Blackwell lean and mean in pursuit of an England recall

Durham 311-4 MCC
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The Independent Online

Just like Samit Patel, failing to count the calories carefully enough has probably cost Ian Blackwell on the England front. But the two all-rounders have restated their determination to be fit for purpose when it comes to playing international cricket.

Patel, removed from Andrew Strauss's squad for the one-day series in the West Indies last month after being unable, "despite repeated warnings, to reach an acceptable standard of fitness", has told the world he never again wants to be left out by his country for non-playing reasons. And Blackwell, who yesterday registered the season's first century for his new county, Durham, is also talking a good game.

In a statement put out by Nottinghamshire, Patel said: "I have had to accept some difficult truths from people I have a lot of respect for, and I don't want to be in a position ever again where I miss out on selection because of lack of fitness. I have worked hard to improve my fitness and I am looking forward to playing a part for Notts and England in an important summer of cricket."

Patel, who became a one-day regular last year, looks to be back in favour after England named him this week in their preliminary squad for the World Twenty20. Three years have passed, though, since Blackwell (now 30) played his 34th and last limited-overs international and he clearly has plenty to do before attracting serious attention again.

National selector Geoff Miller is not alone, however, in describing Blackwell as a wasted talent. Although never left out on the basis of fitness, he is a bulky player, who once said "if they want me down to 12st I'd have to cut off a leg", admits he has not always given himself the best chance of England selection.

"He [Miller] would probably try to do everything he could to get into the England team, and if that meant losing two stone he'd probably do it," said Blackwell, who yesterday converted an overnight 63 into a near run-a-ball unbeaten 102 before rain halted Durham at 311 for 4 against MCC at Lord's. "I guess it's a little more difficult with my lifestyle and perhaps I haven't given myself every chance of playing for England through my fitness, but I have rectified that a little bit and I look after myself a lot better than in the past."

Blackwell reckons to have lost a stone and a half, having previously been "one of those guys who rarely turns down a drink". But, like a lot of slimmers, he is coy about his current weight. "Not telling," he said.