The England cricket team are currently putting in some stellar performances in South Africa. The eleventh man heroics of Graham Onions have been on the back page of most UK newspapers in the past few weeks.
Like most fans of the England cricket team, I have thoroughly enjoyed their efforts. Paul Collingwood has inspired a number of topical “Grit shortage in the UK due to Colly having it for breakfast”-like gags. Ian Bell has found himself moved from the ‘laughing stock’ to ‘solid as a rock’ in a matter of days.
I don’t want to rain on the parade but I’ve got some concerns. Are the England cricket team a bit too similar to the England football team?
No, I know cricket doesn’t have penalty shoot-outs – yet. What I’m getting at is the lack of depth.
Most people agree, Fabio Capello’s first XI would give almost any team in the world a decent run for their money. On present form the Andy’s (Flower and Strauss) and their England cricket team would match that billing too.
But (there always is one – there has to be!) what about the back-ups? England shorn of Gerrard and Lampard, or Ferdinand and Terry – even without Emile Heskey look a different proposition.
Second XI or second rate?
Where would the cricket team be without the magnificent Graeme Swann? Stuart Broad has recently opted out of the IPL to ensure he gets some much needed rest. As a strapping 6’7″ fast-bowler who also bats a bit – Broad’s body goes through more rigours than most – what happens if/when he breaks down?
Luke Wright is touted as a decent all-rounder – but is ‘decent’ enough to be in the England team? Who else is there? Tim Bresnan? The stocky Yorkshire bowler has put in some good stints for England but is far from the match-winner Broad has shown himself to be (citation: The Oval 2009 Ashes).
In the spin department Adil Rashid seems to have been going backwards lately. Once touted as England’s answer to Shane Warne – the talented youngster was pushed aside in favour of James Tredwell the minute Swann had even a twinge of an injury.
Is Tredwell the answer? He may be – he’s hardly had the chance to show it either way which means if Swann does get crocked (and he’s had elbow trouble recently, as well as a back complaint) England are turning to a Test novice to bowl the huge number of overs Swann gets through.
Harmison and Hoggard (after valiant service) have been effectively retired by the selection panel. What are England’s strike bowling options if James Anderson is hurt?
That’s just the bowling – the same can be said of the batting too. Kevin Pietersen’s woeful recent form is highlighted further by the lack of options to replace him. There is no pressure on the mercurial ‘KP’. The fear of losing his place with the Jo’burg Test would soon find him picking himself up.
Ian Bell used to be that cover after his relegation from the XI but England’s opting to go with six batsmen has already put Bell back in the side, at the expense of the retired Flintoff.
Ravi Bopara has joined Owais Shah on the scrap-heap – at least for now. Shah’s recent comments about the selectors would seem to have applied the coup-de-gras to his dying international career. Bopara’s time may come again – but not until he’s had the time to rebuild his shattered confidence.
Michael Carberry is the spare batsman currently on the tour. He’s undoubtedly talented but falls into the same trap as Tredwell – lack of international experience. Of course there’s only one way to get that – but do England really want that time to be a moment of crisis when a top six batsman is injured?
Look at the way Australia do things. Ok, they may not be the world cricket power they once were but the production line of talent Down Under ain’t too shabby.
Current top-order batsman Simon Katich served his apprenticeship in the lower-order. Marcus North is being brought along the same way. Justin Langer trod that well worn path too.
England’s number five and six? Collingwood and Bell. Not exactly new kids on the block being primed for their (and England’s) future.
Let’s all cross our fingers that both the football and cricket teams can have their first choice XIs primed and ready whenever they need them. Otherwise… well, let’s just cross our fingers.