Shaun Udal: Ex-England spinner set for 'toughest test' after Parkinson's diagnosis

Shaun Udal (centre) celebrates after taking the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar
Shaun Udal's career high was taking the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar in a famous Test win in India

Former England Test spinner Shaun Udal says he faces the "toughest test of his life" after being diagnosed with Parkinson's.

The ex-Hampshire and Middlesex player, 50, confirmed he had the illness on social media, prompting numerous messages of support.

"I've just got to get on with it," Udal told BBC Radio Solent.

"I can't think negatively and get downbeat because it's going to affect my chances of recovery and progress."

He added: "It's the toughest test, but I'll face it head on, tackle it and with the support of friends and family we'll keep it under control."

Farnborough-born Udal played four Tests in 2005 and 2006 and 11 one-day internationals between 1994 and 2005.

Parkinson's is a progressive neurological conditionexternal-link, with the three main symptoms involuntary shaking, slow movement and stiff and inflexible muscles.

'It's a bit of a shock, but there's always someone else worse off'

Udal, who retired from cricket in 2010, was diagnosed earlier this year after experiencing physical problems.

"It's been nagging away at me a couple of years," Udal added. "I had a neck operation about three and a bit years back which was a success thanks to the Professional Cricketers Association for sorting, but for a period of time of about a year afterwards I was constantly getting arm pains and shakes and stuff.

"The scans kept coming back and they were saying there was a vertebrae pushing down on my nervous system which is making my arm shake - but I knew it wasn't right, you know your body better than anyone else.

"Eventually after asking and pushing for more scans and detailed things to happen, I had a brain scan about January time and got the results back, which unfortunately showed that Parkinson's was the issue.

"I found out six weeks ago, it's a bit of a shock but there's always someone else worse off and you have to cope with it and move on."

Coping with changes - how is Udal managing?

Udal's cricketing career carried all the hallmarks of a character who would face a challenge head on, having grafted at first-class level for 21 years.

It was his willingness to keep fighting which saw him recalled to the England squad in 2005 - 11 years after his previous appearance.

Perhaps his finest hour came in Mumbai, India - when he snared Sachin Tendulkar among others in a four-wicket haul to help the injury-hit tourists to a 212-run Test win - England's first in the country for 21 years.

He will need all of that dogged determination now to keep check of the debilitating illness.

"There's been moments where I get agitated, worried and concerns because my speech gets a bit slurred, my arm suddenly jerks and I have the shakes in my right hand," he said.

"My right side doesn't drag a bit but it is a bit slower and less strong than the other. There's a constant ache in my arm which is the way it is.

"Even though I didn't want to hear the phrase 'Parkinson's', at least I now know what it is so I can follow a path of making sure it's kept under control."

Public announcement 'has been great'

Shaun Udal
Shaun Udal was a popular figure in cricket during his career and remains so in retirement

Unsurprisingly, plenty of former team-mates, opponents and fans have offered their support following Udal's public announcement.

"It's been great," he continued. "Some people said 'why put it on Twitter?'

"But I was getting lots of calls and questions asking if it's true and I thought 'I've got nothing to hide' and it might help with the awareness.

"Michael Clarke has been in touch from Australia, people from South Africa, Kevin Pietersen, Darren Gough, some of the Hampshire boys like [Liam] Dawson.

"It's nice to get a reaction you'd hope you get but there are also some alternative people from the medicine world that have been in touch, if I need help, second opinion, drugs and stuff to make contact.

"There are good things about social media and this is one of them. It's been heart-warming to get the reaction it's got. I'm very grateful."

Shaun Udal was talking to BBC Radio Solent's Kevan James.

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