England tour of West Indies, 2014 February 26, 2014

Tredwell seeks to fill spinners' void


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 ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Paulo on February 27, 2014, 17:30 GMT

    @Daniel Powell "Bairstow is a fine young batsmen"- tell that to his dissapointing England stats. He averages 27 in tests, 24 in ODIs & 19 in T20Is, and his white-ball strike rates of 77 (ODI) & 108 (T20I) are rubbish for a "finisher".

  • Dummy4 on February 27, 2014, 13:57 GMT

    Well, George, you're usually not too far of the mark, but here you don't have a clue. 'The spin cupboard is bare'? Tell that to Kerrigan and Borthwick. You mentioned them, disparagingly and unfairly, later down in the article after they've only had a handful of international appearances between them. Bit quick on the trigger?

    Gary Ballance isn't in the same class as Pietersen? Quite right. He's one above, as anyone who's seen him bat for Yorkshire will tell you, because he has more skill and his selection of shots isn't a total lottery. No mention of James Taylor or Root either? Bairstow is a fine young batsmen, but he shouldn't be judged on that alone; he should be judged as an eventual replacement for Matt Prior as the wicketkeeper. England are more than fine. They needed what happened in Australia to unstick their ridiculously conservative selection policy. Give them a year or two and they'll be very strong indeed.

  • David on February 27, 2014, 13:36 GMT

    With regard to the issue of spin, England need to pick a bowling attack that is up to test standard. However, they won't do that; in line with the current regression back to old values, we will now see an array of non-spinning county offspinners being tried and found out at the highest level, while the management sings their praises, or talks up their value as a number 8 who can occasionally score a 30. Or else we'll have a promising leggie who can land a leg-break once an over, amid 5 other long hops and full tosses - but who is repeatedly picked on that "promise". They would do much better service to English cricket in getting Panesar back on track - Panesar is at least still a real handful on turning surfaces. However, Panesar may be discarded for being a little different and maverick and not English-seeming enough.

  • martin on February 27, 2014, 11:33 GMT

    Clavers -You obviously haven't watched Panesar bowling in England or elsewhere in the world when he gets little help from the wicket and looks ordinary. The criticism of Panesar has always been that he hasn't developed as a bowler to trouble all batsman on every type of wicket. Swann did. If every wicket England played on were like those in India, Panesar would be the first name down on the teamsheet. As that's not the case Monty would probably be a liability more often than not because he offers nothing else - can't bat, can't field and on good batting wickets can't bowl either.

    Tredwell for the Test team would also be a backward step, he's done nothing to deserve the role. Ali, Rashid and Borthwick have better recent first class records and are better bats, so as England are supposedly rebuilding they really ought to go with the younger players. Kerrigan really does need to show that he won't keep getting the jips. Bowling, body language, run in and action were awful at the Oval.

  • John on February 27, 2014, 9:25 GMT

    Always said that Swann would be the hardest to replace and whoever (unless it is Monty) will be thrown in at the deep end. Personally I'd go one of 3 ways

    1 - Stick with Monty although I'm not that convinced with him as the sole spinner

    2- Bring Kerrigan in and give him a run. He had one bad test where the captain lost faith in him after very few overs on unfavourable conditions on his debut and that was it. If he is to be given a run then Cook needs to show more faith in him.

    3 - Have a part time spinner in on tracks which dont take much spin and have 4 pacemen. Guys like Ali and Bothwick - the former is probably a better batsman and the latter a better bowler. If Root stays in the team there are 2 spin options

    Long term I think it may be best to give Kerrigan a run in the side. We may not need a spinner so much in England but we dont want to tour the sub continent with a spinner or 2 with little experience

  • j on February 27, 2014, 4:47 GMT

    I think the point of the article is that England have zero decent options in the spin department. They have lost Pietersen and Swann - probably the only 2 genuine world class players so they may have to accept that the next few years will involve workmanlike decent professionals trying their best. He is not saying Tredwell is the main man and that is a good thing. He is saying that, as we do not have a genuine world class spinner, we may have to resort to a decent journeyman who will keep iit tight, can be relied upon in the field, is not going to upset anyone and will chip in with some useful lower order runs. At least we know what we will be getting. As none of the younger spinners are making a strong enough case, it is perhaps better the devil you know

  • David on February 27, 2014, 1:43 GMT

    I think one or two of these comments are missing the slightly ironic tilt to this article. In all, it's all just a depressing return to the dark old days of the 1990s: English cricket run by blazered chaps in committee rooms, who are judged more for their bon mots and after dinner-speaking ability than cricketing nous; quasi-professional off-spinners who will hold down an end and "keep it tight" on helpful pitches (and get thrashed around the rest of the time); correct, defensive batsmen who will look good without scoring any runs; and of course, players who say all their pleases and thankyous. I'm going to start following the football from now on.

  • Davryn on February 26, 2014, 23:50 GMT

    So Tredwell, 32, is the future of England but KP was too old to play? England have shot themselves in the foot and have too much ego to admit it. Revamp the whole ECB. Colly for Coach.

  • Dummy4 on February 26, 2014, 23:20 GMT

    Depends what England are looking for in the make up of their attack if they are looking for someone to hold up an end then I think Tredwell won't let them down. Its a shame Borthwick and Rashid seem to be heading towards the batsmen who bowl option. I would be tempted to play both Woakes at 6 and Stokes at 8 then have Board and Anderson. Borthwick could offer more with the bat but his overs would be much more expensive sometimes his rubbish balls take the wickets

  • Tony on February 26, 2014, 22:54 GMT

    At 32 he should be just approaching his prime as a spinner. Good luck lad.

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