November 19, 2008

Mike Holmans

First things first KP

Mike Holmans

There are two things which England need to do to improve their fortunes. First they need to break Yuvraj Singh’s ankle, kneecap, wrist or whatever other body part will force his absence for the remainder of the series. The other is to admit that the experiment of having Ian Bell opening the innings has proved to be a failure.

I admit that I am always bemused by Yuvraj’s success. There is no guarantee that an overseas signing will light up the county championship, but few turn out to be as disastrous as Yuvraj was at Yorkshire. So dire was he that he was relegated to the Second XI, and even there he did little of note. A nickname was rapidly coined, though it does seem a little awkward now to be referring to a man who keeps making one-day hundreds as 'Yuseless'. He has yet to shake off the tag when it comes to Test cricket, but in the one-day arena he is as clean a striker of the ball as you could wish for - unless you happen to be bowling to him – and his spin bowling is more than handy.

England need to get rid of him, and soon. Fair means having failed to dislodge him, the only alternative is skulduggery. Getting him arrested on some trumped-up criminal charge and held for questioning until mid-December would be effective, as might arranging to have him discovered in flagrante with the wife of the chief of selectors, but in the end you can’t beat some good old-fashioned violence.

Ian Bell has eight hundreds and nineteen fifties among almost 3000 Test runs at an average over 42. He is as delightful to watch when on song as Mark Waugh was, the ball sent skimming to the boundary with delicately-timed, seemingly effortless strokes, classy as a Waterford crystal glass containing a martini as dry as the Atacama.

His batting is the perfect cocktail party guest, sparkling with elegance and debonair charm, but batting in the top three in international cricket is not a cocktail party. At the sharp end of the innings, the batsman is facing the charging bulls who use the new ball, so he must be either a matador who feints and dances before administering the coup de grace or a rough, tough cowpuncher capable of wrestling the beast to the ground – and Bell is neither.

Since Marcus Trescothick opted for a quieter life on the county circuit, England have not had an opener who can regularly subdue an attack before it gets on top. This matters less in England, where a strategy of keeping wickets in hand and accelerating throughout the innings is usually very effective, but overseas it is almost guaranteed to cede the initiative.

Bell is trying to be more assertive but it comes off as Bugsy Malone let loose in “The Godfather”. It is possible that he will develop a tougher crust, in time – but can England afford to wait around while he does?

Part of the problem, of course, is that there are no obvious alternatives. Some county openers adopt the desired aggressive tactics in domestic games, but several of them have been tried out by England and been found wanting. Prior does it for Sussex and is now making an unimpressive fist of it for England, just as Luke Wright, Phil Mustard and Darren Maddy have. They could try Scott Newman of Surrey, but that is scraping the barrel.

The bolder course would be for the captain to take the job on. If there is anyone in the side who is capable of facing down pace bowlers and giving them a piece of his bat, it’s Pietersen. Yes, his preferred position in real cricket is at number four, but there’s a certain Indian gentleman currently taking a bit of a rest who bats at four in Tests but has spent a long career opening in ODIs with great success. And if Tendulkar can do it, surely Pietersen can too.

So come on, KP, lead from the front.

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Posted by mk49 on (November 21, 2008, 17:59 GMT)

This KP fetish is all too much - he is all the sorry English have and he is not really English either. This knight in shining armor will also be gone in a couple of years, like the scores of English batsmen of the past who have flattered to deceive.

The malaise of English cricket is deep. National character, may be?

Posted by Samarth on (November 21, 2008, 15:07 GMT)

lol!! all u guys,, get worked up for no reason. the writer didn't allude that SRT=KP, he only meant if someone of SRT status can change his slot, then why cant KP. but having said that, sachin hadn't achieved greatness that time, which he deserves now, whereas KP is more popular in English cricket than anyone else at this juncture. but are we even comparing the two, the decision of changing batting slots shud be taken in pure cricketing terms not in terms of stature. experimenting with KP on opening slot wont be a bad idea. as far as opinion on yuvraj goes, i wont call him flat track bully, but he certainly needs to have lot of patience to play test cricket,which he hasnt showed so far. maybe yuvraj cud open the tests where he faced fast bowlers and NOT spinners, but now i cant imagine anyone playing better than gambhir in that slot (sehwag's spot is granted ofcourse). i find the title 'flat track bully' ludicrous, if its a flat track then why dont other batsmen score centuries as well

Posted by JOY on (November 21, 2008, 14:36 GMT)

Lets face it England is not a good one day side.They will struggle to win because they dont have any out and out match winner apart from Freddie.I have always thought that KP is a over hyped player, and the icing is to compare him to Sachin.About the rest of the batsmen they may score a fifty or a hundred but will never be able to take the game away from the opposition - thats what you need in a one day.Lastly, I think comparing present English batsmen to legends is laughable

Posted by ab on (November 21, 2008, 11:45 GMT)

well Mike, I would like point out the (in)appropriateness of the comments u have made about breaking Yuvi. One reason being dissapointment for his fans (through ur words). Other is, "Team England" shud learn "in time" to consider their own weakness, and if an opponent was not counter-attacking, then they shud not have considered them unable of doing so. Provocative ideas do have limits, and user ought to kno it!

Posted by waterbuffalo on (November 20, 2008, 3:46 GMT)

Let Collingwood open and Flintoff can bat at the other end. Pieterson should come in at 3. No one in the England team is as pleasing to the eye as Mark Waugh. Too bad Damien Martyn was an Aussie, he was pleasing to the eye. Ian Bell, please.

Posted by Hari on (November 20, 2008, 0:51 GMT)

Ian Bell as pleasing to the eye as Mark Waugh? I didnt understand that.

Posted by girish on (November 19, 2008, 22:54 GMT)

i am afraid its the same fatal mistake of patriotism taking over common sense.do you really think kp can achieve what sachin has? just in case if u have forgotten 19 years of international career 82 hundreds and living upto expectations of a billion crazy fans ..NEVER EVER

Posted by Dinker on (November 19, 2008, 11:33 GMT)

This English side is easily the best to come to Indian shores in a long time.(atleast batwise).KP shouldbat in the top3 slots.even if score s 0/1 or 100/1 he s the man to bat till the death much like sachin used to do in 90s.keeping this in mind,rest of the batting should be re shuffled.its really sensible for petersen to open the innings cos fes not the best player of spin(no Eng player is),but if he opens by the time spinners come on he would have settledand avoid an early dismissal.And with Flintoff in the middle order once they get a solid platform from Kp & co at the top posting a huge score is almost a certainity.remember in india the mantra(secret)to win ODIs is to bat and bat deep.....

Posted by Swami on (November 19, 2008, 11:15 GMT)

Everyone seems to be writing off Yuvraj as a flat track bully and nothing more. He has had a chance to bat in three successive test matches only once in 8 years! In a packed middle order, he has struggled to find a place. Thats not to say that he will be a success in test matches, but I dont think he is a failure either. He has weaknesses, but his strengths are colossal. As for KP opening, its hard to see someone who moves so much within the crease being able to tackle the new ball consistently. Successful openers like Sehwag, Tendulkar, Hayden, Gilchrist dont have predetermined trigger movements against a swinging new ball.

Posted by AJAX on (November 19, 2008, 11:13 GMT)

Vinyaga, are you saying that the selector is a polygamist? Thats just not on!

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