Matthew Hoggard: Pampered batsmen have it too easy. It'll be good to see them hobble on in pain

What I Learnt This Week
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You know how my mind works – anything that makes life a little less comfortable for all those pampered batsmen out there is generally fine by me.

But while this week's news from on high that runners will not be allowed in international cricket from October is sure to be welcomed by most members of the bowling fraternity, the decision does limit the opportunity for comedy cock-ups.

There have been some belters over the years, often resulting in all three batsmen standing in the middle of the pitch and arguing the toss about who was in the wrong. And, just occasionally, the presence of a runner helps to create real drama – as with the last ball finish to last year's t20 final at the Rose Bowl when Hampshire beat Somerset amid huge confusion.

Now I would not claim to be a Mastermind contender on the subject of cricket's many and varied laws, but I was screaming at the TV, "Take the bails off!", when Hampshire's injured batsman forgot his aches and pains and ran the "winning" single instead of staying put. And the reason I knew Somerset could have run him out was because exactly the same thing happened to me when I was a youngster playing one of my early games for Yorkshire.

It was in Kent and I had to bat with a runner after damaging my back earlier in the game (a proper injury, you'll note). Unusually for me, I edged one to third man and, with instinct taking over, struggled up to the far end. I made it OK but one of their players, Matthew Fleming, remembered the laws (unlike the Somerset lads last year), took the bails off and appealed.

The umpire, I think it was Ray Julian, confirmed it was out but asked Kent whether they wanted the appeal to stand. Sportingly, Fleming withdrew it, on the basis I was still wet behind the ears and probably wouldn't detain them for too much longer, anyway, but I've never forgotten that incident.

Still, all this sort of stuff will be history from October and I dare say the domestic game will quickly adopt the same regulation. It's probably right, too, because at the moment there is nothing to stop batsmen who are "injured" having the team's greyhound doing their running for them.

Serious injuries are a bit different. But as my Leicestershire team-mate and fellow bowler Harry Gurney pointed out, if he goes in the fetlock nobody is going to give him a piggy-back to the wicket so he can still deliver the ball.

And while we are on the subject of cricket being a batsman's game, what about nightwatchmen? The International Cricket Council (ICC) could have struck another blow for bowlers this week by banning the use of Nos 9, 10 and 11 as cannon fodder on occasions when top-order batsmen don't fancy doing their job because it's a bit dark or there are only a few minutes to go before close of play.

Fortunately, I no longer have to worry about nightwatchman duties because, first, I'm captain (and I can order someone else to do it), and secondly, because I'm a specialist six-hitter these days (more of that in a minute, I promise).

But I've had plenty of experience of walking out to face the music while proper batsmen are lounging around in the dressing room. Get them out there, I say, and leave us bowlers to concentrate on our tail-end heroics.

2. When facing a spinner, sweep for six – it might just come off

Did I mention six-hitting? In 14 seasons with Yorkshire I didn't clear the rope once (probably too busy being a nightwatchman) but I reckon I've hit five sixes in my year and a bit at Leicester – including one in a two-ball innings of 10 not out against Worcestershire the other day.

I should probably leave it at that but you deserve to know the whole story. I was facing their "mystery" spinner Saeed Ajmal and, on the basis that if you cannot read a bowler then there is no point in trying, I was only ever going to play one shot – the sweep.

I think I was facing towards square leg before he let go of the first ball. And I nailed it: a genuine six! The next ball, and last one of the innings, didn't quite go according to plan. He bowled a quicker one, as I thought he would, and this time a canny inside edge sent it to fine leg for four.

Ten off two balls and a strike rate of 500 – if only batting could always be that simple.

Seriously, though, after the embarrassment of last week's 48 all out against Northants in the County Championship, it has been great to finish a couple of games this week with smiles on our faces. As well as beating Worcestershire in the T20 match just mentioned, we also defeated Yorkshire in the same competition which, as you would imagine, was especially pleasing for me.

3. Atherton wrong to call captain Cook a 'plodder' in 50-over game

Captains do not get much of a honeymoon period these days, at least not England captains. Stuart Broad had some explaining to do after the T20 side's heavy defeat at Bristol last weekend while Alastair Cook was under the cosh from some people even before he had taken charge of his first game as official ODI captain.

You have to say it is an interesting move to make Cook skipper of a side that the selectors have not picked him to play in for quite some time. But I can't agree with Mike Atherton who used the words "plodder" and "donkey" when talking about the lad's batting and fielding in 50-over cricket.

Mind, I don't suppose a bit of criticism will come as any great shock to Cook. It was around this time last year that more than a few people were questioning his right to a place in the Test team and, even after he scored a century against Pakistan at The Oval, some still suggested he shouldn't be taken to Australia. The Ashes didn't go too badly for him, did they?

No, I think Cookie will be a good captain and I'm sure he will adapt his game to 50-over cricket, although in fairness he doesn't have to adapt too much because his strike rate is around 70 in the games he has played.

I don't see him being a plodder in limited-overs internationals as he has shown at various times that he can go through the gears. And, as for his fielding, he has a good pair of hands and not everyone in the team needs to be able to sprint around the boundary at 100mph.

Hopefully, then, Cook will go from strength to strength and prove the doubters wrong. But whether he will still be captain come the next World Cup in 2015, and how many members of the squad currently playing Sri Lanka will make it to Australia in four years, are different matters altogether because so much can happen before then.

Of course we need to be planning for the next World Cup and no doubt the selectors already have one eye on that tournament. But you cannot throw all your eggs in the World Cup basket and not worry about winning here and now.

Getting the balance right is the trick. England need to be winning as often as possible to create confidence and a belief in their ability to triumph from any position. At the same time, though, the selectors must keep monitoring who is going to be available – and at their peak – in 2015 and make changes along the way.

One thing that is not likely to help is the fact we play 40-over cricket domestically while ODIs are 50 overs per innings.

Oh, 10 overs don't make much difference, some might think. But I can assure you they do. It is hard enough for players to make the jump from domestic to international cricket in any event but we are just making it tougher still by playing a different game at county level.

4. World Cup needs to keep the underdogs – even if they beat us

Talking of World Cups, I was pleased to see that the ICC reversed their earlier stupid decision to prevent the so-called minnows from playing in the next tournament.

The prospect of playing in a World Cup must be a tremendous incentive for the associate member countries like Ireland and the Netherlands. I'm not sure England will be too chuffed with the about- turn, though, given what the Irish did to them just a few months ago.

5. Next generation of players will be well schooled by yours truly

And still talking about World Cups, I suppose the 2015 tournament may come a bit too soon to feature graduates of a new Cricket Academy which I shall be heading. But you never know.

OK, the Academy is not actually up and running yet, but it will be come this autumn and it's something I want to put as much time and effort into as I can. It will be at Ratcliffe College, where my son, Ernie, goes and is part of the headmaster's plan to build on the college's sporting reputation.

He wants to involve parents and former pupils who have had some success in the sporting world – people like rugby internationals Neil Back and Louis Deacon and myself – and I'm looking forward to doing some cricket coaching with the older kids this winter.

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