The England test team is number one in the world (at least for another week or so), but the English cricket watching public is polarised. In fact, they’re probably as divided as they were in 1994 when Mike Atherton massaged soil into the ball much like Kim Barnett used to polish his head. Some of us want England to persist with a four man attack, whilst others advocate a five pronged unit. But is there another way – a way that might strengthen the bowling without unduly weakening the batting? A compromise if you will.
If only Andrew Flintoff was five years younger and had knees ten times as strong. It’s amazing to think that he’s younger than Jacques Kallis. However, in the absence of Fred, is there another English all rounder would could slot into the team at seven (or six) and be decent threat with the ball?
Well ladies and gentlemen, the 2012 first class averages suggest there is such a man. He’s played for England before, but he’s a very different cricketer now. And believe it or not, he’s still only 30. That might not be particularly young, but it’s the same age that Mike Hussey made his test debut remember.
The name of this man is Rikki Clarke. Remember him? A decade ago England picked a young allrounder who seemed to have the world at his feet. There was just one problem: he didn’t look very good at all. He sprayed the ball around like Devon Malcolm wearing a blindfold, and although his fielding was superb, he didn’t score enough runs to keep his place in the team (not that he had too many opportunities).
A few years ago his career looked finished. His time at Surrey was over. Fortunately however, he found a new home at Derbyshire and more recently Warwickshire, where he finally seems to be fulfilling his considerable potential. This season he averages 67 with the bat in the championship and 27 with the ball. He’s also a leader in the dressing room (having captained Derbyshire in the past) and he’s still one of the best slip fielders in the country.
So then my pedigree chums. Is it time for Geoff Miller to do a Bianca Jackson impression and shout “Riiiikkkkiiii” from the top of the western terrace at Headlingley? Is Clarke the man to give England the balance that England fans crave? We wouldn’t rule it out.
Sometimes it’s a risky strategy to throw a youngster into high pressure series. That’s why the selectors sometimes prefer blooding mature cricketers who have served their time in country cricket. Remember when we picked another veteran cricketer from Warwickshire to play at the Oval in 2009? His name was Jonathan Trott. That one turned out pretty well, didn’t it.