England's squad to tour the West Indies will be announced tomorrow amid much speculation that a batsman who has scored 182 runs in his past 10 Test innings will be replaced by one who has made 134 in his past eight. What these figures add up to is that while there may be a case for omitting Ian Bell, the evidence for recalling Michael Vaughan is slender. Bell is one of those batsmen who rarely looks out of form no matter what the scores suggest. But this little run is different. Whatever technical deficiencies may have crept into his game, he has begun to appear like a man for whom the batting crease is alien territory and is the last place on earth he wants to be. A rest might do him (and the team) some good. But it is a bad time to be dropped with the Ashes looming. Vaughan has done nothing to merit a recall. When he resigned the captaincy and dropped out of Test cricket after England's defeat at Edgbaston, he played three times for Yorkshire and made 10, 0, 19 and 14. He could not buy a run. Perhaps his state of mind is much improved but, fashionable though states of mind are in big-time sport, selectors generally like runs from batsmen as well. Given this panel's modus operandi there is every reason for Bell to retain his place. There has not been much inclination to change these past few years whatever the results and England, remember, have lost five of their most recent eight Test series. Their only wins were against New Zealand (twice) and West Indies.
Make mine a Pinter
Harold Pinter was the second cricket-loving playwright to die in 2008. The first was his friend and collaborator Simon Gray, whose funeral Pinter organised in August. Pinter, like Gray, was serious about the game and once said of it: "I tend to think that cricket is the greatest thing God ever created on earth – certainly greater than sex, though sex isn't too bad either." It always seemed odd that Pinter could be attracted to something so trifling. Presumably, Pinter must have seen the comedy of menace in cricket that he saw in life. Pinter's passing permits another retelling of a lovely tale involving him and his mate. It is said that Pinter wrote a poem about cricket which he sent to Gray. The whole thing read: "I saw Len Hutton in his prime; another time, another time." A few weeks later, miffed at the lack of response, Pinter rang to ask if Gray had received it. "Er, yes, Harold," said Gray, "I haven't finished reading it yet." Pinter is the second Nobel prize-winner for literature to have been passionate about cricket. Samuel Beckett, who won in 1969, also played two first-class games.
BBC go down the tube
There are those who loathe Sky's association with cricket and for whatever reason are suspicious. They may care to know (or may not) that the week beginning 29 September and ending 5 October this year was singular. It was the only week when Sky did not televise any live cricket in the UK. And this in a year when there was an unprecedented 33-day gap in international action between 6 September and 9 October. The BBC, meanwhile, who have just signed a new four-year deal for radio coverage, showed no live cricket and not even any recorded cricket – unless you count the piffling 61 seconds the sport was allowed in the BBC 'Sports Personality of the Year' show.