July 17, 2002

Trescothick injury poses selection dilemma

Graeme Hick, that great enigma of English cricket, has struck again. This time, it was not with a sparkling century for Worcestershire to remind the selectors of his prodigious talent. Batting fluently at Taunton, Hick mowed a drive which broke Marcus Tresothick's thumb, probably ruling the England star out for the rest of the season.

This is a massive blow for England's immediate future. Trescothick, bundled into international cricket thanks to injuries in 1999, has never looked back. It was not so long ago that Somerset were trying to turn him into an all-rounder, but the left-hander is now one of the game's hottest properties.

In the scheme of things, Trescothick will probably be back in the side for the Ashes, and continue his excellent career. Four missed Test matches won't be vital and, when Nasser Hussain eventually retires, he looks favourite to become the next England captain.

This summer however, Trescothick's broken thumb rather throws the cat amongst the pigeons. While Hick was still batting at Taunton, it appeared that Trescothick would only miss the first Test. By the time Jamie Cox and Peter Bowler got to the crease for Somerset, it was clear that the injury was much more serious.

Where now then, for Hussain's men? If Trescothick was out for only one game, Mark Butcher could move up the order, and John Crawley to number three. With such a prolonged absence, and given that Butcher has achieved so much at three, the selectors may look at fresh faces.

Top of the list must be Sussex's Richard Montgomerie and Kent's David Fulton. Both had dream seasons in 2001 and, though such summers are not easily repeated, they remain in good form. Both are good, solid county players. Given that a Trescothick recovery ensures an almost automatic recall, it may be better to give seasoned pros a chance.

If England look to youth, and this is probably unlikely, Ian Bell stands out. This unflustered, technically correct right-hander is going to play Test cricket. But his inclusion in this situation would however move Butcher up the order, which is best avoided.

An alternative selection could conceivably see Robert Key thrust into the side. The 23-year-old Academy graduate is highly thought of, hits the ball hard and could be risked to replicate Trescothick's role. Doubts will be raised about whether Key is ready for international cricket. There is only one way to find out.

The most probable outcome is the recall of John Crawley or Mark Ramprakash. Such a move would attract criticism, though Crawley is in good form and Ramprakash is scoring double-hundreds for fun and hitting centuries for breakfast. Neither would be the bravest selection, but either Crawley or Ramprakash is the most sensible.

Some critics will wonder what Trescothick was doing playing for Somerset. Those who suggest that England players should only play for England must realise that cricketers need cricket, cricket needs fans, and fans need entertainment. England players provide this, and a one-day game in mid-season should hardly be a high-risk exercise.

Freak accidents happen, and of three broken bones in the England set-up this summer, both James Kirtley and Jamie Foster suffered their injuries in the nets. If England cricketers are to be banned from playing for their counties, we might as well ban training.

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