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February 26, 2014
England and West Indies' World T20 build-up is perplexing
If any one person symbolises the new era into which England cricket is walking - stumbling, some might say - then it is James Tredwell.
Tredwell is an admirable cricketer. He bowls his offspin with good control and pleasing flight, he is reliable under pressure, he catches well and his batting is far better than some of his rivals for the spin-bowling position. Crucially in the current environment, he is also low maintenance off the pitch.
It will never prove difficult to be James Tredwell in the dressing room - but it might sometimes prove tricky on the pitch. Tredwell is not a spinner in the class of Graeme Swann. He will never have that dip, that drift, that pace or that arm ball. He will never keep left-handers up at night fearing him.
Just as Gary Ballance and Jonny Bairstow are fine young batsmen with exciting careers ahead of them, neither of them has the level of genius possessed by Kevin Pietersen. And, just as England turned in vain to many decent all-rounders - from David Capel to Chris Lewis - in search for a replacement for Ian Botham, so they will find that replacing the greatness of Pietersen and Swann is all but impossible. After a few wonderful years by England's standards, the future looks uncertain. Expectations should be managed accordingly.
Tredwell knows all this. He knows that his record for Kent in recent times has been modest - he claimed only 17 Championship wickets at a cost of 56.76 apiece in 2013 and stood down as captain to concentrate on his England opportunities - and he knows that, having been unable to retain his place in the limited-overs side in Australia, that he has far from secured the chance to be Swann's long-term successor.
But Tredwell, who celebrates his 32nd birthday on Thursday, has an opportunity over the next few weeks. He knows that England's spin-bowling cupboard is arguably as bare as it has ever been at present - a bowler of the quality of Vic Marks or Eddie Hemmings would be an automatic pick at present - and he knows that, on pitches, both in Antigua and in Bangladesh, that are expected to provide some assistance to spin bowlers, he will be relied upon to deliver his full allocation of overs more often than not.
If things go well, he could help England to only their second global trophy and book himself a spot in the World Cup that will be in progress this time next year. He might even go some way to earning himself a Test place.
This is, in many ways, an odd tour. Not only are England and West Indies preparing for a World T20 with a series of ODIs - like preparing for a sprint by running a marathon - but England, at least, are fielding a team of T20 specialists in both formats.
Not only that, but England's coach, Ashley Giles, knows that his hopes of securing the role of England coach in all formats is bound to be judged partially by a result of what happens over the next few weeks. Losing so heavily in Australia - England won one and lost seven of the limited-overs matches - has hardly strengthened his hand, though being asked to lead something close to a B side, some of whom were already bruised - literally and metaphorically - from their thrashings in Australia, hardly gave him the best chance.
But now the excuses have to stop. Swann has gone and there seems, for now, little prospect of an imminent return from Pietersen. Tredwell and co. represent the future.
"It does feel like a new era," Tredwell said as rain washed out training in Antigua on Wednesday. "That is not only because of the personnel change but equally due to what has gone on before and the need to draw a line under that and move on. It certainly does feel as though that is taking place.
"You could see that last summer when Simon Kerrigan played at The Oval that there will be opportunities not only for spinners but for all players over the next couple of years. That's great.
"I guess it's in the back of my mind that I could become the No.1 spinner but I try not to think too much about that. I try to just concentrate on the day to day process and if I do that there will be opportunities.
"I'm a pessimistic sort of fella, but maybe that is a bit of a strength because it drives me on to try to keep on getting better and putting in performances."
Part of Tredwell's plan will be to bowl round the wicket and prevent the batsmen playing him through the off-side. The fielding restrictions do not make life easy for an offspinner in ODIs but at least the evidence of the warm-up - he took 3 for 39 - suggested he will benefit from some assistance from the surface and, unlike Kerrigan and Scott Borthwick, who looked out of their depth as bowlers on Test debut, Tredwell at least has the experience and temperament to cope with the inevitable setbacks that will come his way.
England cricket may need such phlegmatism in the coming months.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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