Paternity scouts and cloning give England hope

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The Independent Online

It does not seem right. Mali Richards, the 18-year old-son of Sir Vivian, said last week that he would be as happy to play cricket for England as he would for the West Indies. His indulgent father gulped and promised to stand by his son, whatever the final decision.

If Viv Richards' son ever walks out to do battle for England in the frenzied heat of a Test match in the West Indies the world really would be standing on its head. Lester Bird, the Prime Minister of Antigua, would surely take the view that this extraordinary behaviour had been caused by unsatisfactory parental discipline and, according to modern thought, dock part or all of Sir Vivian and Lady Richards' pensions.

None the less, the possibility of young Mali, now the captain of the Cheltenham College First XI, turning out for England, opens up a whole new line of thinking for the England and Wales Cricket Board as they struggle to find a remotely adequate England side. Paternity scouts must be sent to scour the world for the male offspring of famous cricketers.

What an opportunity for potential sponsors. If, say, Javed Miandad was to father twin boys or Allan Donald a son and heir, one of the High Street banks would surely elbow its rivals aside and nip in with an irresistible educational plan with masses of added extras. If and when the creative urges of the Waugh twins gets the better of them, all those blue-chip companies on the London Stock Exchange would be rolling up their sleeves like nobody's business.

Tags would have to be kept on Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, Brian Lara would also be under the closest scrutiny. It would be as well, too, to know what Joel Garner, Curtly Ambrose, Michael Holding and Dennis Lillee are doing with their spare time these days. England's long term prospects are already looking immeasurably better.

No one could afford to take their eyes off Sachin Tendulkar who continues to play those scintillating strokes all round the wicket. It will be harder to keep track of Muttiah Muralitharan with his double de-clutch action, but he is another who must not escape. Saqlain Mushtaq's procreational possibilities must also be kept in view. I can see the major breweries marking out their long runs here.

A certain Mr Khan from Karachi was undoubtedly the most considerable cricketing progenitor of the lot, having produced no fewer than four Test cricketers: Hanif, Wazir, Mushtaq and Sadiq. That family should always be under the microscope. They are a restless lot in Lahore, too, for three sisters each produced a captain of Pakistan: Javed Burki, Majid Khan and Imran Khan. Jemima must be watched. Then, there are all those Hadlees in New Zealand and their genes cannot be lightly ignored.

Of course, there are others who have in every sense hung up their boots and cannot be expected ever again to take the new ball. Frank Tyson and Fred Trueman spring to mind, not to mention Gary Sobers or Everton Weekes and Clyde Walcott. Graeme Pollock is teetering on the brink in South Africa, but Barry Richards might be persuaded to put on his pads once more and Jonty Rhodes could certainly take a fresh guard. (The privacy of Hansie Cronje would at all times be respected).

For those who are definitely over the top, the business of cloning must be the best way forward. But, happily, there is no immediate hurry because England will already have won four or five successive World Cups and hung on to the Ashes half a dozen times in a row before the Don Bradman clone becomes available.

After all, his family, originally called Bradsen, came from a village on the border of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire so there is no reason why England should not have the first option on a Bradman clone. Then, the medics would have to scurry down to Gloucestershire, and Downend in particular, to see if they could come up with a few more Graces. Modern cricket badly needs another WG.

We would do anything for a second Denis Compton, a couple of Harold Larwoods and the most Machiavellian might go for a Douglas Jardine encore – if we don't already have one in the present England captain, Nasser Hussain. The cloners must go through Lancashire with a fine comb for anything which could lead to a new Sydney Barnes, the greatest bowler of them all.

At a little more than medium pace he took 189 wickets in 27 Test matches at 16 apiece between 1902 and 1913. He swung the ball every which way and dealt also in a mixture of cut and spin. We'd love to see one like him again. Oh, yes, and why not another Ranji, the inventor of the leg glance. "Ranji, 'e never played a Christian stroke in 'is life''. So said Ted Wainwright, a worthy Yorkshire all-rounder of the same vintage.

Heaven forfend, but cricket is becoming fun again and what is more, England keep on winning and the ECB has just issued their annual statement saying that the game has never been stronger at the grass roots. Nothing changes!