If You Could Turn Back Time …

The big story today is that Sunil Narine has been reported for an illegal action. As this blog is constantly at the cutting edge of contemporary sporting discussion, and remains the go-to place for breaking news about cricket, we’ve decided to ignore the chucking debate entirely*.

Instead we’re going to engage in a bit of semi-topical debate, sweetened with a sprinkling of nostalgia. I want to ask you all a question:

If you could add one cricketer from England’s recent past to the current test team – in other words go back in time, alter a player’s date of birth, and make him available for selection now as a fresh-faced youth – who would you pick?

Maybe England need a great young batsman to bring the crowds flocking back? I’m thinking of a young Gower or maybe even Pietersen here.

Perhaps we could do with a world class spinner, in which case you choice is Graeme Swann, or, err, Graeme Swann.

I have to admit, taking ten years off Swanny’s clock is quite appealing. However, as he didn’t really crack his art until his late twenties, would reinstating Swann be a wasted pick? He’d have a relatively short shelf life.

The obvious temptation, of course, is to bring back a Botham or even a Flintoff. A world class all-rounder boosts both the batting and the bowling.

The problem is how you’d shoehorn another all-rounder into the side. If you’ve got high hopes for Ben Stokes, as I do, then a hard-hitting batsman who picks up valuable wickets as a change bowler might be a bit of a luxury.

I’m going to reveal my personal choice now. Although I was extremely tempted to give Grumpy Bob a double knee transplant, let him sup the elixir of eternal youth and then let him loose on the Aussies again, a psychopathic maniac with terrible hair can only get you so far.

Instead I’ve decided to address two areas of concern simultaneously by selecting … wait for it … Michael Vaughan.

If Vaughan was a young twenty-five year old, Sam Robson would soon become a distant memory. Finding an opening partner for Cook (and eventually replacing him) would not be such an issue either.

Vaughan would be the perfect batting foil for Cook. Whereas Cook hangs on the backfoot and seldom drives with authority, Vaughan would take a big stride forward and cream all-comers through the covers – just like he did so memorably on England’s 2002/03 Ashes tour, when he single-handedly took apart the best bowling test bowling attack I’ve ever seen.

Disclaimer: I was very young when the Windies ruled the waves (plus they didn’t have Shane Warne!)

Vaughan’s right-handedness is an obvious advantage too, and being such a glorious driver of the ball he might put the bowlers off their length; therefore they might inadvertently bowl too short at Cook and end up feeding his cuts and pulls.

What is more, we don’t have to drop a useful cricketer to make room for Vaughan: he would simply fill the available vacancy while helping Alastair rediscover his touch.

Just as importantly, of course, Vaughan would solve England’s leadership issues. It wouldn’t take him long to oust Peter Moores (in theory!) and Cook could return to his natural place: a valued infantryman rather than a general.

Think about it. How much more confident would you be about our Ashes chances next summer if Vaughan was at the helm? The team would immediately seem more dynamic, charismatic and aggressive.

Even better, Downton and Clarke wouldn’t get in the way. He might not hail from Essex, but Vaughan would still look the part and talk like an England cricket captain should do – but without the tedious gobbledygook and management speak.

There’s just one problem: Vaughan wouldn’t exactly do much for our one-day team.

James Morgan

*If you want to read incoherent ramblings on the pros and cons of bowling with a bent arm, I suggest heading over to cricinfo, where the comments section is as unintentionally amusing as ever. One bloke argued it was unfair to penalise bowlers for chucking and suggested batsmen should only be allowed to bend their elbow 25 degrees when cover driving instead. Hmmmm.


  • It’s harder to pick someone from the recent past than from the more distant past I think. For all formats I would have to go for Andrew Flintoff, and given that we would be waving a magic wand a fair bit to achieve that, I’d make him injury-free too. Flintoff without the dodgy achilles – unbeatable.

    But if winning is the idea, you’ve got to go back 80 years. Step forward, Harold Larwood. He wouldn’t need to bowl bodyline, but since there seems a fair degree of consensus that he bowled upwards of 95 mph, it would be unnecessary. How the England hierarchy would accommodate his habit of drinking three or four pints of ale in the lunch break, I’m not sure.

  • I thought this would be difficult… And then I remembered the man who would end my discontent in an instant.
    ME Trescothick.
    Just think: HE could be approaching Gooch’s runs aggregate (or have passed it) and be doing so in a highly entertaining manner without the egotistical need to be captain or the necessity for a cult. The ODI opening slot for the World Cup would be locked down. We may never have been asked to worship scratchy 95s and ugly, tedious daddy hundreds. Instead we may have seen more 219s, 180s or Edgbaston 90s.
    Can’t go on, lest I weep at the sadness and injustice of it all.

  • Great shouts on Trescothick and Vaughan.

    From a captaincy point of view, I’d quite like Hussain back please.

  • Being a Somerset lad I do like the suggestion for Tres and agree that if he didn’t have his problems he would be well up there in the list of England all time run scorers. He was, and still is imo, different class to Ali Cook.

    However I’d have to go back to the early 80s and have Ian Botham as when he was a match winner pure and simple…

  • It was good to read the odd encouraging word about Alistair Cook! I like the idea of both Michael Vaughan and Trescothic without his problems, but I don’t see how those problems could be ignored. That would be a different kind of fairy story.

    It was Ian Botham who first came to my mind. He can win a test match almost by himself. I take your point about Ben Stokes but I don’t think he would be missed if Botham were to be filling the slot. Mind you, a good opener is really what the current team needs. Not to mention a fast bowler. Perhaps we need more than one!


    This chucking has got to stop. It’s cricket we are trying to play.

    That’s all for now. Pleased to hear from you as always James.

  • You’re quite right about Vaughan, but England currently desperately needs someone who can connect with the wider public, put bums on seats and get cricket onto the front pages (in a good way), so it would have to be Flintoff or Botham.

  • I’d have to say D. Gough, fierce competitor great character and accurate aggressive bowler.

    • Has to be gough or gooch. We have very few top class batsmen so it is a bit limited searching there. I d go gough for his character and his ability to break partnerships. If we want a batsman gooch is the man.

  • Gough is a good shout as there are quite a few players from the 90s who in a different era may well have reached the very top.

    My choice would be a 2004-05 Simon Jones. That really is a player that we will always wonder about how good he could have been. Admittedly our bowling is ok now but what attack would not be improved by him in his prime?

  • Great suggestions, especially Trescothick and Gough. I had forgotten how good the latter’s stats were until I looked them up a couple of years ago. Imagine if central contracts had been available when Goughie first came into the team in the mid-nineties instead of not until the end of the century. He would surely have played many more games for his country.

    But I would go further back and resurrect the English Bradman — Wally Hammond. A man who averaged over 60 before the war (slightly ruining his figures by making an ill-advised comeback after it). He wasn’t in Bradman’s class as a sheer accumulator — nobody has ever been, of course, — but by all accounts, he was much more entertaining to watch, a natural, free-flowing stroke-maker at the crease and a graceful athlete in the field. He was also a handy fast-medium bowler, though a bit of a reluctant one, like Jacques Kallis. If all that were not enough, he was also one of the finest slip fielders of his era.

    There would be a downside — he was not well-liked by his colleagues and was said to be aloof. So he might need a captain who could handle him properly — but he could take on that role himself. Truly, an all-rounder.

    • I love the idea of Hammond. I proposed Larwood earlier. Now we are beginning to get the seeds of a good team……

  • Of recent memory Alec Stewart, and he goes nowhere near the wicketkeeping gloves.
    An attacking dynamic opener, not afraid to stick it to anyone. It’s been a while.

  • My first thought was “Wally Hammond” when I read this article. Out of people I’ve actually seen play I would love to have Tresco back, or as a slightly field suggestion: Simon Jones without the injuries (or is ridding him of his injuries as well as turning back time too much magic?)- just to see how his career might have turned out. Potentially could have been better than Jimmy, in my opinion, but we’ll never know.

  • I’d like to think know my youth is not quite the distant, and as the team needs a match winning spin bowler I’m going for Deadly Derek Underwood.


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