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July 23, 2002
He might have collected over £8,000 at a recent benefit match against club side Hartley Wintney, and more than £1,000 at a blanket and bucket collection on the second day of the tour match against the Indians, but Hampshire's Shaun Udal will be best pleased by the gift Sachin Tendulkar gave him - probably the most cherished wicket in world cricket, Tendulkar was dismissed by Udal for just three at the recently completed three-day match at the Rose Bowl.
It was the second day of the match and just a touch overcast when the veteran Hampshire offie came on to bowl. After getting Virender Sehwag to tickle one on, Shaun deceived Tendulkar with a straight one that Saqlain Mushtaq would be proud of. Playing for the turn, Tendulkar only managed an edge as the ball swirled up to short third man for Dimitri Mascarenhas to catch. Amidst yells of `catch it!' from the players, and `drop it!' from sections of boisterous Indian fans, Mascarenhas made no mistake.
Five times the Rose Bowl echoed with cries of `Well bowled Shaggy!' Udal is a popular bloke in these parts and it's easy to see why. In 13 years of first class cricket he has served Hampshire admirably, scoring over 6,500 runs and taking over 800 wickets in all forms of the game. He will certainly remember his latest haul. "I don't think I'll ever forget the day I picked up Sachin's wicket," said Udal. "There are some that always stick in your head and this will be one of them. Like how I cherish the first wicket I took for Hampshire and my first international wicket."
Hampshire and England apart, Udal seems a good old-fashioned club cricketer at heart. He's always having a chat to a steward or signing an autograph for a young fan. At the end of the day, he's happy to sit down with a lager and wind down.
"It certainly helps to say you're a Hampshire and England player. Especially in your benefit year when you're talking to the corporates. It's a bit of a shame it has to be that way, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't help. I can't really envisage me fading out from cricket as soon as I retire from first class cricket. It'll be back to my club, Camberley, for me then. That's where I started and that's where I'd like to finish."
Mind you, Udal is no stranger either to either international cricket or cricketers. When Shane Warne turned out for Hampshire in 2000, the pair strung together quite a partnership. "Obviously, it was brilliant bowling with Shane. There were three county championship games we won when Shane and I picked up a few wickets. It's a shame we didn't put on so many runs on the board that season. We're doing that now and if Warne was back I think we'd have quite a bit of success together," said Udal.
And just because it's his benefit year this time around, don't believe that we're seeing the end of Udal. "I'd definitely like to play for another five or six years," he said.
Hopes of making a comeback at the national level too have not quite died down. "Deep down, I'd love to play for England again. Last winter when the tour party to India was selected, I thought I had an extremely good chance of getting a call up. I have to say I was very disappointed when I was overlooked. Through my career, I've been as consistent as anyone in the limited overs games and thought I should have been part of the team."
On the evidence of the considerable achievements of Richard Dawson and Martyn Ball, and no disrespect to either, it certainly seems as though Udal would have given the Indians a bit more to think about. David Graveney listening?
Whether he is or not, young offies in England should sit up and take notice when Udal says to them: "Good luck you, lads. With the lbw laws being as they are, it's a bit rough on the finger spinners. Struck just outside the line, is the answer to most appeals! I'd actually say, if you could bowl brisk spin or wrist spin you'd be more successful, at least in the shortened version of the game."
No wrist spin for Udal though. "I know that Murali (Mutthiah Muralitharan) and Harbhajan Singh are great performers, I won't take anything away from that. But I've always admired the genuine finger spinners rather than the wrist spinners. When I was growing up, it was always John Emburey and Tim May that I looked up to."
You can see that he means it. His easy loping glide to the wicket, the little skip-jump before delivery stride and that delightfully high arm action all tell you that he's a cricketer in the classical mould. God knows we need more of that kind in world cricket.
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