Mike Holmans August 30, 2010

Cool to Trott

Our esteemed editor Sambit Bal has already said everything I would want to say about the betting scandal, so I'm going to write about cricket, if that's all right with you.
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Our esteemed editor Sambit Bal has already said everything I would want to say about the betting scandal, so I'm going to write about cricket, if that's all right with you.

It has not been all that easy to make any judgements about the progress of the England Test side this summer, since the first series was against the relatively unchallenging Bangladesh and the second against a Pakistan side which contained several unknowns and whose performances ranged from sublime through substandard to, unfortunately, sub judice. Saying anything about how well England players have done therefore has to be hedged round with caveats.

One long-standing issue, though, has probably been settled: Jonathan Trott looks to have nailed down the No. 3 spot which has been a problem for most of the last thirty years, if not longer. There has been something of a campaign this summer to promote Kevin Pietersen to three, spearheaded by some of the lamer brains in the Sky commentary box using the argument that it is a well-known principle that your best batsman should bat in that position. It's such a well-known principle that Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar and Viv Richards enjoyed their peak periods batting at four, so the best batsmen in their sides on the beefy argument must have been Ramnaresh Sarwan, Rahul Dravid and Larry Gomes.

Even though I've taken fewer Test wickets than Botham (his standard challenge to anyone who disagrees with him, including wine waiters, is to ask how many wickets they took), I think I can see the flaws in his proposition.

What you actually need at No. 3 is a batsman with sound defensive technique who can cope with coming in at 15-1 and seeing off the new ball but who has the flexibility to be able to keep up the momentum generated by 153-1, if necessary just by rotating the strike until he gets going himself, and has the strokeplay in his armoury to dominate an attack if he's still there at 245-3.

The best No. 3 I have seen, or at least the one who has best fulfilled that job description, was Greg Chappell, who could block or blockbuster to order. England haven't really had anyone like that in thirty years, although Mike Gatting came close in the mid-1980s. The only other reasonably successful three was Mark Butcher, who fell somewhat short on the domination bit – even when he was scoring freely, he never looked in command. David Gower's average in the position was good, but he failed too often at the primary task of collapse-prevention: the first duty of a No. 3 is to make sure that 15-1 does not swiftly become 19-2, and Gower wafted early to third slip too often in those situations.

Trott is probably not going to do all that well on the domination front either but that is the least essential quality of a first drop batsman, as demonstrated by current masters Dravid and Hashim Amla, to whose school of batsmanship Trott obviously belongs.

He was badly unsettled by the sledging he underwent in South Africa, but the first Test of that series was only his second and he was being made acutely aware that he had been born in Cape Town and grown up playing age-group cricket with most of his opponents, so special circumstances applied. The Australians will naturally give him heaps, to use their vernacular: if Trott weathers the verbal assault, it will completely settle his place.

I cannot say, though, that the prospect fills me with gladness. Anyone who supports a team has favourites within it; when one of them scores a hundred or takes a five-for, there's an added glow of satisfaction because your boy was the hero. But if you like some more than others, it follows that there are also those you like less. Fortunately for me, most of the England players I've disapproved of haven't been much good and so I've only had to endure them for a brief span, but just occasionally someone appears whose results mean that he is completely undroppable but whose style of play or personality is teeth-grindingly annoying, and Trott looks very likely to take over the spot as the England player I can't stand vacated some years ago by Alec Stewart.

Stewart combined irritating mannerisms at the crease with yelling appeals for things which were obviously not out and an interview style reminiscent of an obtuse police sergeant explaining that you have to park your car somewhere else because the space has to be kept clear for the Duke of Edinburgh's visit in three days' time. Grateful though I was when he did the business on the field, part of me always wished it wasn't him.

Unless Trott is an ICC plant designed to raise revenue by making sure that any team which has to bowl at him can be fined for a slow over-rate, I can see no excuse for his interminable preparation rituals. I hope some Australian close fielder has the wit this winter to smuggle a ferret on to the field, feed it up Trott's trouser-leg and claim that Trott unearthed it with his archaeological digging. That would at least bring a bit of life to someone who looks like a corpse peeved at being revived.

But his Test performances this summer have been solid and dependable, and while his shotmaking rarely transcends the functional, the selection is good and the execution clinically efficient. In other words, he looks the goods. I just wish it were someone else.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • fanedlive on September 21, 2010, 16:54 GMT

    Big Q? Y do we say match is fixed when Pakistan loses but when other team lose then Its not fixed? Y! Have you ever thought about it? People who are saying Pakistan should be banned from cricket,should think about these English rule> Its a divide and rule. Get a grip boys. No1 is guilty then its proven.

  • fanedlive on September 21, 2010, 11:36 GMT

    Trott is the most irritating batsman around, he always makes the bowler wait for him. If I was bowling at him, I would bowl beamers at his head, and I hope the Aussies do in the Ashes. A pathetic batsman.

  • fanedlive on September 10, 2010, 1:46 GMT

    Perhaps some of you lot can get a sense of perspective, once more. To say Trott is an "irritating and self-important human being" does involve more than a little hyperbole. In any interviews he comes across as a reasonably modest, if focussed, individual.

    Len says, once more, let's keep a brake on the personal abuse. Unless of course it's justified, eh Guy.

  • fanedlive on September 9, 2010, 9:53 GMT

    Old chinese proverb,it dont matter what colour the cat is as long as it catches mice.ie scores runs.

  • fanedlive on September 6, 2010, 4:40 GMT

    pakistanis were good at start,but at atime the ball becomes slow so they cannt hit a big hits,there is a chance for pakistanis to prove that, they are bigbis in t20 cricket,i think 2nd t20 is not of england,but it is of PAKISTAN.

  • fanedlive on September 3, 2010, 15:00 GMT

    Trott is a briliant batsman and all his mannerisms do is get him into the bubble and annoythe opposing bowler as he has to wait the half a second longer while trott takes his stance again, also if you think he hasn't got the ability to score quick runs then i hasten to remind you of the 140-some that recently figured in England's highest ever ODI total

  • fanedlive on September 2, 2010, 6:52 GMT

    Well, i really do not feel the urge to argue a well established fact in the cricketing order, keeping layman passion aside!!! RAHUL DRAVID for a significant part of his test career has been india s and the world s best batsman in test cricket!!! the need to put him with sarwan and gomes is a true reflection of the writers inability to follow cricket on a global scale, keepin himself centred around aus ,wi, and england..The sad part is that a ccouple of average years seem to have changed people s perceptions about dravid but 4 pathetic years from 2003- 2006 could not dent tendulkars reputation.. keep in mind!! Tendulkar debuted in 1989,dravid n ponting n kallis in 1995-96!they still hv similarish test stats except for the 100s column..anyways,the point being that dravid is as important a batsman to india as tendulkar if not more...full stop..and the viv richards thing, its baseless...i agree that the teams best batsman should bat at no. 3!!

  • fanedlive on September 1, 2010, 12:17 GMT

    I make no comment on Trott's ability to withstand sledging from his fellow players, but having sat in the crowd at fine leg on Day 4 of the Oval Test recently, I can vouch for the fact that he did himself no favours among his OWN supporters with two foul mouthed comments back to the crowd in response to what was nothing more than friendly banter. Sure, England were in the process of losing the game but nothing excuses that level of unprofessionalism. I thoroughly enjoyed witnessing his marvellous partnership with Broad at Lord's, and I hope he continues to prosper at number 3 (and am definitely against any suggestion that he should open the innings) but I fear for him in Australia if sent to the boundary to field!

  • fanedlive on September 1, 2010, 10:03 GMT

    Best no. 3s: what about Dexter?

    Trott: his procedures prior to the next delivery are part of his means of concentration. Certain Australians apart, give me another name in Test cricket that personifies the art of concentration, and its results, better than Trott.

  • fanedlive on September 1, 2010, 9:39 GMT

    when has tendulkar ever batted at 3? he said here that he spent considerable amount of his career batting there

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