Bob Willis: I don't agree with all this modern-man, paternity–leave stuff. The team comes first
Saturday 11 December 2010
Call me old fashioned, and you probably will.
Tell me I'm in the minority, and I could not disagree. But while I'm delighted to congratulate Jimmy Anderson on the birth of his second child, and pleased he made it home for the happy event after being given permission to fly back from Australia, I cannot help but think his job as an England cricketer should have come first in this instance.
I'm not from the modern-man, paternity-leave way of thinking. As I told Sky Sports viewers earlier this week, I don't agree with the Mothercare buggyrolling approach that is now the way of things. And I cannot believe that two 24-hour flights in a week add up to ideal preparation for a Test match.
But there it is. Anderson, who has bowled outstandingly well for England so far this Ashes series, will be on his way back to Australia shortly and, hopefully, all is well.
It has to be said that these guys are extremely fit, Jimmy is very professional in his preparation and the England and Wales Cricket Board are fully behind players going home for the birth of their children as well as having their families with them for certain sections of the tour. So that is the way things are done nowadays. It wouldn't be the way I did it, and it would not be the way I would organise things, but if Anderson thinks he can get over those flights, and he is going to be in a happier frame of mind having gone home, then that is fine.
But never mind trips from one side of the world to the other and despite the obvious blow of losing Stuart Broad to injury, some people may think the biggest threat to England now could come in the form of complacency. Happily, that is not a concern I share as we look ahead to Perth and what may be the Ashes-clinching third Test.
While the home selectors eat some humble pie by bringing back bowlers they dropped only a week or so ago, and include another left-arm spinner with a first-class bowling average of 40, the visitors need to decide whether to give Broad's place to Chris Tremlett, Tim Bresnan or Ajmal Shahzad.
Tremlett would be my choice for Perth, but I accept that is by no means a certainty and England may well plump for Bresnan. What I am confident about, though, is the determination of these tourists to keep up the good work and not get cocky or complacent after their huge win in Adelaide.
Yes, I hope they did have a few drinks last Tuesday night to toast their terrific performance in the second Test but I am convinced that under the regime of Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower they remain extremely focused. It seems that every player is singing from the same hymn sheet and Flower could not have been more specific after the Adelaide victory in saying that England have gone out there to win the series, not just retain the Ashes.
Like most people, I predicted a long, hard battle. Now, on the evidence of Australia's bowling in the first two Tests, it is perfectly possible to see England winning 3-0. But cricket does have a nasty habit of biting you back just when you think you've conquered it, so it's reassuring to hear England, to a man, emphasising that all that has been won so far is a Test match.
There is no doubt Broad's injury leaves a big hole in England's line-up. Although he didn't get the wickets to show for his efforts, he was very unlucky in both Brisbane and Adelaide and played a big part in the team's success. But he has to be replaced, and while the fast, bouncy pitches that many of us remember in Perth have turned into pretty good batting tracks in recent times, I'd go for Tremlett with his extra height and his impressive economy rate.
People called him "pea-heart" before he played three Tests for England in 2007, but he didn't do badly at all for them in that series against India. And since moving from Hampshire to Surrey a year ago he has impressed just about everyone with his willingness to work hard and strive for good results on batsmen-friendly pitches at The Oval.
I don't think there is any doubt Tremlett has shaken off his old, unwanted reputation of being a bit flaky. The selectors clearly thought the same because they watched him closely for the last six weeks of the season and ended up picking him for the Ashes squad ahead of several possible alternatives.
Yes, England may keep their fingers crossed if Tremlett is picked for Perth. But imagine what Australia's selectors will be doing in the event of Mitchell Johnson being thrown back into the Test arena. His radar went on the blink so badly in Brisbane that he was dropped – now he has returned without having played a match in between.
Unlike Johnson, I thought Ben Hilfenhaus was unlucky to get the chop after Brisbane. Now he is back as well while Doug Bollinger and Xavier Doherty, who were simply awful in Adelaide, had to go. As for poor old Nathan Hauritz, he seems to be history and the latest spinner to take his spot in the squad is Michael Beer, who has a first-class bowling average of 40 and bats at No 11 for Western Australia.
My guess is that they will leave out Beer and go with four seamers while playing Steven Smith as their spinner, batting at No 7. That would be an attacking move by Australia, but whoever they pick they need to bowl a hell of a lot better than they've managed so far.
Bob Willis is on Sky Sports during the Ashes.
All five Tests are exclusively live and in HD on Sky Sports 1. www.skysports.com/ashesanywhere
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