One-day display holds key to Hussain's future

New year forecast: what to expect in the next 12 months

Angus Fraser
Tuesday 31 December 2002 01:00
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It is just as well 2003 has the World Cup to give it a highprofile start, because 2002 has been an intriguing and entertaining year for those following the England cricket team.

Following a year in which England have played against several of the most exciting players on the planet, the game's biggest tournament starts in February in Southern Africa. It will be interesting to see if it lives up to the hype which will surround it after the festive season is over.

Building up England's hopes would be wrong, because there has been little since their early exit from the competition four years ago to suggest that they will fare any better this time around. With their strongest squad deprived of Darren Gough, and there still being fitness concerns over Andrew Flintoff and Ashley Giles, England give the appearance of a side that has been thrown rather than put together.

However, in one-day cricket, anything can happen. It is a game where any side, if they go on a run, can win six or seven matches in a row and this is what England will be hoping for. Depending on how England do, we can expect a decision from their captain, Nasser Hussain, at the conclusion of the tournament, about his future.

With Zimbabwe starting a two-Test tour in May, that would be the ideal time for Hussain to stand down, if that is what he wishes. Then a new captain – either Michael Vaughan or Marcus Trescothick – will have a couple of Tests against weaker opposition before the real challenge of the summer arrives: South Africa.

Following England's 2-1 defeat of the Proteas in 1998, Shaun Pollock's side will be looking for revenge.

If Hussain decides to stay on, he should do so until the end of this five-match series, because winter tours of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka loom. Again, if this is the right time, Hussain has the chance to stand down. Next summer would also give the selectors a wonderful opportunity to build a new side. It is to be hoped they take it.

Domestically there is a lot going on. Each county can now call on the services of two overseas players, if they have the money, and we will be able to watch 20/20 cricket – the new evening 20-over game which the England and Wales Cricket Board has launched to replace the Benson and Hedges Cup.

After England's heavy Test series defeat to Australia, the counties will be under the microscope. Quite rightly, it is this level of the game which is looked upon to produce the next generation of England players. However, through paying county cricketers wages that many of them do not deserve, it is debatable that they are doing their job.

Prediction: A new England captain.

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