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Daniel Brigham: Dropping Owais Shah suddenly seems right

November 9th, 2009 by Daniel Brigham in England, International, Test cricket


England’s line-ups for the two warm-up matches in South Africa made me feel like Kevin’s parents in Home Alone. There was something missing, something left behind. But what? Did I turn off the coffee? Yes. Did I lock up? Yes. Did I close the garage? Yes. Hmm. Was it Ronnie Irani? No.

It was the rarest of rare thoughts that brought the answer. An England ODI batting line-up looking reliable. You knew exactly what to expect from each batsman; you also had faith in them to deliver. Then it hit. The reason for that reliability was Owais Shah. Or rather his absence.

At the time of him being dropped, on the back of a sensational 98 in the Champions Trophy against South Africa, it felt like a bizarre, bonkers decision. I was on the verge of writing a blog ranting against the England selectors for leaving out someone with his talents, but Rob Smyth got there first. His gist was that the England management have wasted a unique talent and failed to show him enough love.

Shah is a unique talent, but it isn’t a lack of love that has curtailed his career. Like a band who write one or two catchy, popular singles but stuff their albums full of 10 other rubbish songs, that eye-catching, six-powered 98 hid the real Shah: a man who runs like he’s trying to leg it across a busy motorway, fields like a dog chasing a ball you’ve only pretended to throw and makes scores that won’t win matches.

Suddenly, the selectors’ decision looks utterly sensible and logical – surely the influence of Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss.

Jonathan Trott instead of Shah? Looks made for international cricket and is the complete antithesis to Shah at the crease. So yes, that makes sense. Alastair Cook instead of Shah? Surely not! But they do have the same ODI and domestic one-day averages and Cook is seven years younger. So, yes, that makes sense as well. Joe Denly for Owais Shah? Denly is young with huge potential, looks unfazed while batting and appears to be a very good fielder. Again, that makes sense.

Shah may feel aggrieved and people may blame the England management for not looking after him properly, but try telling that to the likes of Pietersen, Trott and Strauss. They’ve never relied on other people looking after them. Why should they? They’ve just gone out and looked after themselves, scoring lots of runs along the way.

Daniel Brigham is assistant editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in England, International, Test cricket | 7 Comments »

7 Responses to “Daniel Brigham: Dropping Owais Shah suddenly seems right”

  1.   R. Goodacre says:

    So no more of those 35s off 50 balls mid-innings: playing himself in with immaculate forward defensives to the oppo’s 4th and 5th choice bowlers, then getting out with a high-risk swipe just when England take their powerplay.

    Yes, plenty of natural ability there, but not in any sense a canny reader of the situation. Selected too early and dropped too late.

  2.   Ali says:

    I think both you and Rob make good points about Owais Shah. There’s no doubt that Owais Shah has not played to potential. There’s also no doubt about the vibe Shah tends to give when at the crease. Shah has played a few memorable innings for England since his inclusion after the disastrous 2007 World Cup. We can look back at his hundred against India when England were five down. For me Shah’s innings against Sri Lanka in the Champions Trophy was probably one of his best. He was unbelievably calm and set up shop allowing the likes of Collingwood and Morgan to play around him. Shah must take some of the blame, but the England management and selectors are culpable here as they are in many cases. Shah coveted the no 3 spot, where he looked good but was never given a consistent run at that position. Even when he scored a 20, calls for moving Pietersen to first drop led to his demotion. Even Matt Prior got a run at three ahead of Shah. The England management jerked him around and never let him settle. I also agree with Rob Smyth where he implies the “In the Club” atmosphere that currently resides in the England Team. Except his first innings, I don’t remember Alistair Cook playing a match winning innings. The same goes for Ian Bell. Both of these players seem to be part of the “Club.” We can also put Paul Collingwood in that category. Shah should be manning the middle order with Pietersen, Trott, and Morgan. Paul Collingwood can go through a horrid run, but all it takes is one score to reclaim the faith of the selectors. For Ian Bell, all it takes is a good net according to Geoff Miller.

  3.   Cricket Betting Blog says:

    England seem to be following a process of getting blokes of similar temperament to both Strauss and Flower in the squads for me.

    Enigmatic players - both with bat and ball - seem to be getting replaced with players with less flair and (maybe) ability, but who are regarded as solid guys with a good workmanlike attitude who think along the line of S & F, such as Cook and Trott.

    Also have noticed lately that the test and limited overs squads have moved closer together meaning less room for players such as Shah who would appear to be regarded as a risky player/selection.

  4.   Paddy Briggs says:

    “Also have noticed lately that the test and limited overs squads have moved closer together ”

    If you can play you can play, as Andy Strauss is showing. Remember he was once not so long ago not seen as a One Day Player! There is an argument for separate selection for limited overs squads but that argument has little or nothing to do with innate ability. The top 20 or so players in England should be able to play in any form of the game. England has almost never had a player who was a specialist in One Day cricket – maybe Nick Knight - but I think that he was a bit unlucky in not being chosen for more than 17 Tests. In the main the bits and pieces players have contributed little of note to England’s one day performances. Ian Blackwell, for example, played in 34 ODIs scoring 403 runs at less than 15 and taking 24 wickets for plenty. The argument for picking slightly different Test to limited overs teams is simply one of workload. Strauss isn’t going to play Twenty20 – not because he isn’t capable at this form of the game but just to try and keep him fresh. But in the main your Test team and your ODI team should be virtually identical and your Twenty20 team not that much different.

  5.   Shrawan Raja says:

    Shah is a good player, no doubt. But there are better players knocking the doors of international cricket.

  6.   England Cricket says:

    Had England retained him at number 6, where he made most of his noteworthy scores, then the talent wouldn’t have gone to waste. He is a batter that prefers when the scene is set, so his game is to score quickly, when he’s laying the foundations, he struggles to choose the best way to go about it. That is where the selectors have missed a trick with Shah. He is a better hitter of the ball that Wright, Prior and maybe Morgan and would be of more effect lower down the order.

  7.   Alex says:

    Well as with all great talents come great flaws. But these flaws could and should have been ironed out in shah in his formative years in cricket. But due to the lack of inspirational coaches in English cricket it never happened. The ECB and county’s can learn from Shah’s absense in any England squad to not train cricket coaches but train good ones and pay them to work in the community full times in schools and youth clubs etc so someone with Shah’s talent does not rot on the International scrap heap again due to serious flaws that could and should have been ironed out of his game a lont time ago. And if they have any chance of reverseing the goverments decision with ashes coverage they must prove some of sky’s millions is actually getting into the grass roots game!!! As down here in South Devon whenever you see village cricket nets they are rag tag and the surface is degraded.

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