July 1, 2002

Darren Gough: I'm fit and I'm leaner

Darren Gough has declared himself fit to play for England against Sri Lanka at Headingley in the fourth match of the NatWest triangular series. The Yorkshire fast bowler has been included in the England squad for the game after defying gloomy predictions about his fitness as recently as last week.

"I've done all the stuff I've been asked to do, I've played, I've fielded and I've been bowling now every day for the last two weeks apart from a little setback I had on Monday when I decided to pull myself out of a game," Gough said.

"I'm going to have a little bit of discomfort for the next month to six weeks - when you come back from any surgery you're going to get that - but England have asked me if I'm fit and I told them I was so now it's up to them whether I play or not."

Gough sustained the injury to his right knee in the final one-day international against New Zealand in Dunedin last February. Since then he has had two operations, and he admitted to worries about whether he would ever make an England return.

"I think everyone worries they won't get back when they have injuries," he said.

"I had plenty of time to get fit for the start of the season and I worked really hard, but I probably tried to get back a little too quickly first time.

"This time I've been held back a lot. They've sent me away to Lanzarote so I wouldn't be rushed and I trained there three times a day, and that's brought me forward a couple of weeks in my recovery."

He also believes he is leaner than he has been at times in the past. "I'm lighter now than I was in the winter and lighter than I was last season. Aerobically I'm fit and I'm a lot stronger than I've been before because of the weight programmes I've been doing on my upper body.

"People have seen me running around Old Trafford and think I've put on weight but I had several sweaters on and I'm stronger and fitter because all my tests with England have proved that - if there was a problem I think England would have been the first to tell me, and I've heard nothing from them.

Gough is not too worried about making his comeback against world-class opposition. "People who know me and the way I bowl will know that I'm not one of those mechanical bowlers who have about 10 different trigger points - I just run up and bowl as fast as I can," he said.

"It's going to be a bit different playing a one-day international against world-class players and you can go around the park against players like that, but I'm totally confident of not spraying down both sides of the wicket if I play.

"I've only played one second team game, but they must have faith in me otherwise they wouldn't have selected me in the squad."