Shaun Udal beams when recollecting how the great Sachin Tendulkar fell into his trap to inspire England to an unlikely Test win in India, memories which brighten his outlook when he is at a low ebb.
Living with Parkinson’s disease, which can leave him in excruciating pain, Udal embraces the chance to think back to March 2006 when a patched-up England beat a vaunted India in a Test on their own soil.
With Andrew Flintoff’s side trailing 1-0 and beset by injuries and illness ahead of the Mumbai decider, Udal vindicated his call-up with figures of four for 14 in the fourth innings just as a draw beckoned.
“There was about 40-odd thousand in the crowd when he was batting, when I got him out there was about 10,000 left,” Udal told the PA news agency as he thought back to his fourth and final Test appearance.
“You have a plan for each batsman and mine was to try and get him caught short-leg. I didn’t think it would actually happen and to get him was just surreal.
“I still remember to this day the overriding feeling of ‘wow, that’s Sachin Tendulkar I’ve just got out in a Test match’. I ran out around like a seven-year-old for a couple of minutes celebrating.
“It was very special, it lives long in the memory and I’m happy to have played a significant role on the last day.”
England’s spin attack is as raw now as it was then with Monty Panesar in his third Test although he and especially Udal, while unproven at international level, could fall back on their county experience.
The same cannot be said of Rehan Ahmed, Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir, who have just one Test cap, between them as the supplementary options to first-choice Jack Leach, who has a chequered fitness past.
“The spinners are going to be crucial,” Udal said, suspecting India’s selection of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav is revealing for the series which starts on Thursday.
“It’s a telltale sign of what the pitches are going to be like because India have picked four spinners in a squad of 16, so it’s obviously going to spin square.
“But they’ll be under no pressure from the management and captain. I’ll be intrigued to see how effective ‘Bazball’, or whatever you want to call it, is in India.”
Diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2019, Udal is familiar with misconceptions around the progressive neurological condition so he seeks to raise awareness by highlighting his own experiences.
He has a “lot of balance problems” and his “motor skills are very bad”, while “the cramps and pains” which frequently wake him up in the middle of the night can be debilitating.
“There are bad days and good ones,” he said. “It’s a question of living with it; I can’t do anything else about it, it’s incurable, it will deteriorate and it will get the better of me at some stage.
“But I’m determined to try and delay that for as long as I can.”
Udal’s world was rocked in the period after his diagnosis by the deaths of his mother, brother and close friend Shane Warne, prompting him to reach out to the Professional Cricketers’ Association.
“I truly believe if it wasn’t for them and the help they’ve given, I don’t think I would be here,” Udal says of the support he received from the Professional Cricketers’ Trust, the charitable arm of the PCA.
As well as remembering a career that brought more than 800 first-class wickets for Middlesex, Hampshire and England, Udal tries to stay upbeat and is overjoyed that he is due become a grandfather in April.
“It’s not easy to stay positive then but there’s always someone worse off, you’ve got to remember that,” he added.