“If anything, I was a little bit disappointed when I started playing for England because I wanted that, ‘I’m playing for England now, what’s that next step?'”; Phil Tufnell tells The Cricket Show why felt “let down” after breaking into the England team
Phil Tufnell took 121 wickets in 42 Tests for England between 1990 and 2001
Phil Tufnell says his first experiences after being called up to play for England left him feeling “disappointed” and “let down”.
The left-arm spinner made his international debut in December 1990 in Australia and played 42 Tests – taking 121 wickets – and 20 one-day internationals over the next 11 years, but he believes the structure at the time meant he was not able to replicate his county form.
His 1,057 first-class wickets for Middlesex tell their own story and Tufnell said the environment in the era before central contracts meant it was hard for England teams to develop the same togetherness he encountered at county level.
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“I would have loved the feeling of a little bit more,” he told The Cricket Show podcast. “How many boys have we played with who only played one Test match or played two or three and were discarded and never, ever seen again.
“With myself, Nasser and Athers, we played our best cricket almost for our counties – it’s not necessarily about the opposition, it’s about the feeling of togetherness within the county, an appreciation of what you do, you know your role and you were believed in by your fellow county players. I never really got the feeling of that with England.
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“If anything, I was a little bit disappointed when I started playing for England because I wanted that, ‘I’m playing for England now, what’s that next step?’.
“I was looking forward to how it was all going to develop and we’re all going to be striving for this goal and, if anything, it kind of let me down a little bit at the start of my career.”
There was no blame on the individuals involved in the England set-up at the time, rather Tufnell says the feeling that he was always fighting for his place and that one bad performance could see him dropped meant it was difficult to play with freedom.
“I’m not having a go at the people who were there,” he added. “I would have loved a central contract. You could then just relax and enjoy your cricket, play your cricket instead of looking over your shoulder every time and thinking, ‘when is the guillotine coming down?’.
“You’re not playing on edge, I kind of played on edge and fighting for everything because you just knew that if you didn’t bowl well, you were gone. So I would have loved a central contract.”