Rob Steen
Rob Steen Rob SteenRSS FeedFeeds  | Archives
Sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton

It's a sad, mad yet glad season

Corruption and allegations may have soured this English summer but the success of youngsters on the county circuit warms the heart

Rob Steen

September 15, 2010

Comments: 8 | Text size: A | A

Marcus Trescothick celebrates reaching his double-hundred, Essex v Somerset, County Championship Division One, Colchester, August 19 2010
Marcus Trescothick could lead Somerset to a Championship win in his first season as captain © Getty Images
Enlarge

Once upon a time, in a green and occasionally pleasant land, there was a cricket season so lacking in good humour, so overshadowed by allegations of corruption and incompetence, its soundtrack the relentless tweet of ill-tempered Twittering, it was almost possible to forget it. Almost.

The Glad Season was the unflinchingly sunny title of a 1955 tome by that pillar of Australian cricket journalism, Ray Robinson, written in the aftermath of England's crushing Ashes victory Down Under. The subtitle was more specific: "Cowdrey, Archer, Tyson, May and Other Young Cricketers". On the title page Robinson quoted Thomas "Tommy" Carlyle: "Youth is to all the glad season of life." On that score, for all the current temptation to remember it as the Sad, Mad and Bad Season, the English summer of 2010 may yet go down in history, perversely, as another Glad Season.

Jacques Kallis, Anil Kumble and that most zealous of competitors, the uncorkable Dominic Cork, may have been doing their bit for the long of tooth, but more than any other summer I can recall, this one has showcased the callow and the new. Mohammad Amir, Tamim Iqbal, Eoin Morgan, Tim Paine and the three Stevens (Davies, Finn and Smith) have lit up the international stage. County cricket may be almost as easy to find fault with as Israel's foreign policy but I've also clapped first-time eyes on - or read reputable raves about - adaptable openers (Jimmy Adams, Adam Lyth), middle-order artists (Alex Hales, James Hildreth, Chesney Hughes, Ben Stokes and James Vince), belligerent batsman-stumpers (Jos Buttler and Jonathan Bairstow), clever spinners (Danny Briggs and Scott Borthwick) and a veritable stack of quicks (led by Nathan Buck, Maurice Chambers and Chris Woakes). True, run-making is the mission that unites the likeliest lads, Lyth, Hildreth, Stokes and especially the electrifying Buttler, but you can't have everything.

Not that this has been a season to compare in any way, shape or form guide with the one 20 years ago, cited forever thereafter as the Summer of Runs. Indeed, Mark Robinson, the estimable coach who has just coaxed Sussex to an immediate return to the top flight, is just one of those who believes that the banning of the heavy roller after play has started, allied to the return of hostile pitch preparation, have combined to make this a bumper if ultimately flattering season for bowlers - witness the past fortnight's sorry scores of 44 by Derbyshire, 59 by Nottinghamshire and 66 by Middlesex. Yet Derbyshire defied credulity by winning their match. A metaphor, perhaps, for a season from which we have been able, somehow, to sieve a netful of cherishable memories from a sea of tedium and odium.

The most intriguing issue surrounding the selectors' ruminations over their Ashes party, appropriately enough, is one that pits youth against experience - Adil Rashid versus Monty Panesar for the second spinner's slot. Yes, he trails his rival by 126 to none in the Test wicket-taking column, but the fact that Yorkshire's best wrist spinner since Johnny Wardle began the week as the only player within 100 points of Neil Carter atop the overall MVP rankings, and running the evergreen South African allrounder a close second in the Championship pecking order, ought to settle the argument, as would a pennant for Yorkshire's tender-footed squad. While Panesar has the seasoning and the track record, all the evidence is that Rashid is much the better cricketer. Besides, as Robinson so eloquently put it: "There is no column in the averages to show how the dash of youth revivifies a side, but on the field there is no hiding the humiliation awaiting a team, Test or otherwise, that is dragging its feet for lack of it."

Cricket is hardly lax when it comes to giving us reasons to be cheerless, especially now that greed is officially God. How many of these young men turn the deposit of promise into the cash of fruition, moreover, remains to be seen: being the cruel business it is, it won't be the majority. It still seems myopic, not to say daft, if we fail to celebrate the possibility that so many auspicious journeys - along with those being undertaken by the likes of Adrian Barath and Suresh Raina - are beginning. And beginning, better yet, just as a generation of champions is busy trading divided dressing rooms and performance angst for pipe, slippers, commentary box and IPL contract.

 
 
Nothing, not even the news that spot-fixing had reverted to having exclusively laundry connotations, would gladden this heart more right now than the sight of Somerset finally hoisting the Championship trophy, even at the expense of Yorkshire's invigorating youth
 

NOT THAT INDIVIDUAL ACCOMPLISHMENT is the only reason for gladness. Had just one member of the side remembered, or even been aware of, the regulations regarding runners, and hence won the Twenty20 Cup, Somerset would now be scenting the first clean sweep in county annals. As it is, when the final furlong began on Monday, the two remaining prizes remained within reach. Helpfully, they are not entirely unused to turning big asks into small questions: in 1979, they won the Gillette Cup and the John Player League - the first two trophies in their long and largely lustre-free history - in the space of 24 hours. This week they may have the luxury of an additional day if they are to land their first Championship crown and follow it up with the 40-over title at Lord's on Saturday.

Nothing, not even the news that spot-fixing had reverted to having exclusively laundry connotations, would gladden this heart more right now than the sight of Somerset finally hoisting the Championship trophy, even at the expense of Yorkshire's invigorating youth. And not only because Marcus Trescothick, in his first season as captain, would be the chap doing the hoisting. Where Viv, Beefy, Big Bird and the Demon of Frome failed, Tresco, Alfonso, Charlie and The Other Murali may yet succeed (weather permitting).

At a combined age of 102, Thomas, Willoughby and Kartik, the imported bowlers, have been the key to overcoming Taunton's notorious creperie of a square, though it is the strokes of Buttler, Hildreth, Arul Suppiah, Peter Trego and Trescothick himself that those cider-toking supporters will cherish longest. So long home to a succession of bucolic bumblers, ruddy-faced salts of the earth and troubled souls, today's Taunton stands testimony to the triumph of cricketing excellence over executive boxes.

Should Somerset pip Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire and thus break their duck, no one, I strongly suspect, would experience a warmer inner glow - not Viv nor Beefy nor even Brian Rose, the man who captained the two titans and still serves the club as director of cricket - than David Foot. The county's finest and longest-serving chronicler, the endlessly humane and lyrical Foot is now in his eighties and is shortly to publish a memoir that will doubtless be as short on self-aggrandisement as it will be long on perceptive, judicious and gentle insights into cricket, cricketers and all the eccentricities and endless complexities of Being English.

It was he who wrote of his tragic hero Harold Gimblett: "He never tried to hide his simmering complexes: over the hierarchy at Lord's or a succession of Somerset officials. He could be tetchy, a man of moods and disconcerting vacillations. His team-mates admired his considerable talent and the way he so often held their innings together. But they also knew when to leave him alone with his private thoughts and torment in the corner of the dressing room." And it was Foot who wrote of Botham: "Remember him for the matches he won on his own, the unselfish play, the 1985 sixes that went into orbit to smash Arthur Wellard's long-standing record, the frisson he created… and the fact that he actually did savour the stillness of the riverbank."

For those who have savoured his timeless contribution, both to the game and British press boxes - a sweet Footnote would do much to banish memories of a summer of sourness.

Rob Steen is a sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton

RSS Feeds: Rob Steen

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by NeilCameron on (September 16, 2010, 1:13 GMT)

I agree with Marvin, James "Jarhead" Harris from Glamorgan is a future Test player and this season is the one that has made him.

Posted by   on (September 15, 2010, 20:46 GMT)

Best season since I can remember - along with Tres Karthik, Trego and Thomas need a speacial mention for Somerset's success...

Posted by gramedgar on (September 15, 2010, 15:47 GMT)

Nice article, I adore the sentiment of siphoning out the good from a season, or time, where disillusionment is rife. It is great to see Tres doing so well, we can remember him as a player and not just as a casualty or a ...what if? type player.

It would be good to look back at this article in around 5 years time to see which players did develop and fire and which drifted.

I don't care about a few inaccuracies, as long as the aim is as true as you have it here.

Posted by   on (September 15, 2010, 15:01 GMT)

A good piece, but once again missing Glamorgan input. James Harris, 60 wickets @ 20 this season (so far) and not given a mention?

Not good.

Posted by Marvin on (September 15, 2010, 13:08 GMT)

"clapped first-time eyes on" Hildreth - currently playing his 111th FC game Jimmy Adams - FC debut 2002 I wonder how someone who has apparently watched so little cricket gets an article on cricinfo? Also, Alex Hales is an opener....

Finally - comment re Israel's foreign policy completely unecessary

Posted by   on (September 15, 2010, 12:57 GMT)

Very good article. Not sure you can toke cider though.

Posted by   on (September 15, 2010, 12:41 GMT)

I have been following this county season closely - on Cricinfo of course - and have loved it. The Championship, in its two-division version, seems to be a very strong contest. Some of the matches have been nailbiting, surprising, breathtaking even. Now all we need is for the ECB to resist the temptation to tamper with the purest format we have. I've loved, in particular, watching the youthful Hampshire side struggle at the start of the season, claw it back through T20 and then pull off relegation-avoidance. The emergence of Briggs, Bates, Vince and Wood has been a great advertisement for county cricket.

Posted by   on (September 15, 2010, 9:58 GMT)

Lovely piece - especially at the end.

Comments have now been closed for this article

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Rob SteenClose
Rob Steen Rob Steen is a sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton, whose books include biographies of Desmond Haynes and David Gower (Cricket Society Literary Award winner) and 500-1 - The Miracle of Headingley '81. His investigation for the Wisden Cricketer, "Whatever Happened to the Black Cricketer?", won the UK section of the 2005 EU Journalism Award "For diversity, against discrimination". His latest book, Floodlights and Touchlines: A History of Spectator Sport, will be published in the summer of 2014

    'A test of Kohli's mental strength'

Bowl at Boycs: Geoffrey Boycott on Kohli's recent form, and Cook's captaincy

    Kallis: a standard-bearer for a nation

Mark Nicholas: He made South Africans proud and he made the rest of the world stand up and take notice

    'Like a ballet dancer'

My XI: Martin Crowe on Mark Waugh's lazy elegance and batsmanship that was easy on eye

    Sea, sun, scandal

Diary: Our correspondent takes in the sights and sounds of Galle and Colombo, and reports on a tampering controversy

Remembering Ashok Mankad

V Ramnarayan: The late 'Kaka' was a terrific batsman, a shrewd captain, and a wonderful raconteur. But most of all he was a genuine friend

News | Features Last 7 days

Bhuvneshwar on course for super series

Only 15 times in Test history has a player achieved the double of 300 runs and 20 wickets in a Test series. Going on current form, Bhuvneshwar could well be the 16th

Vijay rediscovers the old Monk

The leave outside off stump has been critical to M Vijay's success since his India comeback last year. Contrary to popular opinion, such patience and self-denial comes naturally to him

Ugly runs but still they swoon

Alastair Cook did not bat like a leading man but the crowd applauded him for simply not failing

Time to pension off the seniors?

If England are going to win nothing, history suggests it might be worth their while to win nothing with kids

Boycott floored by an Indian trundler

When Eknath Solkar got under the skin of Geoff Boycott, leading to a three-year self-imposed exile from Test cricket

News | Features Last 7 days
Sponsored Links

Why not you? Read and learn how!