Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Touch of Class

Through the good services of the extraordinary search engine on Cricinfo.com, I found out today that - between June 1952 and June 1965, England played a total of 120 test matches.

I picked those parameters because they coincide exactly with the test career of Fred Trueman. Here's the staggering thing - of those 120 tests, Trueman - arguably one of the three greatest fast bowlers ever, and certainly the greatest English one, only played in 67 of them. That's less than two-thirds for those of you scoring at home.

Now admittedly, in his time, Trueman was considered 'difficult', 'hard to captain', 'troublesome', 'opinionated', - and any other number of perjorative descriptions that the establishment time-servers use to describe someone who doesn't quite fit in their rose-tinted, gin-sodden, view of the world. But to 'punish' him by leaving him out of over fifty tests seems like a textbook example of cutting your nose off to spite your face. It's like taking a big cannon into a medieval battle, but not firing it because it would make a loud noise.

So we get sentences like this in Trueman's autobiography: - 'After getting nine wickets in the first two tests of the series I was dropped for the third and fourth tests with no reason being given, but then brought back in for the fifth test at The Oval after I took thirty two wickets in four games for Yorkshire.'

Yes, I'm paraphrasing - but only just, and if you check the records you'll find it's pretty accurate.
He took 307 wickets in those 67 tests, which transposes to over five hundred in 120. To my mind, leaving him out in over fifty test matches, and thus reducing the effectiveness of the England team in the process, is almost a treasonable offence.

Before anyone suggests that he might have been injury prone, he was able to bowl over a thousand overs a year for Yorkshire without much trouble, and was actually notorious for not getting injured. Which set me thinking about any England quick bowler in the past fifteen years or so who hasn't got injured....

The ironic thing, for someone who was supposedly so 'anti-establishment', is that he was one of the biggest Tories ever to nail his political colours to the mast. For some reason that wasn't good enough for establishment bigwigs like Gubby Allen, the Duke of Norfolk, FR Brown, Dennis Compton, Sir Bufton Tufton and all - he spoke with a northern accent, drank beer, and his old man was a miner.

Why am I pointing all this out now? Well, there's much talk at the moment as to why Mark Ramprakash can't get in the England side. Well, if you go back and re-read some of the descriptions applied to Trueman in the third paragraph, you might get an idea why Mark Ramprakash wasn't given the extended run in the team he deserved, whilst people like Mike Gatting and Graeme Hick were given every opportunity. It also might explain why Owais Shah wasn't picked ahead of Andrew Strauss last winter.

Also, if Ramprakash's surname was 'Richardson' or 'Roberts' I reckon he'd be in the England team today. Let's face it, with an average of over a hundred in the past two years, and one ton already under his belt this year, he certainly justifies it on form


Tybalt said...

Mike Gatting apprenticed to a plumber. He averaged over 35 in tests and was an excellent county captain.

Mark Ramprakash is a nice middle-class boy from Herts. He averaged under 28 in tests and couldn't lead a duck to water.

I think Ramps should have been playing for England these last three or four years, as much as anyone. If you're looking for a reason, social class ain't it.

Patricia said...

I agree with your comments in the article 'A Touch of Class'. They echo what I have thought for years but every time I post a comment which includes the word 'racist' it is never seen in print. I believe that there a kind of unintentional racism at work here, and the people who perpetrate it genuinely don't realise that they often make poor judgements based on race. They think that they are looking at other factors but are fooling themselves. I think Ramprakash, Owais Shah and others have been the
victims of this. They aren't the only ones,qapcylrd research shows that it is more difficult for people from ethnic minorities to get jobs.

David Barry said...

Of top-six batsmen with at least 50 Tests, Mark Ramprakash is has the fourth-worst average in Test history. Less than 28! I can well understand the English selectors not wanting to pick him again. This does not look (to my foreign eye) like a class or race issue.

There's no comparison between Ramps and a genuine champion like Trueman.

Innocent Abroad said...

I think most of Trueman's absences were in the earlier part of his career.

Like everyone of his generation, he missed some cricket through National Service. Hutton wouldn't take him to Australia in 1954/5 because of his behaviour in the Windies the previous year - I don't think that was Establishment prejudice.

In 1956, along with a lot of other quick bowlers in both teams, he suffered from injury.

He was dropped for the last Test in 1961 because on good wickets he hadn't performed. Indeed, it was probably only the shortage of young fast bowlers in the early 1960s that prolonged his career beyond 1961.

Mark said...

In 1961 he was England's top wicket taker with 20 wickets in the first four tests.

He was also England's top wicket taker in 1963 against the Windies with 34 wickets. Not quite sure how many a 'younger' fast bowler would have taken had any been available... :-)

Mark said...

Oh, and while we're at it, he also took more wickets (20) than anyone apart from Titmus on the 1962/63 tour - and at an average of 26.

In response to David's comment, I'm not making a direct comparison between Ramprakash and Trueman - just trying to make the case that if you don't fit in with the 'orthodox' view of the time, you're going to suffer.