London: England captain Nasser Hussain denied on Wednesday reports that injured fast bowler Darren Gough had his arm-twisted to prove his fitness ahead of the first Test against India by playing in a county match.
Gough suffered a recurrence of his longstanding knee injury while bowling for Yorkshire against archrivals Lancashire last week where he barely managed to keep going for two days. He has now been ruled out of the first two Tests of the four-match series against India, which starts at Lord's on Thursday. Gough returned to England colours in the One-day triangular series but according to Wednesday's 'Yorkshire Evening Post' he was told to miss the championship match against Lancashire.
"My specialist advised me to miss the game (against Lancashire), but Lord's really wanted me to play to prove my fitness and I didn't have a choice," the paper reported Gough as saying. However, Hussain said of Gough, "He was looked after during the One-dayers and people have to bear in mind he has not played in a first-class game for nearly a year now. "You can't risk him in a Test match. Whenever it happens again Darren will have to go off and play some county cricket. What happened at the Roses match could have happened here. Darren has to go away and prove he can bowl two days running in a first-class game. "I spoke to him and said if you are going to play in this Lord's Test match you need to prove your fitness. Unfortunately he didn't come through that. It's very simple.
There is no conflict between us and Darren. "Darren wanted to play in this Test match and we said that he had to prove he could bowl two or three days running and he said 'OK'. I think it's been handled perfectly because we now know that he can't get through two days running. "Whoever you are, you will have to go off and prove you can bowl two days running." Hussain was more relaxed about middle-order batsman Graham Thorpe's lack of match practice with the left-hander not selected for Surrey's last championship match.
"Thorpe's a bit like Michael Atherton. Possibly he could go a month without playing and come in on the big stage and make a hundred. He's that sort of bloke. He's a real big match player." Hussain insisted England's injury problems were nothing new. "We've had that situation for a while now, not just with injuries but with people making themselves unavailable for tours. "We luckily had an opportunity in the winter to blood a few new people and this game will give us another opportunity. It is not ideal.
Obviously any captain would want the likes of Trescothick, Gough, Caddick, Tudor available but they are no so it gives someone else a chance and we'll give it our best shot." Turning to team selections, Hussain dropped the heaviest of hints suggesting uncapped 23-year-old Glamorgan fast bowler Simon Jones would make his debut with all- rounders Dominic Cork and Craig White in competition for the same place. "Jones has got a very good chance of playing. He's got pace but any world-class batter will tell you it's not all about pace. It's about where you put the balls, how you outthink the batsman. Very few bowlers now just run in, bang away and worry Test players.
It's how you use your pace that is important." And Hussain added, "I think the pitch will be flat at various times and therefore we will need a spinner," suggesting that left-armer Ashley Giles would be included. He also said his pace bowlers would have to show some guile if confronted with a good batting pitch. "If it's flat I'm a firm believer that just bowling line and length doesn't get you very far. "People like Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid will just bat you out of the game."