|Event:||England in Pakistan 2005/06|
DateLine: 25th October 2005
Shaun Udal is determined to make the most of his England recall 10 years after his international career looked to have come to a shuddering halt.
Not many 36-year-olds get given another opportunity to star at the highest level and there was surprise in some quarters when the Hampshire off-spinner was included in England's squad for their three Test tour of Pakistan a decade after he played the last of 10 one-day internationals for his country.
But Udal, after a few faltering seasons, has been in fine form in recent years and last term took 44 first-class wickets at a meagre average of just over 18 apiece as Hampshire finished runners-up in the County Championship.
Playing alongside Australia leg-spin great Shane Warne has helped re-invigorate his career and now the 6ft 2" Udal could form a spin partnership with left-armer Ashley Giles, usually England's lone specialist slow bowler, on Pakistan's traditionally turning pitches.
Asked if he thought he would ever be selected for England again, Udal, on the eve of the squad's departure, told reporters at the squad's hotel here Monday that he thought his last chance had gone.
"Honestly, probably not, no. I never gave up hope but at 36 you think it's probably gone."
Udal, who made his one-day international debut in 1994 but has yet to play Test cricket, said he'd no concerns about going to Pakistan despite the recent earthquake and concerns the squad might be a target for terror attacks.
"To be honest, I wouldn't have cared where it was. Just to be picked again is an enormous honour so I'm looking forward to it.
"I went to Pakistan with England A in 1995 but it didn't go particularly well for me, the umpiring decisions did not quite go my way.
"But then I was 25 and I didnt really know myself. I feel a lot more confident going there now than I did ten years ago."
Having first come across Giles when the pair were club cricketers in Surrey, which borders Hampshire, Udal was sanguine about his prospects of partnering him come next month's first Test in Multan.
"Without seeing the pitches and out there it's going to be very difficult to tell whether I will have a part to play.
"You keep reading different quotes from Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach, and other people saying they are going to be fast and bouncy, others saying they are going to be turners, but I just don't know, it's all mind games.
"If I am called upon then hopefully my Hampshire form will continue at international level."
And Udal said part of the reason for that good form was playing alongside Warne.
"Working with Warney has been a significant part of my improvement in the last two or three years, but at the end of the day the ball still has to come out of my hand."
Udal said Warne had also encouraged him to enlarge his repertoire.
"Last summer we worked with his mentor Terry Jenner just throwing a couple of balls to each other and so on, I still can't believe what he (Warne) was doing with the ball.
"He told me to try just whatever feels comfortable. So I stuck with this, well some people call it a slider. It's supposed to go straight on or just slip away a little bit but it is still not coming out perfectly every time.
He added that Warne had also helped him with the mental side of cricket.
"The higher you go in cricket, the more the game is played in your mind. It's a case of little chinks in the batsmen's set-ups. They are things that a genius can see straight away but a mere mortal struggles to pick up."
(Article: Copyright © 2005 AFP)