Cricket: Overjoyed Tudor awaiting the specialist's go-ahead

The young fast bowler needs to prove his fitness to take his place Down Under. By David Llewellyn
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ALEX TUDOR would rather have made his way as a batsman. It is what he thinks he has always done best, what comes naturally to him. Unfortunately for him the 20-year-old Surrey player has been granted an obscene amount of talent as a fast bowler and, had it not been for injuries, would surely have taken more than the 60 first-class wickets he has to his name to date.

But, batting or bowling, it matters little to Tudor, because he is going on an Ashes Tour with England. "I am overjoyed," said Tudor, who sees a specialist next Monday to find out if he has recovered from a fractured foot which has caused him to miss the run-in to Surrey's season. "They may be taking me for the experience, but I am not going to Australia for a holiday. I am going there to work. I want the selectors to get a proper look at me and, with a bit of luck, if I have a couple of matches on the tour I will create a problem for them. This is an ideal opportunity for me. Cricket is a funny game. Anything can happen, and while I don't want anyone to get injured, things happen on tour and I will grab any opportunity that I get with both hands."

His former team manager David Gilbert, now with Sussex, knows Tudor as well as anyone and he said: "It's a wonderful opportunity for him. Although he can bat, he is a man who has that rare ability to bowl a very quick ball. The guy is genuinely fast. If I have any concerns about him it is that he has proved himself to be very injury-prone and the hard wickets in Australia are very unforgiving. So he will have to be fitter than he has ever been in his life in order to come through it."

Gilbert added: "He consistently goes for four an over and bowls too many no balls and he must look to the Ashes tour to sort that out. If he conquers that then he should go to the top.

"He has a work ethic and pays great attention to his fitness. In fact we used to wonder whether he had his priorities right in the gym. He had the chest of an Adonis but we were worried about his chicken legs."

The former England Under-19 fast bowler suffered from a chronic rib injury in 1996 and missed a chunk of the 1997 season as well. This year saw the Wandsworth youngster, who is as valuable with the bat to his club Spencer in the Surrey championship, start well but tail off as the stress fracture of the foot deteriorated.

But Tudor insisted last night: "The foot is fine and I can't wait to start running again. I have been in the gym on the rowing machine and the bike but I can't wait to go running around King George's Park in Wandsworth."

He planned to celebrate last night by having a few friends round. "I don't drink alcohol," Tudor explained, "But they will do my drinking for me. I have to stay fit."