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Comment

When is the right time to blood a player?

Harry Brook is an example of the selectors getting the answer to that question right

Ian Chappell
Ian Chappell
11-Sep-2022
Harry Brook receives his first Test cap from Joe Root, England vs South Africa, 3rd Test, Kia Oval, September 8, 2022

Harry Brook has made his debut at a time when he is scoring runs, in a home Test, when England are enjoying a winning run  •  Getty Images

The suspension of the third Test against South Africa following the death of Queen Elizabeth, delayed Harry Brook's England debut a bit.
That short setback for Brook didn't diminish the importance of the question "When is the right time to blood a player?"
Brook is fortunate to be making his England debut as he is a replacement for the injured Jonny Bairstow, who has been among the runs lately. Also, The Oval - with a renowned true pitch - is a good place for any batter to commence a Test career. The timing was also good, in that Brook is in the midst of a red-ball scoring spree, albeit his first-class runs were compiled earlier in the season.
Was Brook, who had been on a previous tour with the England Test team, kept waiting too long?
At 23, and having displayed obvious talent for some years, he is definitely ready for his chance. There is a theory that around 20 is the right age to begin the Test career of a player who has obvious talent. It is commonly thought that if you keep a talented player waiting too long it will do him more harm playing against lesser players during that time than if he is challenged by the best opponents.
When I was asked about the Australian academy's young Ricky Ponting, I answered, "He's an international player in waiting. All I need to know is what is in his head and heart." In a very short time Ponting showed he had all the required elements to be a highly successful batter at the top level.
A good selector doesn't need all the stats and spreadsheets to work out if a player is ready for a higher grade. A few minutes watching a good batter will tell you if he has the required talent. Then it's down to the desire and brain power of the individual whether he succeeds or not.
That's all that needs to be known about Brook. There is no doubt he has all the shots and is prepared to play them. And that's the direction the game itself is heading in overall. Still, while it's great to see batting aggression becoming an integral part of Test cricket there is still the crucial matter of picking the appropriate time to attack. Cricket should never become an all-power game; batting in Test cricket needs to retain some artistry.
It is commonly thought that if you keep a talented player waiting too long it will do him more harm playing against lesser players during that time than if he is challenged by the best opponents
That is why care needs to be taken in passing comment. For instance, if fast run-getting is a recent phenomenon, as is often expressed, then how come Victor Trumper scored a scintillating century before lunch on a rain-affected pitch in 1902? How come Don Bradman charged to 309 not out on the first day at Headingley in 1930, scoring 100 or more runs in each of the first two sessions?
Those are just two examples. Australian cricket, for one, has always been predicated on fast scoring when the opportunity arises.
The thing about Brook's delayed debut is that England have been fortunate. First, there was the unlucky injury to Bairstow, and it also doesn't hurt that Brook will settle his nerves by fielding first.
It would have been a mistake to blood him when England were struggling overseas as a team. It's always best if a player can debut in a team enjoying success, and if possible, on his home ground.
While Brook isn't debuting on his home ground, at Headingley, he is on a renowned batting pitch and - barring accidents - he will now have the luxury of a number of successive Tests in which to display his talents.
The truth is, there is no ideal time for a cricketer to debut but it is the selectors' job to try and choose a time when success is most likely to occur for them. There's no doubt Brook has had a lengthy wait but his debut is still eagerly anticipated and could well prove to be an England success story.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a columnist