ENGLAND may have lost twice by an innings this winter but it was our ammunition that really let us down. Even on bowler-friendly pitches the Indian batsmen were never troubled. Our spinners' failures were well documented, but what of the seamers' deficiencies? Where are the penetrative pacemen; why can't the domestic game produce an Allan Donald or a Waqar Younis? The truth is it never really has done. You could count the number of genuine English quicks who have turned a Test series since the First World War on the fingers of one hand - Larwood, Tyson, Trueman, Willis.
Because of our relatively benign pitches, it is line and length seam bowlers we nurture best. The kind that heed the captain's call to 'bore 'em to death, Frank'. Some would call them donkeys. The trouble is, the leading exponents of the last decade - DeFreitas, Foster, Fraser and Botham (though he was more attacking) - have rather passed their sell-by date.
Paul Jarvis showed signs of maturing in India, but delivers from a comparatively low trajectory and could do with a loftier partner. So the emergence of Somerset's Andy Caddick, 6ft 6in, on the England A tour to Australia, is timely. He has the ideal platform on which to display his credentials when he leads the Test hopefuls' attack against Essex at Chelmsford this week.
Apart from the extreme height and hostility that reaped him 74 wickets for his county last season, Caddick posseses one other commodity sure to unsettle this summer's visitors from Down Under. His whole make-up bears a remarkable resemblance to the Australians' great bogey man, Sir Richard Hadlee himself. The hairstyle is identical, the protruding ears look in-bred, the white wrist bands are the same, so too the robotic pivot of the arms and the cock of the wrist in delivery, even the eccentric little sidestep at the start of his run-up. He doesn't yet emulate Hadlee's habit of disappearing into a trance of concentration between sessions, but it may not take long.
It is hardly a coincidence, then, that Caddick was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, barely two miles from where the great all-rounder lives in the shrine he has built to himself. When Caddick was a kid, Hadlee was, still is, a demi-god. His whole approach to life was profiled and championed. It rubbed off on the teenager, although Caddick believes that most of the similarities are in the sub-conscious; he didn't set out to copy anything except the sensible, economic run- up. (The same is true of Mushtaq Ahmed's imitation of Abdul Qadir).
Perhaps the most important message Caddick gleaned from his adopted mentor was the development of a ruthless streak. Each delivery is followed down the pitch by a menacing scowl, whether the batsman is an accomplished opener or a quivering No 11. What he lacks in pace he makes up for with relentless accuracy, a suggestion of outswing, and steep lift from just short of a length. His business is not to let anyone off the hook, and from what I have experienced of him, he rarely does.
At 185 for 8 he sent me down two probing balls, moving away around off stump which I somehow negotiated despite the fact that his bowling hand came way over the top of the sightscreen. The third ball was a snorter, climbing rib-high from nowhere, which I sliced to second slip who dropped the catch. Caddick did not look best pleased, particularly when I then got out to the spinner at the other end. But it is a team game and good spearheads regularly earn wickets for lesser bowlers.
Several other county attacks could have profited from Caddick's disillusionment with New Zealand when he arrived here in 1989 fed up with being constantly displaced by Chris Cairns in junior representative teams. He stayed with relatives in Hampstead (his parents are English), played club cricket and wrote letters asking for professional trials. Jack Birkenshaw snapped him up at Taunton, undeterred by the four years' residency necessary to be recognised as English, and directed him to the second team. Caddick took over 90 wickets the next season - an achievement without parallel at that level - but his passage to the first XI was obstructed by TCCB rules and the presence of Jimmy Cook.
Now qualified for England, his career so far underlines his attitude. Patient, ambitious, sniffing out opportunities. Able to raise his game to suit the situation. You could see the added thrust that selection for the A side gave him. Norman Gifford - their coach last winter - was particularly impressed at the way Caddick adapted to Australian wickets. 'At first he bowled a yard short,' he said, 'but he soon learnt to pitch it up more. He's an intelligent lad, agile too. He only spent half an hour off the field all tour.'
They call him 'Des' at Taunton, after the Neighbours character with big ears. Most opponents are slightly more polite, partly out of respect, partly through lack of familiarity - Caddick is a two-pints and-to-bed-at-10-o'clock man. It's a fair wager his name will be known well beyond the Quantocks before this summer's out. Hang on, haven't I seen that action before somewhere?
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies