There has been plenty of great cricket in the RLODC over the last week. The pinnacle was probably that dramatic Roses game. What a finish!
It was noteworthy that the crowds were particularly healthy too. The great weather obviously helped, but it clearly shows that there’s still a healthy appetite for domestic 50 over cricket in this country.
What a shame that 50 over cricket – serious first team 50 over cricket – is being shamefully sacrificed to make room for the tawdry Hundred from next year. County cricket won’t even get a traditional showpiece Lord’s final from 2020. It’s a disgrace.
Anyway, I don’t want to dwell on the miserable state of cricket governance in this country today. It’s too bloody miserable. Instead I’d like to have a hypothetical debate as a change of pace.
The question I’d like to ask is one which I’m sure we’ve all had after a few pints in the pub. If England could have one cricketer, just one, from any other country then who would it be?
In years gone by we might have picked an all-rounder – someone who could improve the batting and bowling simultaneously. Imran Khan would’ve been my choice in 1980s. However, because England’s test team has become overrun with all-rounders – blokes who average in the mid-30s (or worse) in both disciplines – I’m more inclined to search for a specialist.
So should this specialist be a batsman or a bowler? Although Jimmy Anderson is getting a little long in the tooth, and Stuart Broad isn’t exactly a spring chicken, I’d be inclined to choose a batsman. Here’s why …
England will always take wickets at home in friendly conditions; therefore a seamer like Josh Hazlewood or Trent Boult probably wouldn’t make too much difference. What’s more, although we’ve lacked an out-and-out quick like Pat Cummins in the past, Jofra Archer will be available to provide that extra pace in a few weeks’ time.
I thought long and hard about adding a spinner though. A top class spin bowler would be invaluable both home and abroad (especially the latter) and therefore I think they’d do more to transform our fortunes.
But who would this spinner be? Although I like Ravi Ashwin (when he’s not mankading opponents) his record in England is mixed. I’m not sure that Yasir Shah would be particularly brilliant either – fine bowler though he is. I briefly toyed with the idea of Rashid Khan, but he’s just too much of an unknown quantity at test level. And then there’s Nathan Lyon. Good bowler but no thanks!
The bottom line is that there’s no Shane Warne or Murali available at the mo. There’s no once in a generation talent who can basically win games on his own. Yes we could add a very good spinner to the England team, but would he really be that much of an upgrade over the potential right-arm / left-arm combination of Moeen and Jack Leach? Fortunately our existing clutch of all-rounders enables us to play both.
Consequently my focus today is very much on the batsmen. England won’t win many test matches unless they can post totals that give the bowlers something to work with anyway. Our batting has been infuriatingly inconsistent of late, and there’s been very little opportunity to build scoreboard pressure (which can often bring wickets in itself).
With Root ensconced at 4, and a combination of Bairstow, Buttler, and Stokes to follow, I think taking an opener or a quality No.3 is therefore a no-brainer. But who should that man be?
Although I toyed with the idea of poaching Virat Kohli or Steve Smith and asking them to move up the order, this would undermine my preference for picking a specialist to bat in a specialist position. So who does that leave us with?
One option is obviously David Warner, but I refuse to pick the bloke on principle. The idea is to complete a side that can consistently beat the Aussies home and away; therefore removing one of their best players seems a little unsatisfying. I want to beat Australia at their best – not the hopeless Australia that turned up last summer.
It’s a shame in many ways that we’re living in an era where quality openers are thin on the ground. Other than Warner there aren’t many world class alternatives. Aiden Markram is in the top ten in the ICC rankings but he’s only played 17 tests. It would seem a little odd to choose him from the vast pool of test cricketers worldwide. Ditto Tom Latham.
Dimuth Karunaratne is another solid test opener but his career average is a bit underwhelming and his record in England, where he’s made just one half-century in ten tests, is also problematic. Other openers I like include Dean Elgar and Tamin Iqbal, but I’m not exactly salivating at the thought of pairing one of these guys with Rory Burns. Therefore I’d much rather make do with what we’ve got (Roy? Jennings? Gubbins? Denly?) and turn my attentions to poaching a world class No.3.
This is where it gets interesting folks. Really interesting. Two world class No.3s who would instantly make a huge difference to England’s test team immediately spring to mind. I’m talking, of course, about Chesteshwar Pujara and Kane Williamson. Both men average over 50 and have a wealth of experience. Basically they’re both bloody good.
However, if I had to choose between the two then there’s only one winner. And that’s the New Zealand captain. He ticks so many boxes. For starters he averages a whopping 57 at first drop in test cricket. He’s also younger than Pujara (28 years old versus 31) so there should be more miles left in the tank.
Williamson also has lots of captaincy experience so he could step in if Joe Root begins to get overwhelmed. Plus he’s a much better white ball player than Pujara. Imagine adding New Zealand’s greatest ever batsman (apologies to Martin Crowe and Glenn Turner) to our exciting but somewhat erratic ODI side. Williamson would immediately bring stability and nous to a lineup that occasionally struggles to adapt to conditions.
My only slight worry is that Williamson actually averages less in England than he does elsewhere: just 31 with one century. However, this sample size is very small (just 4 tests). I think Williamson would easily improve these numbers if he decided to jump ship, join Joe Root’s Barmy Army, and take his rightful place as England’s long-term number 3.
Go on, Kane. You know you want to. We’ll even change the residency rules for you like we did with Jofra Archer 😉
Who would you poach?