I was not surprised for a moment that Philip Tufnell coped with conditions in a Queensland banana plantation better than any of the other pampered celebrities to win I'm A Celebrity – Get Me Out Of Here! Compared to some of the predicaments Tufnell has found himself in, since I first met him 18 years ago, becoming King of the Jungle was a doddle.
Two weeks of sleeping under cover with a qualified chef catering for your needs and having a regular supply of booze and fags dropped in was luxury, even if he had to do the odd Bush Tucker Trial.
That he won, because the public found him far more interesting than any of the other contestants, failed to shock too. Life with Tufnell is never dull. He is the individual, whether it be for England or Middlesex, that the rest of the team have spent more time discussing and attempting to work out than any other in my career.
For the majority of our time together at Middlesex, Tufnell has been just the sort of character we witnessed on our television screens. Amusing and laid back, when things are going well for him, he is good company. Never a natural leader, or someone keen to take on responsibility, the 37-year-old has always been happy to hang around the periphery and follow the flow.
The humorous comments in the background have always been there, but I had to laugh when I saw the look of horror on his face when he was made team leader in the first week of the show. It reminded me of the time in 2001 when Middlesex asked him to captain the side for a one-day game against Australia. He phoned up on the morning of the match saying he was ill and would not be able to get to the ground.
There is, however, another Philip Tufnell, a person who was kept well under wraps in the jungle. That the moody, insecure and rather selfish individual, who is at times impossible to handle, did not surface will have surprised everyone that knows him. Tufnell finds it very hard to control his emotions.
While the programme was on, he was naturally the centre of conversation wherever I went. People kept saying how well he was doing and how different he appeared to be from the person they expected. Former colleagues, like myself, felt the same, although we all felt it to be only a matter of time before something happened which would upset him and change things completely.
That this failed to occur was largely down to the fact he was cut off from the outside world during his two weeks in Australia. The ban on mobile phones was a godsend for it would only have taken one call from a former wife or girlfriend to completely change his outlook. I can only imagine what would have followed Dawn, his girlfriend, phoning him up and grilling him about his flirting with Linda Barker.
As someone who attempted to captain him, this was a nightmare, because you never knew what you were going to get from one session of play to the next. Every morning, queuing on the A40, as I made my way to St John's Wood, I would sit there wondering which Tufnell would turn up.
His comments at the end of the show, when he suggested that he had not gone into the contest with any sort of game plan, should be taken with a pinch of salt. Tufnell is a lot sharper than many give him credit for and was very much aware of what he was doing while in the camp. He phoned me after he had been offered a place on the show to ask for some advice on what to do. We spent more than an hour talking and I, like him, felt this was too good an opportunity to miss. His playing career was coming to an end and, like every cricketer, he was worried about what to do when it finished.
Tufnell enjoys the money and the lifestyle that his notoriety has and will continue to give him. He could never do a 9 to 5 job and the flitting around as a celebrity, doing bits of this and that, here and there, is right up his street. Also, if appearing on the show did not work out, and bring in the offers he hoped for, there was sure to be a county prepared to employ him at some time in the future.
Pre-season training at Middlesex was always a good indicator of how the winter had gone and, indeed, how the summer would go. If he had spent the off-season on England duty and had a fair amount of success, he would appear at Lord's or Finchley in April well dressed and in reasonably good shape. Like his character, his style of dress has gone through several transformations. When he started at Middlesex he was gothic and since then he has had his acid house and Oasis-lookalike stages.
The younger members of our staff loved it all. Having Tufnell around, whose troubles they had been reading about all winter, was like having a celebrity in the dressing room and they would hang on his every word, waiting to hear tales of what he had been up to on tour. Stretching in the morning would be interrupted by guffaws of laughter from those around him as he took them through another escapade.
On the majority of occasions the story would be at his own expense, like the time he ran into Peter Lush, the England tour manager, half an hour after the team had left for the ground on a match day. Tufnell was not playing in the game, but had failed to spend the night at the hotel. He had overslept and in a panic was racing through reception when he skidded on the marble flooring going round a corner and fell straight into the arms of Lush. It cost him £1,000.
However, there have also been times when he has turned up looking like a down-and-out who has spent all winter sleeping on the streets. I will never forget one year dropping him off after practice each day at a hotel on the Edgware Road. It was around the time that his relationship with Jane McEvoy, his long-term girlfriend and mother of his first child, ended. Her father was incensed by the way Tufnell had treated his daughter and a much-publicised brawl between the two men in the England spinner's front garden had left him needing several stitches to a head wound.
Gaunt, dishevelled, disinterested in cricket and wearing the same clothes day after day, he cut a sorry figure as he sat in the passenger seat. The first thing he would do was grab the rear-view mirror in my car to check whether anybody was following him. And, driving, there were times when I wondered whether it was in my interest to be sitting next to him at this moment in time.
Originally, he was nicknamed The Cat because he slept all day and went out all night. However, a new one needs to be found because he has had more than the regulation nine lives. Tufnell is a talented man who can do anything he puts his mind to well. He is also a survivor, for he has had more setbacks – most have been self-inflicted – than anyone I have known.
This show has given him another chance to set himself up. Among the offers, Radio Five Live is training him to host a show, he has been offered the captaincy of one of the teams in the BBC's They Think It's All Over and 20,000 additional copies of his original autobiography, with the only alteration being a new picture on the front, have been ordered.
A weakness of Tufnell's is that he is easily led and struggles to say no when socialising. It is to be hoped he does not get sucked into the celebrity lifestyle and the vices that come with it. To avoid this he needs good, strong people around him, who know him well and will attempt to point him in the right direction. Whether he heeds their advice and avoids once again pressing the self-destruct button is down to him.Reuse content