A spinner with the wrong stuff and batsmen with the right stuff

The first test between England and India starts in under an hour, as I write this, and I have the feeling that this is going to be a really good series. India are a terrific side, playing away. England are … a side, playing at home. More exactly, England are a side with lots of individual good players, capable of good things, but for the last few years, they’ve not been putting it together. A five match series, and they just might.

My opinion on the Adil Rashid row? Not sure. But, probably, this: that a clever spin bowler bowling against batters who have to score at eight an over can get a ton of wickets, because the batters have to play a stupid shot about once an over. However, a spinner bowling against batters who would like to score at four an over but who don’t mind scoring at two an over or nought an over is in a massively weaker position, because the batters never have to play stupid shots. So, the bowler gets tired and bowls stupid balls, and eventually the batters are scoring eight an over, and the spinner gets figures of about nought or one for a hundred, and gets the boot. Hope I’m wrong.

English county cricket can look after itself. But the fact is, for spinners, it’s a very good proof that you can do it, if you can. But, by the way, what you have to do is quite subtle. Mostly, bowl a lot of overs for not many runs without getting tired, and as a bonus, while regularly taking wickets. You can’t do that in white ball cricket. White ball being the 50 and 20 over slogs, in which bowlers bowl only ten or only four overs.

White ball batting, on the other hand, is a different story entirely. A truly good white ball batter can bat for about forty overs and make a score that’s truly big even by test standards. I suspect that white ball cricket will supply a steady stream of batters to the England test team, and the result will be that in a few years, England’s test team will regularly score 450 in a day, or more. Jos Buttler is the sort of batter England are going to rely on for the next few years. Buttler went straight from having a good IPL – the IPL being the Indian T20 slamfest, played to packed houses and packed TV channels for more money in a year than most pro-cricketers earn in a lifetime – to the England test team. And it worked a treat. Why? Because Buttler can really bat. And he is used to doing it in a big time environment, where his whole future as a human being is at stake, just as it is when you play big test matches.

What’s happening here? With batting, all the best and most ambitious county batters now try to bat like Buttler. They try to break into the big time not by grinding out boring 150s over two days, but by smashing a clutch of match-wnning sixes in a T20 game that their county looked like they were losing. They get some chances and they grab them. And I do mean: all. Only the second-raters now cut out the shots, in the manner of the young Geoff Boycott or Ken Barrington, and try to graft their way to greatness. That’s how it now feels to me. It’s like The Right Stuff said about how all those daring-do fighter-jocks suddenly morphed into risk-averse astronauts, only with batting, the culture switch is in the opposite direction, from risk averse to slam bang. The slam bang batters are now where all the true class is to be found. This was why Buttler was such a great choice. He is just really, really good at batting. He proved it in the IPL. He will prove it again in test cricket. It’s the slam bangers who now have the right stuff.

If I am right about all this, then the search for The Opener To Open With Cook will end when they finally decide to give up on all the second-rate grafters whose legs turn to jelly when they see spectators instead of empty seats around the boundary, and to pick classy slam banger Jason Roy. For that, Roy needs to do what Buttler did and have a good IPL. He hasn’t yet done this. Before that, they’ll probably pick Rory Burns, and he won’t cut it. And he will go back to Surrey and be Ramprakash.

We shall see.

Sorry about there not being as many links in this as there should have been. I’m was/am in a rush to nail my petard onto the chopping block before the game kicks off. I’m talking about this game. There you go. Another link.

England have won the toss and will bat.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *