England May 29, 2010

Fidget while you Trott

He may not be English but by being self-conscious and insecure, he puts his adopted countrymen at ease

Yes little apple, I shall plant you at cover boundary © PA Photos
Jonathan Trott is not English. Neither, for that matter, are Andrew Strauss and Matt Prior, at least, not by the only possible objective standard of Englishness: being born here. You can’t become English, you can’t apply for an English passport and you can’t join the English nation, because there is no such thing. Given therefore that our cricket team represents a country that doesn’t exist, I think we can afford to be a little more relaxed about the precise place of origin of some of our chaps.

Personally, I find that the eclectic composition of the England cricket team is one of its redeeming features. Over the years, first, second and third generation immigrants have played in the name of England and no other team in world cricket has included such a diverse range of backgrounds. At the moment, a lot of them happen to come from South Africa, but there’s a reason for that: South Africa produce very good cricketers.

So, back to wee Trott. This Lord’s Test has given us a chance to get to know the little feller better, since we saw him only once at The Oval last summer and he spent so little time at the crease in South Africa. The first thing to note is that he appears to have picked up those comforting English traits of self-consciousness and chronic insecurity. We learned on Thursday that he only feels happy when the ball is coming out of precisely the middle of the bat and that he reads every word written about him in the press.

His most human characteristic though is his superstitious scratching at the crease. Over the first two days we watched fascinated as a tentative scratch became a defined drill, a definite rut and finally a deep trench. It would not have been all that surprising had he come out for Friday’s play carrying a watering can and a packet of seeds. Or was he combining his cricket duties with an archaeological dig in search of the lost gold of Thomas Lord?

I was never a fidgety player myself, I wasn’t usually at the crease long enough to establish any foibles, unless playing a forward defensive to every ball can be considered a superstition, so I am not best placed to judge on such matters, but I wonder whether other teams will be quite so obliging towards his horticultural excavations. In particularly, I foresee a certain amount of foot-tapping and lower lip pouting from our antipodean cousins this winter.

If Trott wants to eradicate this unfortunate aspect of his game, he could do worse than follow the example of his more illustrious countryman. For weeks now, the English press have praised the hard work that KP has put in to smooth out those little technical wrinkles and rid himself of that silly tendency to get out to Yuvraj Singh or indeed anyone else with a dominant left arm and an opposable thumb.

Thursday was his chance to put it into action. I am no expert, so I am not qualified to explain the detail of his technical recalibration, but I think it is fair to say that at first glance, the results appeared mixed. With the score on 227-2, he came up against Shakib Al Hasan. Stepping outside leg stump, he flailed wildly at a straight ball, with all the elegance of a giraffe caught in a treacle spill, and lost his off stump

But then what can you expect. He’s not even English.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England