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Lawrence Booth: Ramprakash, Trescothick or Carberry?

August 12th, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in England, Test cricket, The Ashes

An email arrived this week. “Slightly lazy journalism,” it tut-tutted. Now, this is an improvement on some of the accusations that find their way into the inbox: “Very lazy journalism” or “very lazy journalism indeed” are two favourites. (But it’s a perk of the job, so there’s no point grumbling.) Anyway, the charge of laziness stemmed from an article in which I’d suggested it might be time to give Ravi Bopara a breather – but failed to nail my colours firmly enough to another batsman’s mast. This was probably true. And so, in the name of energetic journalism, let’s consider the runners and riders…

1) Rob Key. According to a headline on Cricinfo, Key strengthened his England claims yesterday by taking 90 off Northamptonshire. This sounds dangerously like the bad old days when a bloke got picked for making a quick 50 in the Sunday League. Key’s advocates point to an average of 55 in this year’s championship. His detractors will say it drops to 35 if you take out the undefeated 270 he made against a poor Glamorgan side. And, heck, if he’s so good, why hasn’t he played Test cricket since 2004-05? Probability of being picked: 7/10

2) Mark Ramprakash. There’s no doubt a strong case can be made: The Oval is his home ground; he averages 42 against Australia; he’s got nothing to lose; he can’t do any worse than Bopara. These are all temptingly true, but what message would it send to Australia if, after England’s first batting collapse in a first innings since they made 203 against South Africa at Headingley last year, they call for a guy who hasn’t played for England since 2002? Ricky Ponting was even chuckling at the suggestion on Sunday afternoon… Probability: 5/10

3) Marcus Trescothick. Bear with me here. If Trescothick came in to open with Andrew Strauss, then Alastair Cook could slip down to No3 and England would have three openers to protect the middle order against the new ball – and how they need protecting! The word from Somerset seems ambivalent, but Geoff Miller said yesterday Trescothick would “not be a part of the selection process” – unless he hears “contrary to that”. The door is just about ajar. But who, precisely, is prepared to open it? Probability: 3/10

4) Michael Carberry. Duncan Fletcher is a fan, and even his critics must concede he has a decent track record of spotting good’uns. If Key’s supporters are going to use this season’s stats in evidence, then Carberry’s – chiselled out in the higher division – demand even closer inspection: 1,095 championship runs at 64 with four hundreds and six fifties (and don’t overlook his 10 sixes). He’s always been one of the best fielders in the land, which isn’t to be sniffed at in the gaping acres of The Oval, and he’s flexible. But will England risk him? Probability: 5/10

5) Jonathan Trott. Ridiculously, perhaps, the man deemed the spare batsman at Headingley appears not to be in the running. What this says about the much-touted consistency of selection is unclear. But then would you risk a man in an Ashes decider whose international experience amounts to 11 runs in two Twenty20 innings a couple of years ago? No, me neither. Probability: 5/10

6) Owais Shah. Remember him? It wasn’t so long ago he was hoping to bed in for a stint at No3. But the selectors seem to have taken a view after his struggles in the Caribbean. Probability: 3/10

7) Graeme Hick. Come on – the thought had occurred to you too, hadn’t it? Probability: 0/10

If Bopara makes 150 when he bats for Essex against Middlesex at Lord’s some time today, the debate may be academic. But, hey, the speculation is enjoyably lazy…

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for The Guardian

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes |

12 Responses to “Lawrence Booth: Ramprakash, Trescothick or Carberry?”

  1.   Paddy Briggs says:

    First class career averages (up to end 2008 season):

    Key: 41.48
    Ramps: 53.42
    Tres: 37.92 (surprising)
    Carberry: 38.58
    Trott: 40.58
    Shah: 42.99
    Bopara: 40.82
    Hick: 52.23

    Figures are misleading. Ramps and Hicky couldn’t make the transition to Test cricket. Tres could - till he was ill. We will only know whether Trott and Carberry have the Tres touch if they get a chance - but not starting at The Oval please!

    Key’s Test record is poor. Take out his double hundred and he averages 23.08 in 25 innings.

    Over to you Geoff!

  2.   SimonC says:

    Eh, this habit of saying “take out from someone’s record and they don’t look so hot” really annoys me. Of course not; that’s what cherry-picking data gets you. Take out the shit scores and they’ll look a bunch better, too, and where has that got you? Every batsman has outliers in his record, and if you start arbitrarily deleting them, their figures will change. It’s a completely pointless exercise.

  3.   SimonC says:

    That should read “…take out [x] from…”, but it got removed by the html filter.

  4.   Edward Craig says:

    I sort of agree SimonC, except it used to keep me happy when looking Graeme Smith’s batting average - take out his first two innings against England, after he played loads of Tests against us, and he averaged under 30 (now it is a bit different after he got a properly good).

    It means nothing, you are right, but made me happy…

  5.   SimonC says:

    Oh, I certainly see the attraction. In much the same way, I am ignoring Ricky Ponting’s recent near-charm offensive, which is raising his personal average to “possibly not a complete git.”

  6.   Andrew Johnson says:

    Where’s David Steele when you need him??!!

  7.   Paddy Briggs says:

    Simon C

    The Key innings (just the one) stands out as an aberation amongst all the rest of his Test scores. It was a good innings - I was there! But it was just 3.8% of his total innings for England - and 28.5% of his runs. It is quite legitimate to exclude to get a truer picture of Key’s Test record and his consistency.

  8.   SimonC says:

    No, it’s not, because you then compare it against other batsmen’s averages that you haven’t adulterated. “Ooh,” the reader thinks, “28.3? That’s not very many.” Well, right; most batsmen would have a shit average if you arbitrarily removed a quarter of their runs.

    We constantly bemoan the lack of big scores from our batsmen. Here’s one who has one, and we say it doesn’t count. Ridiculous.

  9.   EcgwithBacon says:

    Always remove the outlier for every player, batting or bowling. Doesn’t matter much for careers like DG Bradman, SF Barnes, SR Tendulkar or the like. Matters for E Paynter, V Kambli, WJ Whitty or their like.

  10.   Andrew J says:

    It’s slightly worrying that England seem so focused on bolstering the middle order only with individuals who will commit to touring or who have at least a medium-term future with England. I accept there is certainly merit in the consistency of selection argument, it has after all served England well in the last few years, but this is the Ashes.. not just that its effectively an Ashes Cup final and everything rests on this game. I can understand if we were playing a lesser nation, in a series that didn’t mean as much - but this is what all that development adds up to and I don’t care if we had to pick Ramprakash, Boycott or my mother… we just need to make sure that by hook or by crook we win the game.

    Would Alex Ferguson be worried about breaking any of his selection policies to win a European Cup Final? You bet he wouldn’t.

  11.   Paddy Briggs says:

    In 25 Test innings (August 2002 – January 2005) Rob Key’s record was as follows:

    Scores between 0 and 20: 15
    Scores between 20 and 50: 6
    Scores of over 50: 4

    If that’s Test class I’m a Dutchman!
    Goede Middag

  12.   R. Sen says:

    Why doesn’t Michael Vaughan get a mention anywhere? There has been plenty of ridiculous and near-impossible suggestions flying around to solve England’s batting woes, why not add one more to that list? I’m sure Vaughan is a patriot, it shouldn’t take much coaxing to get him out of retirement. Moreover, he never got that rousing farewell he so richly deserved. This could very well be his moment!!

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