June 2, 2013

Joe and Jonny rekindle spirits

At Headingley, the two young England batsmen took batting and cricket back to its basics: of scoring runs from nearly every ball

Just when cricket appears to be dangerously close to tipping point, following the latest spot-fixing scandal, two young players unveil themselves and partly restore faith in the game.

The IPL scandal still has a long way to run and generally "a situation" has to hit rock bottom before the journey to recovery can commence. Consequently, it's to be hoped this latest fixing issue is the one to jolt cricket out of its complacency complex and cause the officials to take major steps towards rectifying what is potentially a terminal problem.

At the moment when the clouds hanging over the game were at their darkest, Headingley, not noted for hosting warm weather, provided a much-needed ray of sunshine. The first-innings partnership between Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow in the second Test against New Zealand was a timely reminder of many enticing aspects of the game of cricket.

The batting of Root and Bairstow was enthralling as they hit and ran like a couple of kids playing in the schoolyard at lunchtime. Their ultimate priority was a simple premise that should drive most innings - to score off virtually every ball. Their intent was there for all to see as they looked to play attacking shots, and when that wasn't feasible, they pushed and ran. Boy, how aggressively and shrewdly they ran. It reminded me of the days when Javed Miandad and Asif Iqbal, two turbo-charged Pakistan batsmen, considered a quick single to be a firm push to silly mid-on.

The urgency in the partnership of the two young Yorkies was a further reminder that there's only one valid reason to play the game at the highest level: to win the match and eventually the series.

Their partnership, when paired with the glorious strokeplay of Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay in an earlier series between India and Australia, was also confirmation that the game keeps evolving. While fans lament the passing from the game of such glorious batting talents as Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting, and Sachin Tendulkar's gradual fade, along come these young, vibrant players who justify the saying: "Nobody is irreplaceable".

It's not that Pujara and Vijay or Root and Bairstow or even Virat Kohli can directly replace any from that trio of star batsmen, but they are a reminder that all good players have a charm that, when coupled with intent, is well worth watching.

What is also worth noting, in an era where there are all sorts of weird and not-so-wonderful theories on batting, is that these young players are succeeding by relying heavily on the principle that batting is mainly about scoring runs and putting the onus on the bowlers.

The rise of these young batsmen is timely. Not only does cricket desperately need positive news to help dilute the unsavoury stuff, but the art of batting is also in serious need of a fillip. If any further proof was required that it's crucial the game has a constant influx of daring young strokemakers, these players provided a definitive answer.

The enthusiasm and boldness of young players excites fans and draws them to the cricket ground as surely as the smell of hops attract hotel customers. The reliance on older, more conservative batsmen in international teams may temporarily solidify a line-up but it does little to boost attendance.

If England's selectors think it's a tough choice deciding between Nick Compton and Bairstow on Kevin Pietersen's return, they should watch a re-run of that Headingley partnership. If that doesn't convince them, the choice is simple: England have the wrong selectors.

The rise of exciting young talents is crucial to the survival and prosperity of the game. However, prodigious talent needs to be supported by good governance and strong off-field leadership. Surely after watching some of the recent exciting batting from these rising stars, the officials must be inspired to work harder in "the best interests of the game".

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator for Channel 9, and a columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • c on June 5, 2013, 2:45 GMT

    Note to Ian Chappell: sometimes it is hard to figure what it is that you are writing about man. The caption says one thing; then you go on to IPL issues and spot fixing trying to relate it to two blokes trying to score runs off every ball (I think Alan Lamb and some others used to do that, too, and that was a long time ago); then you end up pre-judging English selectors (possibly because Australian selectors have nothing left to select from?); and talking of young blokes who are "enthusiastic and bold" - I can count many in each international team besides the handful you've attempted to make a story out of! What is the POINT of this article? - and it's not even a long one to be so all over the place. And cricket is "...dangerously close to tipping point"? - did you watch the IPL finals where Chennai Super Kings played? The crowds were barking like a long lost addict who'd lost all ability to reason! As long as they PAY to watch cricket will survive! Relax.

  • Dummy4 on June 3, 2013, 7:58 GMT

    I think 'conservative's, basically those who dont want to go away from 'norms' to the point of the boredom, are the crux of the problem with global cricket. I think there should be a definite tenure given to all cricketers beyond which they cannot be persisted in the team, no matter what they have 'achieved'. Not only it makes cricket so boring and 'formulaic', it also kills so many aspiring players, who are denied their chances. Denied chances because 'spots' are occupied by these 'champion' players who are well beyond their prime and still continuing with those 30s and 40s, by only and nothing but their sheer experience.

  • Praful on June 3, 2013, 6:22 GMT

    Good one Ian... the selectors should be consistently check by such articles.

  • Roo on June 3, 2013, 4:55 GMT

    Two good young propects for Eng & there was much media pressure on Root to perform in his 1st appearance in Tests at home - so well gone for both of them... If Bairstow continues with his good batting form he looks a good potential replacement for Prior when he retires...

  • Roo on June 3, 2013, 4:54 GMT

    @VillageBlacksmith... Yes Oz losing 1 Test by 7 runs must seem like a thrashing to you - especially considering Pattinson & Starc were playing in their 1st Test series, while Lyon only debuted 2 mths earlier - 3 of our 4 bowlers were green & are still early in their development atm... The future looks good for them as they have many years to mature into their game...

  • Richard on June 2, 2013, 19:36 GMT

    I too enjoyed the partnership of Root and Bairstow for the simple reason that they were visibly having fun which, in any international sport, is rare. It was very refreshing and was a reminder that sport is supposed to be fun. Root has enormous potential as much for his seemingly unflappable, ice cool temperament as his technique. He does have excellent technique, but very English, even Northern English technique. He plays late, with the ball under his eyes, meaning he is well placed to deal with any swing and turn that might be around. Indeed, when he made his 104, the ball was swinging a great deal and he was facing two bowlers, Boult and Southee, who are very good at exploiting it. It is also impressive to me how well he has adapted to the middle order, something with which openers sometimes struggle. England have one other young batsman who I think has star potential, Jos Buttler, but he has done nothing in internationals to back this up, yet!

  • Dummy4 on June 2, 2013, 12:16 GMT


    Three excellent Ozzie young potentials: Steven Smith (vastly improved from his first outings) Joe Burns Jordan Silk

    As well as a bunch of good talent a few years older who strangely haven't been given a good opportunity, like Khawaja and Cosgrove.

    But you can believe anything you want, you live in a free country.

  • Joe on June 2, 2013, 11:16 GMT

    Shame Australia hardly have any decent youngsters these days :)

  • yogendhar on June 2, 2013, 8:12 GMT

    When I saw Root play on his debut in india i was very impressed at how much at ease he was looking playing in sub-continental conditions and the last time a debutant made batting look so easy on debut was michael clarke at bangalore. Although england's batting is efficient they don't hold your attention with strokes and intent to score, apart from KP and to an extent bell. So, root is like a fresh lease of life. I see root as a successor to trott in the near future.

  • Paul on June 2, 2013, 8:10 GMT

    This is another great article by Ian Chappell who had an indirect swipe at 2 or 3 Australian selectors who do not want to play a young youthful batsman in the test side. The funny thing is ever since Rod Marsh re-shaped English cricket from July 2001, England have always played young batsmen ahead of seasoned batsmen in the County circuit, After 2007, we have picked North, Katich, Cowan and Rogers due to a lack of a quality young batsmen (apart from David Warner). Rod Marsh was appointed as an Australian selector and the unfortunate situation is Mickey Clarke and Mickey Arthur are selectors.