Cricket: Man in the Middle: Tulip waiting to be picked

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The Independent Online
THE Test and County Cricket Board must have been reading the newspapers, because they have discovered that Johnny Foreigner is taking over the English cricket team. The first victim of McCague's Syndrome can have no reasonable hope of playing Test cricket for the country of his birth, but must still serve the full seven-year sentence before being considered one of us.

Under the rules of the International Cricket Council a qualification period of four years would have been possible but Somerset's Dutch express, the tall, gangling Adrianus van Troost, will have to wait until 1998, having first appeared at Taunton in 1991.

'Yes, it's bad news,' he said. 'I really haven't made a decision yet. After all, Holland could qualify for the World Cup. But the thing is that I'd love the chance of playing for England.'

His cricket manager, Bob Cottam, confirms this, and Van Troost was a notable absentee from the Dutch team that took on an England XI last week and shared the honours. 'I told him not to go,' Cottam said. 'He wants to play for England. It would be stupid for him to have gone out there and take a six-for against them, wouldn't it? Not very diplomatic.'

Van Troost agreed. 'I don't regret not playing this time.' One can't help wondering, though, if the 'this time' is a little loaded, in view of the TCCB ruling.

When a seasoned observer like Cottam, no slouch himself with the ball in his days for England, Hampshire and Northants, says that a bowler is 'very sharp' it suggests that most of us would be in hospital before we had realised he had finished his run up. And when the world's finest batsmen, like Desmond Haynes and Allan Border, confirm the velocity verdict it is clear that Somerset have a very quick bowler indeed.

Both Imran Khan and Simon Hughes have written recently of an English coaching system that strives to do things by the book, and can thus stifle a player's gifts in the interests of orthodoxy. Van Troost's gift is to bowl fast, and it must not be tempered: 'There are changes I have to make. Reliable line. Develop the ability to swing the ball, to hit the seam. But I must do it naturally, without losing the pace. So I concentrate on improving gradually, to become a more complete bowler.'

One aspect of the game that won't distract the 20-year-old Van Troost is the graceful art of batsmanship. 'I'm not working on it,' he admitted cheerfully. 'If I try and hang around I get out. Playing straight? No, I don't believe in that. Not for a tail-ender.'

Van Troost is resting a knee strain this weekend, but expects to be fully fit for the next Championship round. He is mildly baffled, incidentally, by the fact that we have ascribed to him the archaic Christian name Adrianus. He reckons his name is Andre. In Somerset, though, he is called Tulip. All Dutch cricketers are called Tulip in Somerset.

(Photograph omitted)