Andrew Caddick, for all the brilliance of his bowling in the second Test in Wellington, is not a genius. However, he was easily England's most menacing bowler and, by not picking him sooner, the England management are certainly guilty of being dunces. And, if speculation surrounding them is to be believed, probably even ones that are in confederacy against him. A crime which, now that England cannot lose the series, may yet slip away unexplained.
Naturally, theories abound as to why the Somerset fast bowler has not appeared in a Test this winter until Wellington last week. A current favourite is that his absence was due to a personality clash with both his captain and coach, a state of affairs that was only reassessed after Alan Mullally's poor display at Auckland.
There is no doubt that as part of the Lancashire set-up - which has always placed great emphasis on team spirit - Atherton and David Lloyd are prone to judge candidates as a person first and a player second. If so, and some will argue that is how it should be done, then players like Caddick and Graeme Hick are always going to be on the margins. As colonials, they tend to lack the home-grown idioms and social mores necessary to endear themselves naturally to people, as, for instance, Robert Croft does. If talent was the only concern, though, the likes of Caddick and Hick really ought to be at the team's heart.
It is an emotive subject that just about everyone has a view on, including Caddick, who unsurprisingly feels put out that many consider him an unwanted interloper, particularly over an issue he sees as little more serious than not possessing a British sense of humour. "I moved to England to play cricket professionally. I'm an ambitious person so it is only natural that I should want to do that to the best of my ability. The pinnacle of that is playing for England and that's why I'll stand at the front and sing the national anthem."
But does he want to sing the national anthem? "Why wouldn't I, I'm playing for England. It might be my adopted country but I want to play for it. As far as I'm concerned, it should be the same for everyone playing county cricket. If it isn't, then those players without the same ambitions shouldn't be playing. As far as I see it, I'm just being criticised for being ambitious."
However Caddick, now 28, does not believe his non-selection this winter was personal. Instead he puts it down to never "getting back on his feet" after being floored by the virus that had also blitzed Atherton, soon after the team landed in Zimbabwe.
"I should, in hindsight, have been more forceful and not played in any of the warm-up matches until I was ready," he said. "But when you haven't been in the team for so long, you're eager to get back. Rushing it probably damaged me for longer than I knew, but I also think that the management became obsessed with having variety [presumably in the shape of Alan Mullally's left-arm swing] simply for the sake of it."
Others see it differently and, for his part, Lloyd believes Caddick to be someone who constantly needs to be pampered and told how good they are which, if true, is exactly what Lloyd, as England coach, should be doing, even if it means mashing up some Farley's rusks and dispensing jelly beans.
Lloyd is probably not that wide of the mark, and there is no doubt that Caddick, who is not overly self-confident, lacks the outward self-assurance of, say, a Cork or Gough. Unlike them, he is highly self-critical, probably too much so, but only because he believes it will show him in a better light should things turn out wrong. Where he comes from, sport, especially rugby, is as important as life, and it is how many will eventually come to judge you.
Interestingly, Caddick did not play rugby, thereby eschewing the traditional - and more or less compulsory - rite of passage for male New Zealanders, a factor which may explain why he has readily settled down to married life with his wife, Sarah, in Taunton rather than Christchurch.
What he did share with New Zealanders was a lust for travel, and when he had finished at Papanui High School, he came to England. But as well as seeing relatives - both his parents were born in England - he played cricket for Hampstead, who, through club connections, then brought him to the attention of Jack Birkenshaw, then Somerset's coach.
In a trial game for the Somerset second XI, against Surrey seconds in 1988, he took 8 for 36, a performance that immediately saw him bundled off to Lord's, where he was told that the qualification period to become an Englishman would take five years. In fact, once he had secured a British passport, it took four, and he played his first full season for Somerset in 1992.
With his tall, whippy action and ability to swing and seam the ball, it was not long before he began to scale the ladder, first with England A and then making his England debut in the first Test against Australia at Old Trafford in 1993.
Since then he has played just 10 matches, taking 35 wickets at 36.65. It is an acceptable rather than respectable average, that is undoubtedly the product of a stop-start career blighted by shin injuries.
He talks bitterly about those who thought him soft for being injured in such a way, and he vividly remembers Paul Allott once dismissing his problems as being so trivial that they must have be caused by his diet. "The mornings I spent crawling on all fours just to get to the toilet and then having to crawl downstairs to spend the next hour or so icing my shins. It is not an experience I recommend," he says with great chagrin.
In the end he needed two operations - one cheerily called a drill and scrape - to alleviate what has now been diagnosed as a defect he has probably had since birth. Apparently he has a fused bone in his ankle which prevents his foot from pronating (turning outwards) naturally as he bowls; an action that absorbs much of the shock involved as the foot is banged down.
Instead his foot rolls the other way, which leaves his shin to take the brunt of the shock, and he now bowls wearing scuba diver's leggings in order to keep his post-operative shins warm and supple.
He may have missed most of 1994 and 1995 through injury, but when he bowls as he did during the last Test, with pace and swing, he is good enough to trouble any player in the world. Gough may have got the bulk of the wickets (nine to Caddick's six) but it was Caddick who got the respect, his awkward bounce giving England's cud- chewing attack some new fangs with which to devour their hesitant opponents.
It is not in the nature of fast bowlers, even sensitive ones, to be overly nostalgic. Christ-church might be Caddick's home town, and the place where his parents still live, but he is adamant that England is where his future lies. It seems that the only "Green green grass" he is interested in will be on the Lancaster Park pitch.Reuse content