Cricket: Tufnell's confidence trap

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The Independent Online
PHIL TUFNELL is one of those characters who appears to live his cricketing life only in emotional extremes. For most of this tour he has been down in the dumps and although he bowled better on the second day of the second Test match in Madras yesterday, the tilt of his shoulders told of a man who is not at ease with himself.

When he is taking wickets, his confidence, such a fragile commodity for some of the time, completely disappears. Suddenly a left-arm spinner who has won three Test matches for England bowls as if he was a nervous, uncertain beginner.

The fluency of his run-up goes, his bowling becomes flat, predictable and boring simply because he lacks the confidence to produce his normal variations. When in this state of mind he manages to bowl an unforgiveable number of no-balls. There were 12 in India's first innings.

He bowled well enough to have taken a wicket or two and if he had his confidence would now be on the way back. When things are going badly he must try and put on a more determined face for a bowler who is obviously depressed with himself is handing the batsman a huge psychological advantage.

The contrast between the demeanour of Tufnell and that of Ian Salisbury could hardly be more marked. Salisbury, the Sussex bowler, has the perfect temperament for a leg-spinner and when a long-hop has been pulled for four he is always anxious to get the ball back in his hands. He then runs in to bowl the next delivery as if he is expecting to take a wicket in spite of his relatively meagre Test record so far.

Tufnell, on the other hand, has taken 38 Test wickets at an average of just over 25, and is obviously a highly talented bowler. But if he does not learn to control his moods better his talent may never be given its best chance to flourish and he could easily cause severe, not to say decisive, selectorial irritation. He should heed Salisbury's example.