The Light Roller: Graham Onions may not be tall; more importantly, he isn't Broad
The diary of a cricket obsessive
Tuesday 05 November 2013
Broad's versatility puts the onus on a tall third seamer
However much chat there may be about 'hitting straps' and 'finding rhythm', the performances of England's treetop trio in last week's warm-up in Perth must have done little to lift the gloom in the Onions household. Hard though it is to miss a big game in any situation, if the chosen few perform well then at least those on the sidelines can feel unencumbered by the thought that they could have done better.
There remains many a wise head telling us the plan to play two tall bowlers will pay dividends. And it might well. But in fact the key to success for England may be in recognising the key role of Stuart Broad as a line and length man, rather than as a bang-it-in merchant - except perhaps on those random occasions when he turns unexpectedly but inevitably into a purple patch.
This in the final analysis is the problem for Onions: not that England are planning to bowl gazillions of bouncers; but that to avoid casting Broad in a role to which he is less suited, the team needs a Finn, Rankin or Tremlett to provide the short-pitched stuff when required. Mind you, if Anderson happens to get injured, the selectors might still be forced to think again.
Not a thriller like Lara, but Tendulkar had no weak spots
There are a great many remarkable things about Sachin Tendulkar, who this week begins what will be his last test series. 200 tests, a hundred international centuries, a career reaching its tendrils into four decades and countless moments of brilliance. But what is truly amazing is that there have been no real weaknesses. He scored runs against everyone, everywhere and in all formats, evolving in tune with cricket itself. He wasn't a great captain but it didn't affect his batting. The centuries have dried up but he still plays crucial innings.
The joy of sport is the debate it engenders. Was Tendulker the best of his generation? For being thrilled, Lara gets my vote every time. For pure pugilism, it has to be Ponting. But Tendulker's grace and - especially in his heyday - his sense of utter impregnability in any situation put him at the head of the queue when it comes to picking an XI of the last 25 years.
What has happened to the Black Caps?
There is a temptation, whenever great players retire, to feel that the state of the game is not quite what it once was. And when England are playing well, it is still tempting to wonder if that means everyone else has lost the plot - especially for those of us brought up in the '80s and '90s.
But there can certainly be little doubt that cricket in New Zealand is in a right old mess at the moment. Since Daniel Vettori stepped down as captain, there have been few bright spots and to lose seven one-day internationals on the bounce in their last two tours to Bangladesh is beyond careless. Without a test win this year and without a series win since 2008 (against Bangladesh), not to mention an early exit from the Champions Trophy and the humbling 45 all out against South Africa in January, there is a real need for stability and progress.
Brendon McCullum is a very good player but has yet to win a test as captain and his batting appears to have suffered. He and Ross Taylor are both being rested for the upcoming one-dayers in Sri Lanka but an injury to third choice captain, Kane Williamson, means Kyle Mills will be in charge. It's hardly an obvious recipe for delivering success and it may be some time before the days of New Zealand punching above their weight are seen again.
There is profit for some in childhood triumphs
The Ashes urn is fabled to be the smallest sporting trophy in the world. But at least it has a certain je ne sais quoi.
Rooting through a box of childhood mementos (or tat) last weekend I came across the only two cricketing trophies I have ever won and was struck by the truly brilliant business model operated by trophy-manufacturers. Make small cup out of cheap metal; mount on plastic base; inscribe something generic ('Player of the season' or the euphemistic 'Most improved performer'); sell by the bucketload to every local sports club in the country; walk home with tidy profit.
Needless to say, my cherished Cambridgeshire Under-15 Champions Shield now takes pride of place on my 3-year-old's mantelpiece.
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