On the Front Foot: England use 27 players but still struggle for strength in depth

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The Independent Online

To be an English cricketer is always to be in the selectors' hearts and minds. In 20 international matches since the end of last summer (six Tests, 10 one-dayers and four Twenty20s) England have used 27 players, 10 of whom have appeared in all three formats. But that barely scratches the supposed depth. Apart from this elite, another 38 players have been included in various performance programme squads. The A category of five is for those on the verge of international recognition. The B list of 11 is for those up to three years away, although since it was named last November, Steve Finn, Craig Kieswetter and Ajmal Shahzad have shown that the selectors were too conservative in estimating their progress. Finally, there is the C list of 22 players, none of whom has been fast-tracked. Or actually not finally, because there is a fast-bowling programme for five more players. The cricketers come from 17 of 18 counties. Only Derbyshire have not provided a single player. Glamorgan, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Worcestershire have provided one each (though the latter may claim Stephen Moore, who has transferred to Lancashire). All five are in Division Two of the County Championship. Perhaps this is a way to start culling counties.

Dutch is tickled pink

In Abu Dhabi tomorrow, the first first-class game of cricket to be played under floodlights with a pink ball will begin. These most unconventional trappings are for the most traditional of fixtures, MCC v the champion county, in this case, for the second year running, Durham. The fixture is being played laughably early, but the use of the lights and the pink ball lends it a synthetic gravitas that cannot be ignored. This trial is taking place for one reason: the hope that Test cricket can be saved by these improbable accoutre-ments. Keith Dutch, the former Middlesex all-rounder, was captain of the first MCC pink-ball tour to the Middle East last month. "It was closer to the red ball than the white ball," he said. "It did not scuff up or become discoloured as much. I'd think it won't be long before the pink ball is used in one-day cricket." But that is not the point of this exercise. The point is to continue the trials until they are deemed successful enough to stage Tests. The biggest test of all will be if the ball lasts 80 overs (until a new one is taken) and whether it deviates. Dutch was not giving much away, but the feeling persists that in desperately seeking change, everything will be altered forever to nobody's advantage.

Never mind the Bollywood

What chance does Test cricket have against this? Indian entertainment channel Colors has liaised with the Indian Premier League, OTFF was informed, "to create a series of programmes based on the concept of Cricketainment, as cricket and Bollywood have become a huge and exciting synergy".

Banglas do it by numbers

It will not be easy, but a month spent in Bangladesh shows there is hope for cricket in the country, exemplified by their outstanding captain and all-rounder, Shakib-al-Hasan. Nor is anything being left to chance. The Bangladesh Cricket Board have 16 different committees (from logistics & protocol to game development), with 121 members as well as two tour organising committees and a management committee.

s.brenkley@independent.co.uk

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