Matthew Hoggard: If 48 all out was embarrassing, Warwickshire's effort to poach our player was just plain rude
What I Learnt This Week
Saturday 25 June 2011
It has not been the greatest of weeks for the Hoggard family when it comes to matters sporting.
You'll have probably read of Leicestershire's embarrassing 48 all out and maybe heard about one of our best young players being approached by another county, but it gets worse: Ernie finished second from last in both the sprint and bean bag race at his first ever school sports day.
More of Hoggard Jnr's trials and tribulations a little later, but what I can say here and now is that he had a huge smile on his face throughout. And so did his watching father, which certainly wasn't the case at Grace Road earlier in the week when we were beaten by Northants in two and a bit days.
It hurt a hell of a lot to be rolled over for under 50 and to lose a Championship match to our local rivals by such a big margin. In the first innings we lost five wickets to short, wide balls which we kept slapping down backward point's throat, and then second innings – well though David Lucas and Jack Brooks bowled – it looked as though we'd never before seen a swinging ball. It does seem to happen to most counties once a season – you either give the opposition a good drubbing or take one yourselves. And it even happens, from time to time, at Test level. For example, I remember on my England debut, at Lord's, in 2000, we knocked over West Indies for 54 – and I didn't bowl a single ball as Darren Gough, Andy Caddick and Dominic Cork did all the damage.
But none of that makes it easier to take when you are on the receiving end. So how did I react, as captain, once we were all together in the changing room? Well, quietly, because I felt there was no point in ranting, raving and throwing things at the wall. I did say I was embarrassed to go and talk to the media and embarrassed to go to the sponsors' box, but I know my feelings were shared by all the players. The important thing is how we bounce back – and we have a string of important T20 matches to concentrate on now.
If the Northants game was hugely disappointing, and it was, then as far as I'm concerned exactly the same can be said of Warwickshire's approach for James Taylor, our 21-year-old England Lions batsman.
We've had a bit of banter with James in the dressing room, but he has handled himself fantastically well since the approach was made to us. All credit to him for that. We very much want him to stay and he will be offered an extended contract.
But I don't think everyone comes out of this with credit. The bottom line is that James has another year left on his contract and, basically, Warwickshire have come to us with the attitude that because they've got more money to throw around they can take our player away and give us a few sweeties to soften the blow. Well, they can bugger off – we want to keep our youngsters, thank you very much.
There is another thing here, too, and it concerns Ashley Giles, who is both an England selector and Warwickshire's director of coaching. Now, I like Ashley and I've played a lot of cricket with him but frankly I don't see how anyone can be a national selector and have a hands-on job with a county.
It could be said that his England role creates an extra incentive for players to join Warwickshire because the assumption, rightly or wrongly, might be that they would have a better chance of realising their international ambitions by going to Edgbaston.
James will have to decide where his future lies, but he knows our feelings. One good thing is that England have already recognised him with selection for the Lions, so if he keeps churning out the runs then further, and greater, honours will surely follow.
As for Warwickshire, it is perhaps interesting to note that when they played at our place earlier this month not one of their board room representatives was to be seen at Grace Road. Perhaps they did not want to debate the rights and wrongs of going in for a player with a year still to serve on his contract.
2. I duck dads' race but Olympian effort by Ernie does family proud
Every cloud has a silver lining and, for me, the bonus of losing to Northants inside three days was that I was able, unexpectedly, to go to Ratcliffe College for their sports day.
Now, with just under 400 days remaining before the start of the Olympics, I think Ernie Hoggard is perhaps leaving his bid for London selection a little late. But like parents the world over I could not have been more proud of my little lad as he took part in those two races this week.
He had the biggest smile on his face you'll ever see – and having fun is what sport should be all about at that age. Or any age, some might say.
Having said that, I'm not sure I would have been grinning from ear to ear if I'd been collared for the dads' race. Thankfully, I managed to sneak out just before it was run and, as I told those who saw me making my getaway, I'm a carthorse, not a racehorse.
Still, I did do my training for the day at Ratcliffe. You try keeping clear of seven four-year-olds in a game of tag.
3. I've a false beard waiting here if Strauss fancies another 'transfer'
Andrew Strauss's one-match "transfer" to Somerset has set me thinking. If I could organise a move for a day, what team would I join? And, more to the point, which particular sport would I play?
Well, apart from the pain involved with all those tackles, I've always fancied turning out for a top rugby side. And never mind club level, it would be straight into the England team for me. Is that League or Union, I hear you ask?
Just between us, I'd really like to say Union. But being a good northern lad, and wishing to avoid a lot of stick, I'd better go for League.
But we digress. Strauss's request to play for Somerset against India just before the next Test series has caused a fair bit of debate because it is such an unusual occurrence. I don't have a problem with it really, though, and I think Somerset deserve a lot of praise for going along with the idea.
Basically, England's captain wants to get as much practice as he can before the next Test series, his county – Middlesex – are mainly playing limited-overs cricket and Somerset's fixture against the tourists presents itself as the best possible solution.
Crucially, we are not talking about a Championship game, where points are at stake (although if he fancies joining us for a match against Essex we might be able to arrange a false beard and an alias), but a tour game. And it should be great for the younger Somerset players to see how an experienced international like Strauss prepares himself and goes about his business.
But it is also quite a brave move by the England captain. There is always a danger of being knocked over for not very many – and if he should fall cheaply to Zaheer Khan, to continue his sequence of low scores against left-arm quicks, then India will be very happy.
One thing is for certain, though: Strauss's presence at Taunton should make sure there is a lot of interest in a game which might otherwise slip by without too many people taking much notice.
4. Let's hope Samit packs more than a paunch in the one-dayers
Before England take on India they have half a dozen limited-overs matches against Sri Lanka. And it will not be just the two new home captains, Stuart Broad (T20) and Alastair Cook (ODIs), who are the centre of attention.
If Samit Patel plays there's likely to be as much focus on his waistline as his bowling figures or batting stats – a state of affairs which some people will bemoan.
The fact of the matter is, though, that if you want to play international cricket these days then you must be as fit as possible. That is the way forward, and in order to be a part of Andy Flower's England team you are required to follow certain guidelines and disciplines.
Samit is not the first cricketer, by any means, to have problems keeping the weight off. And some people have to work harder than others just to stay where they are. But if you look at the England team that played the Test series against Sri Lanka they all look like athletes, and that's the way it is.
Patel is a good all-rounder, whose bowling, I reckon, is underrated. England clearly want him, otherwise they would have decided he'd had enough chances, so let's hope his figures, rather than his figure, earn all the headlines from now on.
Just for the record, I'm pretty sure my old England shirt would still fit me. But then, I always did like them baggy.
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