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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 8 April, 2003, 01:44 GMT 02:44 UK
Still hungry after all these years
By Oliver Brett
BBC Sport

Alec Stewart will celebrate his 40th birthday on Tuesday evening with a family dinner at home.

But during the day his legendary dedication to fitness will see him make his regular daily trip to the gym.

"I'll be going there just to prove as a 40-year-old I can do exactly what I could do as a 39-year-old," he told BBC Sport with a smile.

"My desire, hunger, passion and enjoyment is still exactly the same as it was when I was 25.

TEST CRICKET'S LONG-LASTING BRIGADE
Alec Stewart
Steve Waugh: 156 Tests
Allan Border: 156
Courtney Walsh: 132
Kapil Dev: 131
Mark Waugh: 128
Alec Stewart: 126

"I still have huge honour and pride at playing for my country and that will continue until eventually I do give it away."

Stewart, who was a model of consistency for England during a difficult winter campaign, is well aware that he has now played in 126 Test matches.

If he plays in all of England's seven summer Tests he will overtake Courtney Walsh to stand third in the all-time list behind the retired Allan Border and the still-active Steve Waugh.

Stewart repeatedly says he does not want to appear "big-headed" during our conversation, but plays down the achievement, should it come to pass.

"There will be some top-class cricketers on that list, but what I'm proud is that I've had an international career spanning 13 years.

"To play that length of time at the top level is an achievement in itself.

"Anything to do with being in the top-three all-time Test players is just a number."

There is no hint that he might wish to call it a day after the summer, either.

"To me the biggest thing is enjoyment, then the challenge, then fitness levels and most importantly performance levels.

"If any of those are dipping then it's certainly time to give it away. Saying that, the selectors can always give it away anyway!

"England should always pick the best side, whether you are 40 in my case or 18 or something, say in [England footballer] Wayne Rooney's case.

Wayne Rooney is an England football star at just 17
Wayne Rooney is an England football star at just 17
"It's the same for me, Marcus Trescothick, you name them. Everyone's in the same bracket."

Eventually, however, the selectors really will have to find a replacement for Stewart.

He is not keen to name potential candidates to relieve him of the gloves, but believes "they need to find someone who can bat in the top six".

"There are 'keepers who can bat who are progressing very nicely. It's just making sure the balance of the team is right to give England the best chance of winning."

England need to rediscover the winning touch this summer after what Stewart acknowledges was a "difficult winter".

But he points to the strong home record of the team against this summer's opponents - Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Will he really travel to Bangladesh in October? Don't bet against it.

But one record surely out of reach is that held by Wilfred Rhodes.

The Yorkshireman played his final Test match aged 52, and even if Stewart spends much of his 53rd birthday in the gym, surely he will not still be playing for England.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Alec Stewart
"I'm proud to have had a Test career spanning 13 years"


SEE ALSO
Hungry for runs with Alec Stewart
01 Jul 02  |  Features
Alec Stewart: Still at the crease
26 Jul 02  |  Newsmakers
Stewart keeps coming back
27 Jun 02  |  England

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