September 25, 2010

England

Conventional wisdom is a deceitful blighter

Andrew Hughes
Adil Rashid stretches before the nets session, Bloemfontein, November 4, 2009
To throw off suspicion, Adil Rashid lugs the Graeme Swann kitty he nobbled in a XXL laundry bag  © Getty Images
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Tuesday, 21st September Another 24 hours have passed and still the journalists camped outside Butt Towers maintain their vigil. His morning doughnut delivery arrives on time. A curtain twitches. But nothing happens. Down at Lahore Central Post Office, a team of postal clerks are on standby, ready to leap into action at the first sign of a robustly built silver-haired gent carrying a package for Dubai. The clock ticks on. The head of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit stares intently at his inbox, waiting for an email from Butty@PCB.nogov.pk. Somewhere a cricket chirps. The tension is unbearable.

Wednesday, 22nd September It is an unpleasant truth, but the fact remains that sporting events become more compelling when there is an element of antagonism between the competitors. Commentators even have a special cliché for use on such occasions: “a bit of spice”. They don’t specify which spice, though they probably have in mind turmeric or something similar, rather than, say, nutmeg. I can’t imagine David Lloyd declaring, “There’s a bit of cinnamon out there today.”

Spicy or not, there was a feverish, faintly ridiculous feeling in the air that after a truly horrible three weeks, today’s match would somehow settle everything, that through the simple method of one team or another winning a game of cricket, all manner of legal squabbles, unfounded accusations and unresolved punch ups would finally be resolved. It’s certainly cheaper than an ICC investigation or a libel case, but not, perhaps, as accurate in its conclusions.

Largely to blame for this, PCB chairmen aside, are certain tabloid newspapers. Having supped heartily from the broth of controversy, the Sun was today trying to dip its bread in the reheated dregs. The “newspaper” reported a “string of incredible bust-ups” which turned out to be a single not-very-incredible bust-up between Trott and Wahab, under the headline “Strauss: Pakistan must not win series”. You will not be surprised to learn that Strauss said no such thing.

Thursday, 23rd September The announcement of an Ashes touring squad is always eagerly awaited, although if previous English tours have taught us anything it is that this list of names is a mere down payment, an opening gambit. By the time injury, late nights, defeat, verbal abuse and personal indiscretions have taken their toll; the bedraggled bunch that turn up in Sydney will bear little resemblance to today’s select band of travellers.

Conventional wisdom tells us that this is England’s best chance in a long time of leaving Australia with the Ashes. Mind you, conventional wisdom said that four years ago and four years before that. Back in 2006, conventional wisdom told us that Freddie Flintoff would be an excellent captain and a Churchillian leader of men. Conventional wisdom is, in my experience, a deceitful blighter.

Sadly, the chosen XVI was not listed name by name in alphabetical order by a senior MCC man with a plummy voice via a crackly radio. Instead, in keeping with the general mood of make-belief and wishful thinking that characterises this point in England’s Ashes cycle, we were treated to a video montage with each player given a five-second clip, as though we were watching a trailer for a particularly feeble action movie.

Adil Rashid didn’t feature in any of the clips, or indeed in the list of reserves who will be coincidentally holidaying in Australia on a sight-seeing tour of some of the nation’s renowned gymnasia. Short of donning a Graeme Swann mask or kidnapping the Nottinghamshire man’s kitten, it is hard to know what Rashid has to do to get into the England team. Personally, I think it’s a conspiracy. I’ll get back to you with the details.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by Jim Lawley on (September 29, 2010, 17:56 GMT)

According to an earlier post the selectors did in fact give an explanation for the omission of Rashid. It's just that I seem to have missed it.

I'm sure it was a very good explanation too. It would only be selectors who omitted such a promising player without giving a good reason that should resign.

And yes, picking Trott for that Oval game certainly worked well and shows that (despite earlier posts) rookies can do well in the most difficult games.

Posted by Javed on (September 28, 2010, 11:50 GMT)

"The selectors should explain themselves or resign" Dearest Jim Lawley, whatever the merits of your arguments re Rashid, this one comment completely negates anything you might have to say for yourself. While the whole of England (led, no doubt, by the Sun and your good self) was screaming "it has to be Trescothick or Ramps" pre-Oval, the selectors picked Trott. The rest is history. Since then, the selectors have picked a side to go unbeaten in Saffer-land, win the world T20, and then win an unprecedented 6 home series in all formats. But regardless of this, you think they should resign because you don't agree with them not picking Adil?

Posted by Phil on (September 26, 2010, 23:48 GMT)

Playing a test series against Australia, in Australia, must be the second toughest ask a rookie could be given (the toughest being India, in India).

So, I can understand not selecting Rashid. What's the first series England play, away, after the Ashes?

Posted by Jim Lawley on (September 26, 2010, 17:52 GMT)

I wasn't suggesting that Rashid should be an automatic choice for the first eleven. What puzzles me is that they didn't even take him with the reserves. If they really are thinking of picking him 'at some point in the next few years', wouldn't it have been a good idea to take him with the Performance squad?

What explanation did the selectors give?

He gets lots of runs and takes lots of wickets in Division One of the county circuit. He can't really do more unless he's given a chance. Some players - a few - actually do better at Test level than at county level. And there's only one way to find out if Rashid is one of them ...

Posted by Tim Huguenin on (September 26, 2010, 2:33 GMT)

Come on Page 2. No mention of Davey Jacobs being left out of the England squad! Tendulkar was probably unlucky to miss a call up too for that matter

Posted by Clive Dunn on (September 25, 2010, 21:20 GMT)

Well if my life depended on it, and as England hold the Ashes & therefore only need to draw, I'd pack my team with my 11 best batters and then when bowling I'd just chuck it down the legside for 120 overs.

Rashid isn't going because he's not good enough yet, and I don't think England want to destroy him against a good Aussie lineup packed with lefties.

This bunch of selectors are the best England have ever had, they have explained themselves and I'd happily buy them a few beers to congratulate them on a job well done.

Posted by Siddhartha on (September 25, 2010, 18:30 GMT)

Conventional wisdom is, in my experience, a deceitful blighter.

wow thats so true

Posted by boycs on (September 25, 2010, 15:38 GMT)

tbh i think Rashid isn't quite ready. he does take a lot of wickets on the county circuit but they are quite expensive. he turns the ball quite a lot but isn't particularly strong, which means that the turn is quite slow and hittable, and probably allows good batsmen to adjust to deal with his variation. i suspect a lot of the wickets he gets on the county circuit he would not get at test level (tail enders slogging). at some point in the next few years he will probably start getting wickets in the high twenties, and it will be at that point that he should be picked. Warne was unusual in that he was physically quite strong at an early age, so shouldn't be used as a comparison. his batting is a bonus - not good enough for a test no 7 yet so isn't really a consideration.

Posted by Jim Lawley on (September 25, 2010, 13:18 GMT)

Scrap that actually, I realy don't think that Rashid should play at all...

Posted by Jim Lawley on (September 25, 2010, 10:15 GMT)

Here's an interesting thought experiment ...

Imagine you are the sole selector of the squad to tour Australia and your life depends on bringing back the Ashes. Your life. Who would you pick?

Given that you have to take 20 wickets to win a match, wouldn't you want five bowlers in your starting team, one of whom is a leg-spinner who this season has taken 57 wickets and has a batting average of 45?

So why isn't Rashid going? Not so long ago we were desperate for a leg-spinner and Rashid was taken on tours and carefully prepared for the position. But now after a highly successful season he doesn't even feature amongst the reserves. Why?

The selectors should explain themselves or resign.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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