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News

Matt Parkinson: County cricket's 'attitude problem' is failing young spinners

Green pitches mean "generic county seamers" play more than brightest spin prospects, says Lancashire legspinner

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
12-Apr-2022
Matt Parkinson's season extended into October last year  •  Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Matt Parkinson's season extended into October last year  •  Alex Davidson/Getty Images

County cricket has an "attitude problem" that is failing a generation of young spinners. That is the view of Matt Parkinson, who has called upon counties and their groundstaff to resist the temptation to prepare green pitches to suit medium-paced seam bowlers.
Parkinson, who was England's reserve spinner on their recent tour to the Caribbean, averages 23.35 in first-class cricket but has only made 32 appearances in the format at the age of 25, of which a dozen came last summer. Speaking at Lancashire's press day at Emirates Old Trafford ahead of their first Championship game later this week, he said that there were "generic county seamers" who had played significantly more games at a younger age.
"You have 23-year-old seamers who have played 60 or 70 [first-class] games," he said, "but I'm almost 26 and have played 35 [32]. You've got just a generic county seamer who has played 70 games because he's part of a four-man seam attack. Spinners are never going to improve if you're not playing.
"It's tough because the spinners that are coming through now - and I'm pally with a lot of them - they're all at clubs where you think that spinners should play every single game. [Amar] Virdi and [Dan] Moriarty at The Oval, they're good enough to play every game. The Oval could be conducive to spin if they wanted it to be.
"It's the same with Bessy [Dom Bess] at Headingley, my brother [Callum Parkinson] at Leicester, [Josh] Baker, all these young spinners… I don't care how much it's rained, you can produce wickets that are good and can spin.
"We need to play. They've all got good records when they've played, they just need to consistently play. Then, in two or three years' time, you'll have a group of spinners who have all played 60 or 70 games and have taken wickets consistently for three or four years and there won't be this discussion of 'where are the spinners coming from' because they're there. It's obvious. Mason Crane [is another].
"[They get left out because] either you don't back your batters to score enough runs to bring the spinner into the game, or the wicket's green. I know I've been more fortunate than a lot of spinners. It's a problem but it's more of an attitude problem. I think teams need to be prepared to lose to play spinners, in my opinion."
While Parkinson had not been a regular in the Championship for Lancashire until last season, he does not think they should be considered "part of the problem" with two other young spinners - Tom Hartley and Jack Morley - on their staff.
"We've always had great pitches [at Old Trafford] and our outground pitches spin. [But] it's a lot of the other grounds where there's only one contracted spinner," he said. "I'm in Division One, which I'm lucky for, because a lot of those wickets are flat. It's a problem with the pitches. Especially in Division Two, when teams need results, they panic and they don't go down the spin route, they go down the green-seamer route."
Parkinson has endured another frustrating six months carrying drinks for England without getting a game; Glen Chapple, his Lancashire head coach, voiced his frustration at what he saw as "another wasted winter in terms of learning what he is capable of on the big stage".
Parkinson described the Lions' tour to Australia, shadowing the Ashes squad, as "bleak", admitting he "didn't get much out of it" and he had been "frustrated" to miss out on selection for their T20I tour of the Caribbean in January.
He later spent two weeks in Pakistan with Peshawar Zalmi as a short-term replacement player in the PSL, but again did not play a game. "I don't think they knew I played cricket, to be honest," he joked. "I went with a lot of hope and anticipation. But they played three overseas [out of a possible four], left two of us out and played a local instead. Why bother signing me?"
The silver lining was his involvement in the squad for England's Test series against West Indies, which he described as "the first time I'd been away with England and felt like I warranted a place" despite his disappointment at not playing.
"I thought I might have come close in the second Test in Barbados and then the media were reporting that I might play in Grenada," he said. "But the lads went to training and said it was a green top.
"It was the first time I felt I deserved a place in the squad and wasn't just there as a young legspinner with potential. I'd played a good amount of cricket and had performed really well in Division One. It was the first time I'd been comfortable in my own skin, knowing that what I do is good enough to have me there."
He has also been working hard to improve his batting and fielding. "Everyone wants a Shane Warne or a Stuart MacGill, and I'm not those people," he said. "It's up to me to improve. Either I improve my batting and fielding, or I take my bowling to a level where they can't say no.
"It's just becoming more apparent that it's a way into the side. Don't be a No. 11, be a No. 9; don't be the worst fielder, be part of the pack. It's not going to happen overnight and I may never get there, but that's when I have to take my bowling to a new level.
"I'm still confident. It is tough and you do feel a long way away, but the one thing I can control is my performances for Lancashire. It's a weird one because there's always so much hype and anticipation: 'We've picked Parkinson, we've picked a legspinner'. And then it just goes… but we could be having this conversation in 12 months' time when I've made a Test debut and I'll be saying, 'it's all been worth it'."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98