Thursday, May 31, 2007

Parallel Lines

If you’ve seen the film Sliding Doors you’ll know that it contains two different plotlines that run in parallel throughout the film. One plot assumes the heroine catches a tube train she’s running for – the other assumes she misses it.

(If you haven’t seen it, don’t go out of your way to – it’s rubbish. I’m merely using it to illustrate a point)

The point is this – any thoughts you might have about the future of the England cricket team have to contain two separate plotlines;

The first assumes that at some stage in the next twelve months Freddie is fit – the other assumes he never plays for England again.

If you read all the reports in this morning’s papers, , consider the past history of the accursed ankle and factor in intangibles like ‘for God’s sake, he’s got to get better, he’s the best all rounder we’ve had since Botham’ – I’d say it’s a 50:50 bet on which scenario plays out.

What happens in the first instance is pretty straightforward – he gets fit, maybe for the winter – bats 7 when we go with a four-man attack (something that having Monty means we could do quite a lot abroad) and with Prior at 8 the batting has real depth. If we need five bowlers, then he goes back to his old No. 6 position and it’s business as usual.

It’s the second scenario that can give you palpitations and forces you to start using the word ‘if’ far too often for comfort so you end up sounding like a demented Rudyard Kipling. If Simon Jones can make a full recovery, if Alan Donald can make something decent out of Ker-Plunk, (thanks, Harry!) if Harmison grows up (just our luck to have a strike bowler with the psychological fortitude of a ten year old girl) if Matty stays fit and if Broad turns into what we hope he will, then we might just be able to overcome Freddie’s absence from the bowling attack. Again, in a four-man attack with three of the ‘ifs’ plus Monty it’s not looking too shabby.

Batting-wise, scenario two is less problematic. You have a 1-6 of recognised batsmen – who by the end of the West Indies series should all be averaging in the high seventies, Prior at 7, then four bowlers with The Pies, KP and Vaughan as emergency back up. If 5 bowlers called for, Prior could (just) go 6… but it makes for a heck of a long tail.

All this assumes that another all-rounder doesn’t develop - Bopara perhaps?

It doesn’t make for comfortable consideration, but it’s something we need to face up to. It's better that than having to watch 'Sliding Doors' – trust me.


Innocent Abroad said...

Why is it that Australia, New Zealand and South Africa seem to be able to produce more all-rounders than we do? A straight question - I've never seen it discussed in any depth. (The Windies haven't had one since Sobers, come to that. And they seem commoner in Pakistan than India or Sri Lanka tho' I've no idea why.)

Anonymous said...

Actually Australia haven't had a full on allrounder since Alan Davidson retired in the 1960's. There's been a few batsmen who could bowl 'a bit' and a few bowlers who could bat 'a bit' but there's no one you'd class as a genuine all-rounder, that is, someone who can win a match for you with either bat or ball.

Cricket Coaching and Fitness - David Hinchliffe said...

I'm very nervous of a 4 man attack. As we have seen, it only takes one lame up and two poor games to screw you up.

In this modern day of lots of batting I would rather see an all rounder at 6 or 7 with a lower batting average who is capable of taking wickets at a decent strike rate. I don't mind if he's not a Botham or Freddie but I think he should be there.

harry said...

Someone who can take wickets at a decent strike-rate and bat at 6? (and both of those criteria at test-level)

Well David, I'd be fascinated to see your list of candidates! And if Rikki Clarke is mentioned, then I'll stop reading.

In all honesty, that beast does not commonly appear. As someone has said, even the Aussies haven't produced one for two generations.

But what I think they've always been good at doing is making best-use of proper batters who can turn their arm over. Doug Walters, several Chappells (one of whom didn't even always turn his arm "over"...) and now Andrew Symonds.

There's nothing wrong with a 4-man attack, so long as they can all bowl consistently. (Think Windies 70's & 80's, Aussies 90's & 00's) Which is why Fred, Hoggy, Monty & (on current form) Sidearse would make an interesting & varied line-up .... especially if backed-up by KP (who could be a proper spinner), Colly (is/was an all-rounder?), Bell & Vaughan (the dreaded donkey-droppers).

Without Fred, let's hope Broad can develop as a hostile, consistentwicket-taker.