London: England fast bowler Darren Gough insisted on Wednesday that he was on course to face Australia and rejected comments he reportedly made earlier this month that he might not play until the third Test of the series.
"The plan was that my fitness would be adjudged around the time of the first Test (November 7 at Brisbane's Gabba) but I am ahead of schedule," Gough told reporters at a Heathrow hotel on the eve of England's departure to Australia. Gough has had three knee operations in seven months and has not played Test cricket for over a year. In the last English season he made just one first-class appearance, although he did feature in the One-day triangular series. But his prolonged absence from top-class cricket has not dented Gough's self- confidence. "I am 32, I am not 21, and you don't forget how to bowl, even though I keep reading that I have not bowled for a year. It's like riding a bike," he said. "I am not scared, I have no fear. I have been around for 20 years and once I start again, it might take a week, but I know I have nothing to worry about." Gough maintained that his earlier comments about a delayed return had been misunderstood. "The plan was that my fitness would be adjudged around the time of the first Test but I am ahead of schedule. I was not supposed to bowl until I was out there but I have been for the last week and a half off short run-ups. "We have three weeks until the opening Test when I hope I will be either available or playing. I love cricket. I am just pleased to have this opportunity to give it my best shot and I am confident it will go well." Asked if he minded being England's third quickest bowler behind the likes of Simon Jones and Stephen Harmison, Gough said, "No, because I'm the best." And on a more serious note, Gough insisted, "I've never been one to be jealous of my teammates. I want them to do well. Even if I'm not playing, I want them to do well for England." He added that the duo's selection was an endorsement of the success he and long-time pace partner Andrew Caddick had enjoyed on England duty. "Harmison is in the Caddick mould, he gets a lot of bounce and Jones is more in my mould. It's a compliment to me and Andy in a way." Gough, who has taken 228 Test wickets, has been recuperating at the National Sports Centre of Excellence at Lilleshall, Staffordshire, Central England. And he added that the training regime he had undergone there had transformed his mood. "If you asked me three weeks ago if I'd have been fit I'd have said no. But I am a lot better now than I was then." Gough has yet to be a member of an England Ashes-winning team but insisted he was not going to let history undermine him. "You have to believe that you are going to do it. "If we can score anywhere near the amount of runs we did this summer we have a great chance of beating them." Gough will hope to play in one of the four matches England has before the first Test to assess whether he can bowl at full pace without discomfort. And further on the horizon, he has his domestic future to sort out. But when the tour is over, he is then going to decide about his domestic future. His current Yorkshire deal expires in the close season and Gough, who is presently without an England central contract said, "I want to play for Yorkshire for the rest of my career and hopefully it will all be sorted out in March."
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