5 July 1996

Irani`s road comes to an abrupt end

By Mark Nicholas

AT 10 o`clock yesterday morning Ronnie Irani was on the road. Not the road to Test match glory but the road to Leicester to play for Essex. Alas poor Ronnie, we knew him a little, but not for long enough, surely, to decide.

On this evidence we could judge a cricketer of Test match spirit but not necessarily of Test match class. We saw a batsman who could biff it and a batsman who could block it. That he has not grabbed his chance is not entirely his fault, for it seemed the selectors had determined to allow him to settle. In- stead, at just the time he was settling, they cut him out.

Still, the move has given Mark Ealham his moment and Ealham`s cricket at county level has been no less deserving. Possibly it has been more. Ealham is a bowler who is learning fast how to bat, Irani is rather the other way round. Irani is boisterous, Ealham understated and, because of it, underrated.

The selectors have every right to alter their strategy as long as they remain honest with their players. At Edgbaston Irani was told he would play only if England selected Min Patel. They did and he did. At Lord`s they abandoned Patel but stuck with Irani leaving themselves with a dull attack, if you call it an attack, of like bowlers.

Here at Trent Bridge, they recalled Patel and ignored Irani. It is 26 matches since England picked the same team, make of that what you will.

The fact is that England lack match-winning bowlers, that Cork alone, even allowing for the improved Lewis, might run through an international team. If they play on pitches like this they may never find one.

Much of this selection business is luck, of course. If Ealham had played in the first Test at Edgbaston, where the ball bounced awkwardly, he may have looked a world beater. As it was, he looked what he probably is, a good honest bowler with a cun- ning mind, who is accurate enough to support the very best. The problem is locating more of the very best.

Source :: Electronic Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk)