Alex Tudor: A promising fast bowler whose career was curtailed by spate of untimely injuries

Alex Tudor trained under Graham Dilley who helped him to develop a free-flowing bowling action © Getty Images

Alex Tudor, born on October 23, 1977, is one of the English fast bowlers who showed a lot of promise at the start of his career. His unbeaten 99 at Edgbaston as a nightwatchman showed glimpses of his talent as a batsman. Sadly the spate of untimely injuries proved fatal to his career. Sarang Bhalerao profiles the cricketing career of Tudor.

He was the tearaway fast bowler. He had promised a lot with the amount of pace he generated off the deck which often caught the batsmen by surprise. Many had prophesised a promising career for Alex Tudor but he was part of just 10 Test matches and three One-Day Internationals (ODI) for England spanning across four years.

Tudor learnt the nuances of fast bowling with Graham Dilley. At the very young age Dilley instilled a very pertinent lesson into Tudor: to make use of the natural pace rather than just running in and bowling with a quick arm action. His run up was smooth; there was a purpose to it. As he approached the popping crease the action would flow freely and the pace generated by Tudor was impressive.

Tudor was 21 when he was blooded into the English scheme of things on the gruelling tour of Australia in 1998. The rationale behind his selection was for him to get used to the demands of international cricket. But he got a break in the second Test at Perth. The English team management were impressed with his attitude and he offered a different skill set in comparison to other fast bowlers of that side. If Darren Gough’s penchant was swinging the ball at a decent pace, Dominic Cork had a quick-arm action. Alan Mullally relied on bowling a good line and length landing the ball in the right areas. Tudor was the fastest of the lot and he was “hit the deck” kind of a bowler which is an essential ingredient for a fast bowler to do well in the Australian conditions. And considering the fact that Tudor was bowling at the WACA there was surely going to be a lot of help on offer for his kind of bowling.

On his debut, Tudor walked in at 81 for seven. He scored an unbeaten 18 as England were bowled out for 112. When his turn came to bowl he picked up four wickets: Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Glenn McGrath. Australia took a lead of 128 runs and bowled out England for 191 in the second essay to script a fine seven-wicket win. But Tudor stood out and was one of the few positives to emerge from that game. He won the praises from the opposition skipper Mark Taylor for his bowling display.

Recalling about that game, Tudor in an interview to Cricinfo said: “It was all a little bit surreal and like ‘What the hell is going on?’ I had to pinch myself a couple of times but once I settled down it was fine. The integration was made a bit easier being alongside a lot of my Surrey teammates. I was glad the series was away from home as I didn’t have that added pressure of my mates being there but I did get a lot of stick from them. Everyone had a go at my hair! I had a big afro and people were telling me to get a haircut.”

The mercurial English think-tank dropped Tudor for the next Test at the Adelaide Oval. In his article in The Telegraph Mark Nicholas lambasted England for dropping Tudor. He wrote: “Here was a chance for Tudor to grow up overnight, however batsman-friendly the Adelaide pitch promised to be. Here was a chance to give a young English cricketer his head at a time when he was on a high. Ten days ago Tudor believed in himself unconditionally, now he will not be quite so sure.” In July 1999, Tudor scored an unbeaten 99 against New Zealand at Birmingham to guide England to a seven-wicket win.

In the post- match presentation, Tudor said he was not disappointed on missing out on a ton. He said “All I was worried about was to win the game; that was the most important thing.”

“I might not get the chance of 100 again but I just wanted to win the game with it being Nasser’s first as captain,” said the man-of-the-match Tudor.

Tudor was disappointing as a bowler, picking up the solitary wicket in the first innings, but his 131 runs (32 and 99 not out) were real gems. It was a solid display of batting on a track where the ball dominated that is until Tudor played a colossal knock of 99.This innings helped Tudor win Cricket Writers’ Club Young Cricketer of the Year award.

Tudor suffered a knee injury after the New Zealand series which kept him out of the team. He was part of English touring party to South Africa but he didn’t feature in any of the Test matches. In the 2001 Ashes at home he recorded his first and the only five-wicket haul in an innings at Nottingham. He missed the subsequent Lord’s Test due to an injury.

Tudor took nine Sri Lankan wickets in two Test matches at Birmingham and Manchester. He played two Test matches against India at Leeds and The Oval but he suffered as India posted huge totals in these games.

Tudor was initially dropped from the England’s Ashes squad that toured Australia in 2002-03. Due to injury to some of the players Tudor was drafted in the England side. He played at the same venue where he made his international debut four seasons ago. He got two scalps for 144. The highlight of his bowling spell was the bouncer barrage to Brett Lee. In England’s second innings Australian skipper Steve Waugh handed the second new ball to Lee and asked him to give Tudor some chin music. Lee gave it back to Tudor who looked all at sea facing the Australian quick. One of the deliveries went through the grill of the helmet and hit Tudor just above the left eyebrow. That injury ended Tudor’s participation in the game.

In 2004, Surrey released Tudor before his original contract was about to end; his tryst with injuries didn’t impress the club. “Alex has been struggling with his fitness for a while now,” said Paul Sheldon, the club’s chief executive, “and unfortunately he has only been able to complete one Championship game this season. Alex has been a wonderful servant to the club over the past ten seasons and we all wish him the very best in the future.”

In 2005, Essex signed him on a pay-to-pay basis. He was out with a knee injury after playing only a handful of matches. In 2008 Essex released him and Surrey re-signed him. “I’m absolutely chuffed to be back at Surrey,” Tudor told ESPNCricinfo. “I’ve spent nine years at the club in the past and it’s good to be back home and fighting fit again. Last season an opportunity to play some first team cricket came up at The Oval and I’m really pleased that my performances then have now earned me a new contract for 2009. I’m looking forward to trying to win a place in Surrey’s first XI and then push on and do as well as I possibly can for the team.”

In 2009 he was again released by Surrey. That ended his 14-year cricketing career. Tudor took 28 Test wickets in Test cricket and only four in three ODIs. He failed to harness his full potential thanks to a spate of untimely injuries.

(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)