Recent Comments

August 2008
« Jul   Sep »

Lawrence Booth: England must keep faith behind stumps

August 5th, 2008 by Lawrence Booth in England, One-day cricket, South Africa in England and tagged , , , , , ,

Forgive me for not writing about Kevin Pietersen, but I refuse to let the fact that England have appointed a new captain deflect from the conveniently quiet news that they are changing wicket-keeper. Again. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised: a new gloveman has become as much a part of the English summer as binge-drinking and thunderstorms. But Matt Prior for Tim Ambrose ahead of the NatWest Series is a decision which, paradoxically, smacks of indecision. And the indecision has lasted the best part of five years.

Let me explain. I think Prior is probably a better pick for the one-dayers: unlike Ambrose, who had an X-rated time in the one-day series against New Zealand in June, he can bat in the top six, and across 50 overs his glovework is less likely to be exposed than it is in a Test match. But the hole England have been digging themselves since the retirement of Alec Stewart in 2003 has just got a little bit deeper.

Just as England wanted one captain for both forms of the game, so they should be looking at one keeper. Why? Because, after the captain, the keeper is the man who most needs to build up a relationship with his bowlers. At the classy end of the scale have been partnerships such as Alan Knott and Derek Underwood, Rod Marsh and Dennis Lillee, Ian Healy and Shane Warne. These alliances needed years of exposure. The congested nature of the international calendar at least provides keepers and bowlers to get to know each others’ games inside out. But by continually treating the gloves like an accessory in a game of pass the parcel, England’s selectors are doing their side a disservice.

My grouse is not so much with Prior himself, although research shows he has cost the England Test team far more runs in missed chances and leaked byes than he has actually scored with the bat. (Hey, doesn’t everyone deserve a second crack?) It is with the inconsistency of the selectors.

Since 2001, England have tried a variety of sub-Stewart figures: James Foster, Chris Read, Geraint Jones, Paul Nixon, Prior, Phil Mustard and Ambrose. That’s before we mention Marcus Trescothick, Anthony McGrath and Vikram Solanki. Jones alone was given a decent run, only to be dropped just as his keeping was getting better (his batting, alas, was heading in the other direction). The result of this chopping and changing is that the England keeper, more than any other nationality, does his job in a perpetual spotlight. No wonder they struggle to perform consistently.

If Prior performs well against South Africa in the six games ahead (one Twenty20 international, five ODIs), what are the odds England will take him to India and West Indies as their No1 keeper? Pretty good, I would have thought. At which point he will drop a catch, probably off Ryan Sidebottom, and the whole debate will start all over again.

England don’t have much time to get their choice right. Australia are here soon, and they seize on indecision like no one else. Perhaps if we just let one bloke get on with the job – and assuming they don’t have a complete shocker – we might not be having this debate in the first place.

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for the Guardian. His third book, Cricket, Lovely Cricket? An Addict’s Guide to the World’s Most Exasperating Game is published on August 21 by Yellow Jersey

Posted in England, One-day cricket, South Africa in England | 6 Comments »

The TWC summit: Is Kevin Pietersen the right man for the job?

August 5th, 2008 by Sam Collins in England, South Africa in England, Test cricket and tagged , , , , ,

Kevin Pietersen is the new England captain, but does it herald a bright new start for English cricket or is it further example of the muddled thinking that has seen England plummet down the world rankings in recent times?

We asked our panel for their thoughts, and as always, feel free to have your say…

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in England, South Africa in England, Test cricket | 2 Comments »

Site by Anson Robson Marketing © 2010 The Wisden Cricketer All Rights Reserved