Thursday, 18 August 2011

The missing

Injury aside, who was the last batsman dropped by England? It was Ravi Bopara, who remains, at least for the moment, next man back in. Before that? Ian Bell.

Stability is an inevitable consequence of success, as well as a contributor to it. For every era-defining side, there is a generation of players who miss out and spend the rest of their lives hearing people say: 'you'd walk into that team now...' Such has been the fate of Stuart Law, Darren Lehmann, Ian Harvey, Brad Hodge, Martin Love and other Australians. You could argue that Stuart MacGill might have played 100 Tests, or that Gilchrist could have played 60 more. West Indies would probably be pretty happy to open their bowling with Wayne Daniel and Sylvester Clarke at the moment. Who knows, in a few years, India might be looking at the Test match batting of Yuvraj Singh with longing in their hearts.

So it is with England right now. Strauss, who is 34 and has the burden of captaincy to shorten his lifespan aside, Cook is 26, Bell 29, KP 31, Prior 29, Trott 30, Morgan 24. Strauss's spot might come up after the back-to-back Ashes series. As for the others - in four years? Five? Longer?

Already there are casualties. Who can imagine Joe Denly getting back in? If Bopara doesn't get a spot as the spare man on tour, what is his future at 26? And Owais Shah? James Hildreth? What about the wonderkids of a couple of years ago - Billy Godleman, Sam Northeast - now that all of the fuss is about Jonny Bairstow, James Taylor, Ben Stokes, James Vince, Alex Hales?

Surrey and Somerset have, between them, Jason Roy, Steve Davies, Tom Maynard, Zafar Ansari, Stuart Meaker, Jos Buttler, Craig Meschede, Craig Kieswetter, Lewis Gregory. The bowlers have more chance, but there are plenty of them, too.

And what of Rory Hamilton-Brown? He's only 23, and a county captain. Had he been around 15 years ago, he would have played for England by now. As it is, he's never mentioned.

There is no answer to this strange combination of generational talent, serendipity and organisation. All that can be guaranteed is that one day England, like the rest, will drift back into entropy and dream of the promise that slipped them by.

NB: Australia will publish the Team Performance Review, aka the far catchier 'Ashes Autopsy' on Friday. Wonder how much store it will set by the flukes of time?


Tony said...

Correction: Argus Ashes Autopsy. 50% more alliteration.

Ian & Nina Graham said...

There have always been, have there not, the ‘why didn’t they play more for England?’ men. In the present generation, Rob Key’s name comes readily to mind. In another time, John Hampshire’s. You might call it TMS summariser’s syndrome. “X’s fine century today has surely sealed his place in the England team for some time to come.”

One strand of such stories is probably ‘the day of his life’ thing. Is a major innings itself the start of something even bigger, or will it prove to be the pinnacle of that career, the day he played out of his skin ? And on a slightly longer timeframe, a player may be at a peak for two or three seasons – Sidebottom comes to mind here.

But you’ve also set me thinking about England’s present strategy and position. It does look from outside as if the team ethos is a major factor in their current success, and that does involve investment and loyalty. Broad’s recent run of form has been a massive justification of that approach, and my sense of his intelligence and character is that he can make it count long-term. Tim Bresnan has suddenly been anointed by some ‘a genuine test all-rounder’. Well, maybe. Would he average 45 against his own team-mates ? I doubt it. And more generally, how well would this team do against themselves, as distinct from the Indians, and really pretty much anyone else except perhaps South Africa ?

I think that is not such a whimsical question as it might first appear. Suppose there were two or three games a season (May, July, September) between the incumbents, and the Rest, with the Rest selected as far as possible from to those who have played for England, or the Lions.

So currently we might have
(Strauss, Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Morgan, Prior, Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Anderson)
(Trescothick, Key, Bopara, Taylor, Shah, WK*, Rashid, Shazhad, Finn, Onions, Panesar)
(* perm any one from at least half a dozen, according to taste).

More piquantly, you could cut and cross-match, so that eg England 1-6 actually faced England 7-11, i.e.
(Strauss, Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Morgan, Prior, Shazhad, Finn, Onions, Panesar)
(Trescothick, Key, Bopara, Taylor, Shah, WK*, Rashid, Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Anderson)

diogenes said...

in the late 60s and early 70s, there were a number of people hovering around the England team. hampshire was there because of a brilliant century on debut at Lords against West Indies. he never made significant runs again for England. Frank hayes made a century in the 2nd innings of a lost test against the West indies in 1973...again he never scored runs again. Fletcher and Amiss evfentually came through after many flirtations, but ran into Lillee and Thomson. Of peop,le in the 2000s, remember the successful debut of Ed Smith...that never came to anything. On the other hand, just what did Robert Key do wrong?

It will be interesting to see wheter Morgan really cements a team spot...whether Bopara can keep clinging on.

The Old Batsman said...

Rob Key offended the man behind the shades..

I remember hearing about the Test trial - before my time, but could be a good game. Bit like when Aus fielded an A team against us in a warm-up match. It was better than most Test sides.