Monday 26 January 2009

The Unusual Suspect

Owais. Oh Ace. What a waste. The litany of obscure and unlikely injuries sustained by England players that will forever be topped by Derek Pringle, who did his back writing a letter, and Chris Lewis, who shaved his head and got sunstroke, has a new entry. Owais Shah has scratched his cornea. 

Scratched it after out-batting Ian Bell in Basseterre, too. Ian Bell and his dodgy ticker, long suspected if not officially diagnosed. 

Shah deserves his go. His eyes - when not scratched - burn with the kind of ambition that seems to have faded in Bell's. Energy radiates from him. Caught on hotspot, he looks like something out of Predator. He fidgets and flickers at the crease, and for the first few overs seems self-consciously aware of the doubts that surround him. But he's just so unusual, so loose and unpredictable with his front foot splats over square leg and his forehand drives through the covers, that it's easy to see him as a distant cousin of Chanderpaul or Katich, a man to whom convention means little and results mean everything.

I remember watching Alvin Kallicharran bat for Warwickshire against Hampshire in a John Player League match way back when at May's Bounty. Kallicharran was five feet tall if he was lucky. His bat was the length of his leg. The tops of his pads approached his waist. He looked like a boy in a man's world. But he simply slaughtered the bowling that day, hitting several sixes down the ground and over the hedge into the road, a carry that only the gifted could make. Kalli was smaller than most of the kids in the crowd, but he'd found a way. Shah has found a way too.

No team with Kevin Pietersen in it should be afraid of the unconventional. Shah would be a rich addition to the middle order, with KP taking the totemic number three position at last. 

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