London: Few men have so willingly carried out as many roles for England as Alec Stewart. So it is appropriate that the sometime opening batsman, captain, middle order stroke player, who is still his country's wicket-keeper, will become England's most capped Test player of all time against India at Lord's on Thursday.
But the road to 119 Test appearances has not always run smoothly for the 39-year-old Surrey stalwart. When he made his Test debut over 13 years ago against the West Indies in Jamaica, Stewart's father Micky was the England manager with many willing to say his selection owed more to nepotism than ability. Then six years ago Stewart was dropped for the first Test against India before Nick Knight's hand injury saw him recalled for another five years as a first choice Test player. Stewart's international obituaries were written up again when he made himself unavailable for the tour of India where James Foster took his place behind the stumps. But an arm injury sustained earlier in the season by Essex youngster Foster saw Stewart immediately recalled. During the 1990s no other player scored as many Test runs and his current overall tally of 7,632 is testament to his effectiveness while his under-rated glove work has rarely let England down. Like another ex-England captain Graham Gooch, whose record of 118 Test caps he is now on the verge of breaking, fitness has been the key to Stewart's longevity. "They say age is just a number and there are 31 or 32-year-olds that I would take on in any fitness test," Stewart said on Tuesday. "I'm naturally athletic anyway which has helped me, but I've always believed that as long as you look after yourself and do the right things then you give yourself a chance of success. "I leave nothing to chance with the preparation even before I get on to a cricket field," said Stewart. "The way I train in the nets, the fielding drills and the fitness levels I try to achieve and maintain. "I have a desire to be successful as an individual and for the team and never give up no matter what the situation and that has probably meant I've been able to play at this level for this length of time. "At the same time I love being able to prove people wrong. I've been written off in the past and rightly so in some circumstances and it's been nice to be able to bounce back. "Some people get intimidated but others seem to thrive on the full houses and the big occasions and fortunately I put myself in that category - the more people watching and the bigger the occasion the more I like to respond. "I'll be trying to treat it like any other Test match, but when you see the list of people I've gone past like Gooch, David Gower, Geoff Boycott, Ian Botham and Colin Cowdrey they are England cricket legends and that's quite an achievement to have done that," Stewart said.
Spotlight on bowlers, Stewart set to make history