Phil Tufnell

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The former England spin bowler tells us how he made it to the top of test cricket.

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I got into cricket by playing it at school with my mates. You played football in the winter, cricket in the summer, and I just enjoyed running about, playing outside. I watched all my sporting heroes on the television. I come from a very sporty family and I was just encouraged to get out there and have a go.

I never thought that I was going to be a professional cricketer. It was just one of those things that happened a little bit later on in life. I went through all the stages like the under 13s and the under 15s and did well. Then, all of a sudden, I was given the opportunity to go into it professionally.

I was very lucky because I had a school teacher that was very into cricket. He saw how much I enjoyed it, and that I had a little bit of talent. He really pushed me along. I think you've got to have those kinds of people in your life. I've had about four or five people throughout my sporting career that have acted as mentors. You take their advice and you learn from them.

Profile

Name:
Philip Clive Roderick Tufnell

Born:
29 April 1966

Game:
Cricket

Batting Style:
Right-hand bat

Bowling Style:
Spin

Teams:
Middlesex and England

Achievements:

  • 121 wickets in 42 test matches for England
  • Over 1000 wickets for Middlesex
  • Took 11 wickets for 93 runs against Australia at the oval in 1997

    Switch on and off

    In professional sport you've got to be able to switch on and switch off. When it's time to do your bit, that's when you switch on. That's when you motivate and prepare yourself.

    You can't keep yourself on tenterhooks all the time. You've got to be able to chill out and rest your head a little bit. When I bowled I was very aggressive. You want to win, but there's no point being aggressive in the dressing room. You've got to get involved in the team atmosphere and support your team mates.

    Mind over matter

    I like spin bowling because you have to think a bit more. Fast bowlers are big, strong boys. It's all about running in and slinging it down. If you're a spin bowler you've got to out think the batsman. It's a little bit more crafty and skilful. You have to ask yourself 'Right, how's he playing? What am I going to do? How am I going to set my field to counteract his strengths?' That's what attracted me to spin bowling.

    There's a massive difference between county and test level cricket. The first thing you've got to do is control the mental side of it. You're going to be playing against a better standard of batsman and bowler. There's going to be more people watching and things like that. Once you learn how to cope with the added pressure you can start adapting your game. You do that by listening to advice from senior players and coaches.

    It wouldn't matter if I was playing a game of tiddlywinks against Harrow or cricket against Australia, I'd still want to be positive and win.

    Stay focused

    The first Test Match was a scary moment. You lie in bed and you think about it. You try and prepare yourself, and you go through different scenarios in your head. You tell yourself that you've done your preparation and to just stay strong.

    In that moment when you're thrown the ball your bottom lip starts going a little bit. You have to take a deep breath and think to yourself 'Right, this is what I'm going to do.' I don't even remember bowling the first two balls. Then something snaps in you and you think 'Right, I'm here now, I'm just going to have it. This is what I'm here to do and there's no need to be scared'. Don't let the other bloke intimidate you, you're there to intimidate him.

    Keep your cool

    You can't lose your temper otherwise you're letting him (your opponent) get to you psychologically. That's one mistake that I made when I was a youngster. Every time I got hit for a four, or someone had a bit of luck against me, I took it to heart.

    You need to mature and be in control of your game. You're going to bowl the odd bad ball. You're not going to get a wicket every time. Don't let your disappointment show in your bowling because your opponent will see that and jump on it.

    It's all about the team

    I think that anyone who's professionally involved in sport is very lucky. I always loved being involved in the team atmosphere. You go up and down the country with your team, you tour with England and you meet lots of great people all around the world. You're also representing your country, which is a great honour.

    When you're feeling a bit down about your performance, your team mates are always around to pick you up. The same goes if you've done well and one of your mates has had a bad run - you give him confidence and support. You win together and you lose together. It's all for one and one for all.


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