt goodwill for a cricketer who might so easily have been forced into premature retirement.

It was 18 months ago that the opening batsman was unable to undertake an England Performance Programme tour to Australia after being diagnosed with a blood clot on his lung.

In the months which followed, he admits there were times when he had to consider the possibility of not being able to resume his career.

But at Northampton today, after an impressive mid-season return for Hampshire last year, it will be 31-year-old Carberry who is listed to face the new ball against the West Indies.

Carberry therefore is as close as any, first-choice Ian Bell apart, of the aspiring Lions batsmen to a place in England's Test team against the Windies or South Africa this summer.

To date the left-hander has one Test cap against Bangladesh in Chittagong in early 2010. Whether he adds to that or not, he is thankful to be on the field again rather than having to contemplate alternative employment.

"As years tick over it's something I had in mind anyway, then with the illness it was something I had to look into," he said. "It's been a long road and I'm pleased to be back."

Asked if he ever truly felt that his cricketing days might be gone, Carberry added: "I guess so. But where there's a will there's a way.

It's about a state of mind."

Carberry also believes that he is an improved batsman, adding: "I'd like to think I'm better than I was when I played Test cricket. I'm two years older and two years wiser.

"My club [Hampshire] have been fantastic and my family, not to mention England as well. I've had a lot of support."

Carberry is the most obvious like-for-like replacement if either of England's openers become unavailable, but he also believes he is adaptable.

"I'd like to think I can bat anywhere and have stressed that to the selectors," he said.

"During my career I've batted in various different positions because I've played in some strong teams and you've had to slot in where you can.

"I've batted in the middle order for the Lions and got a hundred and I feel I can bat anywhere."

Most of all, of course, he would love to do that in Test cricket again.

"I thoroughly enjoyed it," he said of his one Test appearance. "I didn't feel out of my depth at any stage. I played pretty well.

"I think everyone is allowed to be a little nervous. It was something I'd worked 13 years towards.

"I think I gave a reasonable account of myself without setting the world alight. I'd like another taste of it."