Clarke banks on rapid turnover to fund future

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Most of the shots in the second Test here yesterday were played by Giles Clarke. Since he was not holding a bat these were entirely metaphorical, but they were laced with energy and hugely more entertaining than what was taking place out in the middle, where Sri Lanka mistook wielding the willow for taking the mickey.

While Mahela and his men set about grinding England into the Colombo dust, Clarke, the recently elected chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, thus had the strokemaking field to himself. He took it by the scruff, openly espousing, if not quite ordering, a rotation policy for the England team and rejecting outright the generally held view that too much cricket is being played, making dull boys of us all a theory that seemed to be having some credence lent it by events on the field.

As the newish boy he is in some demand to explain his manifesto, and as an entrepreneur who has made millions out of various business ventures he knows that the first law of economics is that demand must be supplied. He has obliged with a long interview with the magazine, The Wisden Cricketer, which he virtually repeated when questioned by the BBC's Jonathan Agnew on Test Match Special on Radio Five.

Clarke said that it would be up to the selectors to pick the team but added a remarkable caveat, which might be interpreted as an instruction. "What we want to do is make it clear there are various elements open to them in their decision-making," he said. "There's a wide variety of standards in international cricket and we really need to blood young players. We don't want to blood them in the third Test against Australia when they have never bowled or batted before."

This opens up all manner of possibilities: players being overlooked because a young chap has to be given a bash; spectators being deprived of the best possible team; the replacements coming in and performing magnificently.

But Clarke has been shrewd enough to spot that some players have openly complained of being tired. "It's the selectors' judgement as to what the best side is, not mine," he said, thus scuppering the fond notion he might just be about to stage a selectorial coup, thus realising the dream of every cricket fan.

"We have feedback from the team that occasionally they'd like a rest. Other times people are playing through injuries when we ought to be sorting them out long term. We finance our game through our national side and this pays not only for the national side but for all the elements of club and county cricket. We've got a major facilities improvement programme and if we don't play a sensible amount of Test, one-day and Twenty20 cricket we're not going to be able to carry out improvements to grounds we'd like to."

So, there will be no reduction. "We have a difficult balance where our Test matches are sold out," he said. "There is a tremendous demand from spectators to see international players, so we must ensure they are given the chance to see our national side."

What it may mean is that every cricketer can become an international, a ploy which the spectator being parted from at least 50 for a day's play may see through. Anybody watching Sri Lanka play old-fashioned Test cricket yesterday (and that's why Test cricket had to change) would agree that less is more. Clarke may find out that many others concur in increasing numbers.