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April 21, 2009
Shaun Udal is at the age when some men consider buying a Harley-Davidson to cure a mid-life crisis, but the Middlesex captain is reinventing himself in a different way after finding a new lease of life with Middlesex and believes he is still good enough for England.
It's a view shared by the England selectors who have included him in their preliminary 30-man squad for the ICC World Twenty20 in June. Udal isn't a stranger to late England calls after making his Test debut in 2005, 11 years after his ODI debut, and famously played a key role in England's victory against India in Mumbai. But if he makes the final cut this time it will be the most extraordinary chapter in Udal's career and even the man himself says the last 18 months have been "crazy and ridiculous."
Udal retired from professional cricket after he ended his Hampshire career in 2007, but a few months later Middlesex came along with an offer. After some thought Udal dusted off the kit to give it another shot and finished by captaining through the final month of the season. At the end of October the job was offered to him full-time.
"It's all remarkable and I can't believe what has happened," he told Cricinfo. "I still have absolute faith and trust in my ability. I genuinely think I could do a good job for England especially in the Twenty20 format of the game because experience is absolutely key in that format.
"It's no coincidence that we won it with a bowling attack that was experienced and you know how to cope in pressure situations. It's vital to be able to trust your ability. If I get picked in a couple of week's time I'll be the proudest man in the world."
Even more than a place in England's Twenty20 squad, the captaincy is still up for grabs and Udal's name has even been linked to that role. However, despite his Twenty20 success it's an idea he finds hard to take seriously.
"I gather there were a couple of papers last week that ran with headlines of 'Udal to skipper England' or something like that," he said. "I've heard nothing, there are numerous candidates, and I'm sure I'm not top of the list despite what has been said that it's between me or [Paul] Collingwood. But if it was offered to me it would be a hugely proud moment."
Udal's success in Twenty20 has been further proof that age doesn't have to be a barrier in the shortest format. If anything, Udal believes, it is crucial for sides to have experienced line-ups because there are so many pressure moments in a 20-over match.
"People perceived it would be a young man's game, but there haven't been many sides who have won things with a young side," he said. "When I was at Hampshire they made the mistake of giving the youngsters a go in Twenty20 and that's why they were poor at it for a number of years.
"It's not a game to blood people in because you need to think on your feet and think quickly. If you've had experiences in life and cricket you can fall back on them in pressure situations."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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