reports from Peshawar
When a crisis looms, England's selectors are almost as guaranteed to make a U-turn over policy as the country's politicians, so Dermot Reeve, the Warwickshire captain, is now flying out to replace Craig White, who pulled a rib muscle during Sunday's World Cup group match against the United Arab Emirates.
Given his virtual non-participation in the one-day series in South Africa, the choice is superficially puzzling. Reeve, soon to be 33, was given only two of the seven games to stake his claim, and anyone who watched England's lamentable performances last month might have wondered why. It was a question Reeve asked too, not unreasonably, though its airing in the media was a foray Raymond Illingworth cared little for, coming from a player, who - unless all the signs in South Africa deceive - he and Atherton do not rate.
Despite the misgivings, Reeve, who has played 27 limited-over internationals, arrives in Islamabad tomorrow, where he will stay before linking up with England on Friday, ready to resurrect an international career which had looked at an end.
Reeve is one of those annoying extroverts who manages to squeeze all the juice from an unremarkable talent. What makes him unusual is that when the tension bites and the adrenalin floods, Reeve is able to keep a cool head and harness its surging power to positive effect.
Four man of the match awards at Lord's are a testament to that, though with only two others coming in 13 years, he is far from the one-day genius depicted by his supporters. "Reeve," as someone once wrote of him, "is not a master of the game. Just a master of the situation."
Despite that, he has never been particularly convincing at international level where his sleight of hand with the ball appears obvious and his gambler's instinct with the bat rarely comes off.
So why did Reeve get a reprieve, particularly when the ruling on whether or not a replacement had to come from the shortlist of 18 - named in early January - has still not been cleared up?
England claim that although names outside the shortlist such as Ronnie Irani, John Stephenson, Adam Hollioake, were discussed it was felt that a straight choice between Reeve and Mike Watkinson was probably the simplest option as it would not only prevent precious time being spent haggling with various World Cup committees, but also remain faithful to the original squad. Nevertheless, the England management's continued inability to find out what constraints exist regarding replacements is inexcusable.
Reeve, whose front and methods would be best suited to cruising the subcontinent's teeming bazaars, may not be so effective on the flat pitches here. These days his bowling lacks surprise, his fielding is weak and his strokeplay is limited, but he can be an effective player of spin bowling, able to play shots few would dare take on.
It may of course work out well for England. They are badly in need of a confidence injection and Reeve's innate bravado may just give them the boost they need.Reuse content