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May 2009
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Daniel Brigham: Confident Ravi the right man at three

May 1st, 2009 by Daniel Brigham in England, Test cricket

Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid, Kumar Sangakkara. What do they have in common? Yes, they’re all damn fine batsmen but, even more than that, they hold the top three spots in the leading run-scorers for the No.3 position in the world. Ever. In fourth place is some fella called Don Bradman.

That the top three all played the majority of their cricket in the current decade is especially interesting when considering that England’s best No.3 in the last decade – Mark Butcher – is a lowly 19th on the all-time list. England’s best-ever, Wally Hammond, is 13th.

So why can’t we develop good No.3s? I spoke to a number of people – Ted Dexter, Butcher, Angus Fraser included – about this topic when Ian Bell publicly claimed the No.3 slot at the end of last summer. Fraser, who was alarmed to find that England had used 12 different No.3s during his 46 Tests, hit upon something interesting.

“The batsman needs to want a challenge, it has to be something they want to do.” Fraser said. “Which isn’t the English way. We’re rather unassuming and maybe our batsmen like to slip into the side at four or five rather than being brash about really wanting to take the No.3 position.”

Hmm. Brash, up for a challenge? Sounds like Ravi Bopara to me. He’s a natural at three, and he wants it. When Bell said he wanted to bat there, one suspected he only said that because that was what was expected of him. When Bopara says he wants to, it’s because he really believes he’s good enough.

Dexter – who averaged over 50 in the position – said a No.3 needs to play new and old ball, quick bowler and spinner equally well. They also need to know how to adjust the pace of an innings – “A No.3 should be able to turn things around in 30 or 40 minutes,” he said.

Again, that sounds right up Ravi’s street. He paces his innings better than anyone else in the England side – Kevin Pietersen included – and is adaptable to good and bad situations. His enormous shot selection and inventiveness allows him to either find the gaps when under pressure or find the boundary when accelerating. Not only that but, unlike KP, he rarely throws his wicket away when set. It’s been a long wait, but England may finally have found a No.3 to rival Ponting, Dravid and Sangakkara.

Daniel Brigham is assistant editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in England, Test cricket |

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