England v New Zealand, Super Eights, World Twenty20, Pallekele September 29, 2012

How to solve a problem like Franklin

With his selection uncertain and his role in the side fluctuating, New Zealand selectors are failing to lure the best out of James Franklin

James Franklin is one of the most enigmatic figures in New Zealand cricket. When he first made it into the national side 11 years ago, he was a bowler who could bat a bit. Strangely, he was mediocre with the ball and surprisingly talented with the bat.

The selectors may have been tempted to drop him for failing to perform in the role he was picked for, but given he became a bona-fide member of New Zealand's lower-order bailout squad in the mid 2000s, alongside Daniel Vettori and Jacob Oram, they often couldn't afford to leave him out. Innings like his brilliant unbeaten 45 in Queenstown, where he brought home a difficult chase against Sri Lanka from No. 8 with only the tail for company, prevented him from slipping back down into the domestic circuit completely.

Franklin is a polarising figure at home. To some, he epitomises everything that is wrong with New Zealand's selection policy; another jack-of-all-trades whose lack of consistency continues to scuttle New Zealand's efforts to become a major cricketing power. The detractors need only to look at Franklin's numbers to find fuel for their fire. His ODI bowling average is over 40, and his Test and Twenty20 figures don't inspire a lot of confidence either. With the bat, he averages in the low twenties in all three formats. A few years ago, Franklin was told by the national selectors to put his bowling on the backburner, and focus on his batting, which they believed had potential but was not getting the attention it deserved. He is now picked in the side primarily as a batsman - but his scores have not shot up dramatically enough to justify his selection on that discipline alone.

That he was left out of the New Zealand tour of West Indies, so he could focus on his Twenty20 cricket for Essex with the World Twenty20 approaching, then called up for the India Tests after 18 months away, sums up the muddled thinking.

But occasionally, Franklin comes off. And to cloud the issue even more, he has lately performed as a bowler. In the Super Eights opener, his 2 for 34 was the catalyst in Sri Lanka's slowdown. The hosts seemed destined to reel in New Zealand's score at a canter, but Franklin proved difficult to get away and counted the explosive Thisara Perera among his scalps when it was crucial New Zealand didn't allow Perera the room to explode. In the recent T20 against India in Chennai too, Franklin failed with the bat, but his 2 for 26 was instrumental in New Zealand's victory and their taking momentum into the World T20. But with good bowling form behind him, he was not required until the 12th over against England in a crucial match.

Franklin's batting, though, clicked against England, and he played the kind of innings that first marked him out as a batting talent. With New Zealand threatening to collapse at 67 for 4 in the 12th over, Franklin rebuilt alongside Ross Taylor, before letting rip with a spate of boundaries at the death. His 50 off 33 balls will justify his selection on batting grounds, but perhaps it should not gloss over a failure to consistently produce results since being asked to play as a batsman. In his last 30 innings across all formats, Franklin has made fifty only three times

Perhaps this inconsistency is not entirely Franklin's fault. Eleven years after making his debut, New Zealand's team management have failed to stick to a clear plan for him. If he is to play as a batsman, is he a finisher, as he was against England, or an opener, as he was against Bangladesh early in the tournament. At other times in his career, he has been given extended runs in the middle order and even higher up.

The Franklin detractors will be quietened for a while after a decent all-round showing at this tournament, but they are sure to make themselves known as soon as failures return. The New Zealand selectors have shown they will have Franklin do almost anything to bring him into the team. If they are going to be so persistent with picking him, perhaps they would do well to define what they want from him. If they play him as a batsman, or as a bowler or as an allrounder, rather than all three when it suits, perhaps consistency in their demands will help Franklin build dependability into his own game. As he has proved repeatedly, he has the talent to be successful; it just needs to be pushed in one very specific direction.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jill on September 30, 2012, 20:22 GMT

    harmske - 3 innings at 50+ runs out of last 30...how many in the 40's? At what number did he come in at...or which stage of the game...any consistency there? Was he contracted for any of it? Told he's not wanted on the list then gets picked again .... how would you perform. We are all entitled to opinions and our fave players...just think its unfair he's always the one targeted with the criticism when there are so many who have a cushy ride because they pull out a blinder every now and then

  • Michael on September 30, 2012, 14:39 GMT

    I really like Franklin, and have done since I saw him first come into the NZ side and do well in his first few Tests. I think he averaged in the mid-20's with the ball and looked to be a genuine stock bowler for them. Then he got dropped for some strange reason, came back and was in and out of the side. Somewhere along the line he got injured and lost pace, which I only found out recently, so I can imagine that's affected his effectiveness with the ball. He's bene a bit inconsistent with the bat, but there haven't been too many NZ batsmen who have been outshining him of late (looking at you, Flynn). So until someone puts their hand up to replace him, how about we decide that he's a batsman who can bowl a bit - except in Twenty20, where everyone seems to need to do everything these days. Sounds like he's the ultimate Team Man, doing whatever is required. Some structure would be nice, but NZ need more guys with his attitude!

  • Harman on September 30, 2012, 11:40 GMT

    honestly, i can't believe there are so many people out here that think franklin is international material. he's had one good t20 innings. yes, he's been a little hard done by the selectors/management - but let's face it, that's the NZC way of doing things. franklin's had far more opportunities than the likes of lou vincent, who i'd have in my team any day over Frankie J.

  • Harman on September 30, 2012, 11:24 GMT

    @Jil01 - it's a little harsh to say that this article is harsh on franklin. i mean, three 50+ scores in his last 30 innings across all formats says all you need to know really.

  • dave on September 30, 2012, 7:01 GMT

    In the Eng game Franklin was the only NZ batsman to time the ball. He has a full range of shots and can score quickly when required. Like the other comments I don't think he has had a fair go from the coaches or the selectors. Some have made up their mind that he is not good enough but his IPL form and recent games belie that assessment. Lets hope the last T20 performance is the beginning of a long term inclusion as the Kiwis could really do with him.

  • Dummy4 on September 30, 2012, 4:54 GMT

    Franklin achieved something in tests the likes of Hadlee, Cairns and Bond never did - take a hat-trick In the last few years, Franklin has shown that he can make runs in diffierent situations. That he has only crossed 50 3 times in 30 innings is not a great indicator of how has performed, relative to his team mates. Look at the first innings in the Hyderabad test: He made 43 or 44 out of 160 odd, and was the only player who looked remotely comfortable playing the Indian spinners However, I do agree that his role in the team needs to be more defined. He played blinder with time to settle before exploding at the end. I feel he needs to bat 4 in T20, after Guptill, McCullum and Taylor

  • Dummy4 on September 30, 2012, 3:45 GMT

    West indies - Darren Sammy... when he is keeping out 3 really good all rounders from the team like Dwayne Bravo, Pollard and Russell

  • Dummy4 on September 30, 2012, 0:52 GMT

    this is exactly how the powers on nz cricket stuffed one Chris Harris out of being a successful test batsmen with the ability to bowl a couple if main bowler gets injured or if the conditions are ideal

  • Conrad on September 30, 2012, 0:52 GMT

    Frankin is a class act with the bat period!...Just the situations he gets thrown in don't let the stats look that flash. His bowling is hit and miss these days, but even Southee got taken apart by Mr Wright in this game. NZ needs to sort their tactics and selection. Adam Milne bowled one bad ball and never got another chance. I think R Taylor lacks some captains intuition sadly, as he's real talent with the bat and seems like a nice guy.

  • Jill on September 29, 2012, 22:44 GMT

    This article is harsh on Franklin. You should separate his stats from the last 4 years where he has been picked as a batsman rather than compare to when he was coming in at number 9 or 10 years ago ... then compare to the others in the team. He is not consistently picked and when he is he's expected to perform every game or he's the one that is dropped again while others are safe no matter what they do. His domestic form shows that he performs when a coach has faith in him and believes in him so fingers crossed the new NZ coach recognises this. What other player in the set up plays a different position every single game? Would be hard to stay calm and consistently perform under that pressure whilst looking over your shoulder. Hopefully he will prove his harsh critics wrong

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