Dab hand with towel and drinks, but where's the ball?

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Nothing is harder in a professional sportsman's life than not playing in the team. It is what you are paid for, what you train for, what you do. This has been a long couple of weeks for me. Missing the first three matches of this one-day series was not exactly what I had in mind when I came here.

Nothing is harder in a professional sportsman's life than not playing in the team. It is what you are paid for, what you train for, what you do. This has been a long couple of weeks for me. Missing the first three matches of this one-day series was not exactly what I had in mind when I came here.

Perhaps it is more difficult to come to terms with that when you have become an established member of the side. It is not so much that you turn up expecting to play – when you start thinking like that, terminal damage can be inflicted on your career – it is more that you don't quite know how you should react or what you have to do to get your place back.

So, yes, this hurts, whatever might be said in public about there being a rotational policy with seam bowlers.

Which is not to say that I begrudge Matthew Hoggard his place at my expense. That is the peculiar contradiction of it all. He deserves a go in the side. We are all in this together.

It is a long time since I have done 12th-man duties and it is not a position to which your normal cricketer aspires, but when you do it you have to do it properly. During our win on a hot day at Cuttack I was out in one of the drinks intervals giving Hoggard a towel-down. He needed it, my task was to give it. I hope, if ever he is rotated, he might return the compliment.

Meanwhile, instead of wondering what line to bowl to Sachin Tendulkar I have been ensuring that I don't make a mess of the players' drinks mixtures. I have had partners in arms– or rather partners in lack of arms, I suppose – in Graham Thorpe and Ashley Giles.

Like me, Thorpe, who is England's most successful one-day batsman, has been omitted from this side – as has Giles since the first match. And like me, they are feeling slightly redundant. Will the selectors change the team for the next match? That is the question that constantly invades the mind. Sometimes, you think you're past caring. You never are, of course.

I hope to be playing tomorrow here in Kanpur. If there is a policy of rotation then halfway through a six-match series might be the time to implement it. But I do not know and I do not expect. What I do know is that it will be hard for anybody left out, no matter what the reason.

A word about the bowling of Andrew Flintoff, who has been coming on first change, He has bowled a beautifully consistent off-stump line and been the most economical of England's seamers. He might have struggled with the bat and I don't know how he's feeling inside about that. But he has not let it affect his bowling one bit.

I like his attitude too. There have been some comments about his reaction to India's batsmen the other night. Fast bowlers have to be aggressive and on the batsman's case. This is a game where most of the regulations seem to be designed to give the batsmen the upper hand. We bowlers deserve a break.

I couldn't see that Flintoff or any of England's bowlers were out of order on Friday in Madras. India certainly did not complain at any point. And it is certainly the approach I shall adopt if and when I get another chance. India have some of the most attractive and punishing strokemakers in the world, I don't really see how it is our job to make it easier for them.

There has been one change of rule in the one-day game which looks to have changed the very nature of it and might actually help bowlers. The fact that one bouncer an over is now allowed has made batsmen extremely cautious about front-foot play. They probably know that a short ball is coming, but they don't know when.

I suspect that this will have the effect of reducing innings by 20 or so runs, so that 250 will be a good score when 270 or 280 once would have been. It is that significant a change. I look forward to putting this theory into practice for the first time.

Nasser Hussain, the captain, has had plenty of stick from his boys this week. He was born in Madras and was greeted like a homecoming king. Hussain was delighted by our win in Cuttack, and quite rightly so, but I know he would have liked nothing more than to take the series lead in the town where he was born.

This series can still be very close. India have twice shown themselves to be vulnerable in chasing targets.

They are not the same team without Sachin. England with so many new faces can get the measure of them. I'd just like to be on the pitch when we do - and not serving the drinks.

People say my hair is turning greyer than ever. If it is it's the stress, the kind you get by not playing.

Comments