'Mitchell Johnson is one man who has disintegrated England'
Former England fast bowler Alex Tudor discusses the dismal showing of his countrymen in the ongoing Ashes with Haresh Pandya, while being effusive in praise of India's young brigade.
Alex Jeremy Tudor was one of the best things that happened to English cricket in the late 1990s. As a tearaway right-arm fast bowler and useful batsman down the order (his 99 not out against New Zealand at Edgbaston in 1999-2000 remains the highest ever score by an England night watchman), he was England's big hope at a time when some of its experienced speed merchants were aging and approaching retirement.
Though he did not have a dazzling start to his career, the 6ft 4in tall Tudor showed flashes of brilliance at times, including in the Ashes series Down Under, and hinted at the things to come or what to expect of him when armed with the new ball. Unfortunately, his flourishing career was plagued by injuries and he had never had a regular place in the England team.
A player of Tudor's class deserved to play in more Tests than just 10 he figured in. But both he and the England selectors were helpless against a series of injuries fate subjected him to.
Today, he has emerged as an intelligent, popular coach who relishes training budding cricketers in particular.
London-born Tudor, whose parents are from the West Indies, was in Rajkot last December with the Dubai-based G Force Cricket Academy boys, who played a series of matches in the cricket-crazy city, whose latest product is one Cheteshwar Pujara.
Haresh Pandya caught up with the affable, unassuming Tudor during one such match and engaged him in a freewheeling conversation.
What do you think about the ongoing Ashes series Down Under in which the English team has been outclassed in every department of the game? The Australians are already 4-0 ahead with one Test yet to be played. Did you expect Alastair Cook and company to play like this? Are you surprised by the way the Aussies have taken revenge after their dismal performance in the last English summer?
No, I never thought England would meet with such a fate in Australia. The confidence of the players was very high after their series win against India in India and over Australia in the last Ashes series. At the same time, I was sure that the Australians would be quite different opponents in their own den than we saw them in England. And this is precisely what has happened.
Obviously, Australia has been playing superior cricket, but what surprises me is that England has been unable to put up a fight despite having so many talented and experienced players in its ranks.
Have you figured out why England has been reduced to almost an average Test side by the rampaging Kangaroos?
Well, I think Mitchell Johnson has made all the difference. He has been bowling amazingly quick and with a remarkable degree of consistency in the series. Being a fast bowler myself, it has been wonderful to see him send down his brand of thunderbolts at nearly or over 155 kmph. Besides being very fast, he is a left-hander, which is an advantage. He has been very accurate despite bowling at an express pace and sustaining it as well. He knows that his fielders, particularly wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, will catch anything and everything that comes their way. This also adds to his confidence.
He is really relishing bowling in this series and he seems to have a psychological hold over some of the England batsmen.
Is Johnson the only reason or factor?
No, there are other reasons, too, but Johnson is one man who seems to have disintegrated the England team. England were dealt a huge blow when Jonathan Trott decided to return home, citing stress-related illness, after the first Test in Brisbane, where I think he failed to make a major contribution and fell to Johnson in both the innings.
Now Graeme Swann has also left the team in the middle of the series. Though a great batsman, Cook hasn't played a single confident innings, and the team hasn't got a good start, which has had a bearing on the performance of the rest of the batsmen. Kevin Pietersen has not been batting or scoring the way he usually does.
England's bowlers have not been backed up by big scores to bowl with even though they've been trying their best. Of course, most Australian batsmen are in good form. Michael Clarke has been leading from the front. These are some of the main reasons why Australia has dominated the series but, to me, Johnson has been one major factor.
Do you think England will recover from the shock treatment they have received Down Under?
Yes, of course. Why not? Winning and losing are part and parcel of the game. England is still one of the best teams in the world and possesses many outstanding batsmen and bowlers. It shouldn't take them long to regain their form and touch and winning ways. Let's give some credit to Australians, too, for playing better and more competitive cricket in the series.
Image: Mitchell Johnson, Alex Tudor (inset)
Photographs: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
'I'm a great fan of Kohli, who, to my mind, is the world's best batsman at the moment'
What are your views on the Indian cricket team?
India? Oh, I love to watch the Indian players in action, particularly Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and M S Dhoni. I rate the Indian team very high. The smiling Dhoni has been a calming influence on the Indian team in every format of the game in which its performance has been fairly impressive over the years. He is a very good captain and seems to really enjoy his cricket.
Having said that, I must say I'm a great fan of Kohli, who, to my mind, is the world's best batsman at the moment. He has so naturally adapted to Test, one-day and Twenty20 cricket.
Look at how he plays, how he performs and how consistently he makes big scores in all these versions. He never seems to be under pressure. In fact, pressure seems to bring the best out of Kohli more often than not. Isn't it interesting that he shares the record with Sir Viv Richards, in terms of scoring 5000 ODI runs in minimum number of innings?
Pujara is a very compact batsman more in the classical mould and ideally suited to Test match batting. India should thank her stars that it has got two bright young world-class batsmen in Kohli and Pujara.
Image: Virat Kohli
Photographs: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images/Getty Images
'Shami has got the talent, the stamina and the ability to swing the ball deceptively'
Nice to hear that you rank Dhoni, Kohli and Pujara high. But what do you think about Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma?
I particularly like the way Dhawan approaches his batting and the manner in which he plays his shots. He is an adventurous, positive stroke-player and reminds me of some of the West Indies batsmen in style. He has a wide range of shots, but the only minus point I see in his batting is that sometimes he tends to be a bit vulnerable against short, rising deliveries, especially on fast and bouncy pitches, and someone like Dale Steyn can truly test him. He has to improve this side of his batting and score heavily outside India, too.
Sharma is a fine shot-maker and looks really classy on his day. But he has to build concentration powers of someone like Pujara and prove his ability on surfaces like the ones in South Africa, too.
Do you like any fast or medium-paced Indian bowler in particular?
I'm really impressed by Mohammed Shami. He has got the talent, the stamina and the ability to swing the ball deceptively. I think he has a very bright future in Test cricket. What I like more about him is the variations he brings in his bowling. I've a feeling that he'll fill Zaheer Khan's place in the Indian team and play for many years, fitness permitting.
Image: Mohammed Shami
'The IPL is here to stay, which is good for the game as well as cricketers'
Like most cricketers, you are also known to love Test cricket more than any other format. What does the future hold for Test cricket?
I'm sure Test cricket will continue to be played the way it has over the years. I've been hearing for years that Test cricket is dying or will die. But if you mark, along with the spread of One-Day Internationals and Twenty20 matches, more and more Tests are also played. To me, there is no alternative or substitute to Test cricket. It's almost invariably the best form to judge a cricketer's true ability. Some changes may come in the rules in the long run, including maybe in the duration, but Test cricket won't die, I'm sure.
What are your views on the Indian Premier League?
There aren't apparent reasons to criticise it. It has brought a lot of money into the game and made those lucky ones, who get to play in it, substantially richer. The IPL is here to stay, which is good for the game as well as cricketers.
Do you think the West Indies will ever regain its past glory in world cricket?
Sadly, I don't think so. It's very sad to see that the West Indies, which ruled world cricket for nearly three decades, is no longer a force to reckon with. You may continue to get to see an odd world-class player or two from the Caribbean, but I don't think the West Indies will ever rule world cricket the way it did in the 1970s and 1980s.
Besides talent, you need money to encourage, to sustain cricket and cricketers at the highest level. Unfortunately, the West Indies seems to be lacking in both. More and more young athletes, who appear to have good potential for cricket, migrate to the US and other countries for greener pastures, for better career options.
You were endowed with natural talents for cricket. You had a lot of promise when you started out in cricket. Any regret about having only a brief spell in international cricket?
No, I've absolutely no regrets, nor any complaint against my selectors. I couldn't help all those injuries of mine. It was just not in my hand. Maybe, but for injuries, I'd have enjoyed a longer career. There will always be ifs and buts. But I really have no complaints, no regrets. I've enjoyed whatever cricket I've played for England, Essex and Surrey.
Image: Mumbai Indians celebrate after winning IPL 6