The Light Roller: After a (light) roller-coaster year will anyone follow Graeme Swann onto solid ground?
Diary of a cricket obsessive
Will Gore is Deputy Managing Editor of The Independent, i, Independent on Sunday and the London Evening Standard. He writes a range of topics, including weekly columns about media ethics (having previously worked in press regulation), and cricket (having once been able to bowl a devilish googly). He reviews books for the Independent on Sunday.
Tuesday 24 December 2013
Swann but not forgotten
The Light Roller is nothing if not occasionally almost right. Last week's 3-point plan emphasising the need to find Graeme Swann's long-term successor is a case in point. The fact that the whole process would be underway by now remained, alas, unanticipated.
Swann will be missed enormously, although the Ashley Giles era showed that a team can prosper without a brilliant spinner provided that the balance and atmosphere is right. In that respect, the emergence of Ben Stokes may be fortuitous.
The timing of Swann's departure is, whether brave or not, certainly curious and it will be interesting to see whether any of his team-mates follow suit at the end of the series. His great pal James Anderson might be the most likely candidate, although he should feel confident of at least one more English summer. As for KP, who knows?
England must avoid post-Warne conflict
Scott Borthwick's progress last season was impressive. If he can prove his bowling is sufficiently incisive to take regular test wickets then, like Stokes, he could bring balance to the side with his strong batting.
Spinning all-rounders are rarer than Monty Panesar catches. England haven't had a genuine one since Ray Illingworth. Considering that the physical strain of spin bowling is generally less severe than fast bowling, that may bear out the notion that being a spinner is psycologically more difficult. Spin is art; seam is rough trade.
Whether Borthwick will be brought into the side during this series remains to be seen. There are certainly strong arguments for giving him more time to develop (though all old leggies will be desperate to see him in action). But the last thing England want is to spend years chopping and changing in the search for Swann's ideal replacement: just look at Australia post-Warne to see how disruptive that can be.
It's transition, but not as we know it
All in all it's been a bit of a rum year for England. They went from zeroes in New Zealnd in March to heroes over the summer and are now very firmly on the floor again. Jonathan Trott and Graeme Swann, absolute mainstays of the team a year ago have departed the stage. Players have been discarded (Compton) or suffered significant losses in form (Finn, Prior) and the captain looks downtrodden, however superficially upbeat his words might seem.
This, perhaps, is the lot of international sporting teams. Transitions can be painful. Yet the odd thing about England since the retirement of Andrew Strauss is that they have been a side in transition without anyone seeming to know what kind of team they are trying to become. The contrast with South Africa is instructive.
Of course, it is to be hoped that England would not have played out two maidens when needing just 16 from nineteen balls to win a test, as South Africa did against India on Sunday. Then again, on current form England wouldn't have found themselves on 442 for 7 in any innings of a match, let alone the fourth.
A team for the New Year
As we roll towards 2014, hoping desperately that England avoid an Ashes whitewash before surprising everyone by winning the World Cup, it seems festive to have a go at naming England's twelve(ish) man squad for next summer's first test against Tendulkar-less India. Who knows, TLR might get some selections almost right...
England XII vs India, Trent Bridge, July 9 2014
Tymall Mills/Reece Topley
Happy Christmas one and all!
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