Flower, Fletcher and Australian Limitations

5 05 2011

There has been a fair bit of cricket over the past four weeks or so in which The Compulsive Hooker has been dormant (not to mention in the other sports that we sporadically cover) and so we won’t try to make comment on it all. However, there have been several stories recently that have managed to tip ourselves out of our writing lethargy to the extent that we are now, once more, going to put (digital) pen to paper.

Flowering Again

Firstly, and in no particular order, the news that Andy Flower has signed a new contract with England is undoubtedly great news. After an unfortunate start in the West Indies during his first series, Flower’s management has even from an outsiders point of view made a difference. Often with coaches and managers it is only the people close to the team or perhaps the media whose job it is to cover them who are able to see the effects of their work – results not always being the most reliable indicator. Yet, in the case of Flower, even from a spectators point of view the difference he’s made is apparent. There is an indefinable air of calmness and confidence surrounding the team which was not present with his predecessor Peter Moores.

He is already probably the most successful coach of recent years with the only blot on his copybook being England’s World Cup and recent ODI performance. We are confident though this will improve rapidly with the series against Sri Lanka and then India being closely contested.

Fletcher Returns

The other bit of coaching news worth mentioning is of course Duncan Fletcher’s surprise appearance as coach of India. With Gary Kirsten being such a popular man with the media, fans and importantly the players, it is a hard act to follow. Opinion appears to be split on whether it is a good or bad thing with England players from his heyday as England coach back in 2003-2005 being overwhelmingly positive on the news but with most other people being either slightly puzzled or even downright disappointed.

For all that his record was tarnished by the events of 2006/7 of which few Englishman ever speak (most choose to blot it out as a temporary aberration in between the Ashes wins of 2005 and 2009) he had an excellent record as coach and could take a great deal of credit for turning England into a useful side once more.

His record of producing quick bowlers is often cited as a positive although we do sometimes wonder whether this is more to do with the fact that he happened to be around when England produced what Adam Gilchrist called the best seam bowling attack he’d ever faced. If however he is genuinely talented in this area then this could be the exact move that India need to turn them from probably the best test side in the world to being an indomitable force.

Good luck to him and we can’t wait for the series between his new team and his old team this Summer.

A Blizzard Or Just A May Shower?

Watching the IPL there do appear to be a good number of virtually unknown Aussies playing for some of the franchises and, whilst this can probably be put down to coaches from the Antipodes picking players they know, it did illustrate to us some of the problems facing Australian cricket at the moment.

In last night’s encounter between Pune Warriors and Mumbai Indians there was a young Australian opening the batting. Without Cricinfo handy we couldn’t work out who he was although there were frequent references to what would have been some very unusual weather patterns in Mumbai at this time of year (or at all perhaps!) and only slowly did it dawn on us that Blizzard was his name. (It didn’t help that the commentators were making the odd pun on his name).

He was frequently described as a prospect and someone to watch out for. The problem with this however is that he is almost 27 and has only played a handful of state games. Hardly what we would define as a prospect. Everyone is of course familiar with the case of Michael Beer and one or two others who have gained some sort of recognition recently but they too are characteristic of these problems. By the time a player is in their mid to late twenties if they haven’t broken through they probably will never do so. If in the unlikely event (as in Beer) they do get picked for the national side they are immediately going to be at a disadvantage – they will hardly know their game as well as the average international player does.

This is of course still probably part of a hangover from the days of the all conquering team of the late ’90’s and mid 2000’s when you had a further 15 players around the country who would have been good enough in any other era to play international cricket. The players who are now 26/27 would have been competing with the likes of Darren Lehman, Jamie Cox, Stuart MacGill et al for places in the state sides aged 18/19 and being mere mortals therefore struggled for game time to the detriment of the current national side.

In England over the past few years the opposite has been happening and the plethora of young, quality and consistently run scoring, wicket taking youngsters is testimony to that. With a nod to the argument that perhaps (certainly in Division 2 cricket) the quality maybe isn’t as high as it was, we know which countries supporters camps will be happier.

County Sunshine

A quick word to finish up on the County scene. Every pundit involved with the game has been very positive on the start to this years County Championship and domestic season as a whole – no doubt helped by the glorious weather the UK experienced in April. We are not going to comment at length on it here beyond saying we have wished occasionally that we did not inhabit the dusty lands of the UAE and were within reach of a county ground to which we could migrate for the odd afternoon.

We would also like to point you, our readers, in the direction of this article by Cricinfo’s George Dobell. Mr. Dobell is swiftly becoming our favourite writer on the county game and his in depth and considered articles are always a joy to read. There are links to his previous ones at the bottom of the article and they are all worth a glance.

Thanks for taking the time to read this again – we are undertaking to write some more regular missives from now on so please check back regularly.




One response

6 05 2011

Bradders, you would be astonished how few Shield games almost every Australian test player (particularly bowlers) had played on debut in the past 20 years (of just the core: Warne: 4, McGrath: 6, Lee: 12, Gillespie: 13, Johnson: 16, Siddle: 7) – less than a full Shield season on average. Batsmen are slightly better, but not always a lot better. It is a perennial problem, but particularly since the domestic scene turned professional 20 odd years back and older players started hanging around longer.

Partly, there are just too few Shield sides: 6 compares pretty badly with 18. There is no room for a Swann to take his time learning the game when they are playing for 1 spinning spot in each state, and the 2nds are an U/23 comp. Who knows how CA expect O’Keefe, Smith, Hauritz, and Casson to develop their games when they all play in the same state (or Doherty and Krejza, or until this season, Holland, Beer and McGain). Perhaps the true strength of Australian cricket has always been the grade/district competitions, but they have their own problems.

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