All-round good egg but is he Wright pick?
Sunday 28 February 2010
Wherever Luke Wright goes he is followed by a ray of sunshine. He is a cricketer who exudes happiness in his approach. He likes playing, it shows every time he steps on to the field, in every discipline he undertakes, and for that reason the desire for him to succeed is heightened.
But that joie de cricket can diminish but not conceal the heart of the issue. That Wright is an accomplished player there is no doubt – he hits the ball long and hard, bowls quickly and runs forever round the boundary – but it remains to be seen whether he is quite good enough in either of the main departments.
If the criterion for an all-rounder is that he must be worth his place in a team as both a batsman and a bowler – and it is not one that has been met by many down the years – then he is clearly short of the requirements. But if the bar is set lower, where it is all right to bat a bit and bowl a bit, then he fits it at present like a glove.
For weeks on England's recent tour of South Africa it had been expected that Wright would fill an all-round role in the side, as the seventh batsman and fifth bowler. He was, the indications were, somebody who could do a job and might become better.
Fairly late in the day – although the selectors might say that they had never definitely made up their collective mind – they opted for a six batsmen and four bowlers policy.
Wright has been picked for the whole tour of Bangladesh and he appears to have been embedded in the one-day team of late as the last seamer and a slugging batsman only too willing to meet the needs of the game, whatever its state. This is a hard thing to do at any level of the game.
"I try to be a genuine all-rounder, I try to be both," he said. "I'm personally not worried about the idea that I might not be thought of as good enough at either. I believe I'm good enough. I started to show that last year in the Championship when I got a run together. I haven't played loads of Championship cricket. With playing the England one-dayers I've missed out on different games and not always played the longer form and that's something I was improving at."
This is not the self-deception of the eternal optimist. There is truth in it. He has played 45 Championship matches for Sussex over seven years and 2009 was much his best summer. He scored more runs (527) and took more wickets (21) at better averages than in any previous summer and compiled his first centuries and took his first five wickets in an innings.
Wright clearly has something but whether it is quite enough remains a case for conjecture. Maybe he must be given a go to find out and since he turns 25 later this tour, that needs to be soon. The present management obviously like him but then he is easy to like. His obliging character and potential cricketing weapons see to that.
"I certainly hope the Test chance hasn't passed me by," he said. "There were times when I thought I was going to get close and other people stepped up. I certainly became a better player from the experience of being around the Test squad in South Africa."
He can knuckle down at the crease – witness the repair job, admittedly to no avail, that he and Tim Bresnan constructed in Centurion last October when England slumped to 101 for 6 against Australia in the Champions Trophy semi-final. He can bowl with discipline – remember that last over of a tight match (the only one he bowled) against New Zealand at Napier in 2008 when seven were needed but only six came, thanks to his nerve.
Wright should play today for England, who have come too far with him now, and he is growing into the role. At a floating seven he gives them options, as he does as a bowler capable of hurrying batsmen.
To translate that to higher achievement, and to Test level indeed, are the next steps. Wright is certain to negotiate them with a sunny smile.
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