Why The Selectors Must Show Faith In James Vince

Today Mark Cohen returns with a somewhat controversial argument. Whereas most people want to see the back of James Vince, Mark sees something special and thinks greater investment will eventually pay dividends. Over to you, Mark …

James Vince’s last innings of England’s winter tour once again advertised him at his frustratingly best and worst: an elegant 76 in England’s ultimately futile attempt to rescue a series draw against New Zealand in Christchurch. His knock bore the hallmarks of what is becoming known as a typical Vince innings: stylishly compiled runs that are cut familiarly short by soft and repetitive dismissals.

As is so often the case with England’s incumbent number 3, the nick to Ross Taylor at slip was probably a lapse in concentration. His time at the crease is often punctuated by shots that are crisply executed in textbook fashion – the flowing cover drive being the pick of these – but the regularity and frequency of mental lapses might have prematurely signalled the end of his second stint in test cricket.

However, I believe the selectors should and will persist with Vince for the coming summer tests against Pakistan and latterly India. He may be still awaiting a maiden test century – and the sooner this comes the better – but England cannot risk squandering such talent without giving it every chance to shine. We’ve seen it happen before …

Mike Gatting took 56 innings to reach his maiden test hundred. He ended up having a productive England career thereafter. An even better example is Steve Waugh, who scored his first test hundred in his 42nd innings. The Aussie great went on to make another 31 hundreds after that.

Vince’s current predicament also draws some comparisons with his England batting coach. Mark Ramprakash was widely regarded as an infuriating talent, whose technical ability was never quite matched by a similar level of mental strength at test level. Yet “Ramps”, despite his failures out in the middle, could argue that he was never shown the loyalty off the pitch that he needed to succeed. His raw talent deserved better.

This summer is the summer for the new chairman of selectors to show loyalty. We have to remember Vince has not yet played a test match on home shores since his recall, having only been selected for the disappointing Ashes tour and two match series in New Zealand. He needs another chance in English conditions.

His sustained chance should come in an England side that is rebuilding. Messrs Strauss, Bayliss and Root may not admit likewise but two series losses against Australia and New Zealand can hardly be seen as the results of a side at the top end of world cricket.

Dropping Vince would add further uncertainty to a top five that is already in enough turmoil. Neither Mark Stoneman nor Dawid Malan can claim to have their places in the side fortified with anything more than safety pins. The murmurings surrounding Alistair Cook’s place at the top of the order have only become louder after he spectacularly failed his latest assignment to see off the swinging opening salvos of Trent Boult and Tim Southee.

Against this backdrop, Vince must be given the support his moderate (albeit obviously not earth shattering) performances have deserved. It is the support Ramprakash sadly never got.

We tend to forget that support for an embattled player also has to come in many forms, not just blind re-selection regardless of performance out in the middle.

Firstly, the time has come for Joe Root to make the permanent step up to number 3. Whilst not in great form himself, he is the only top five hand who is assured of his place in the side. He must let Vince drop down to number 4 and give the less experienced player a chance to survive and thrive – both in the midst of any given innings and at test level on wider scale.

Secondly, senior players and coaching staff should recognise the prodigious talent in their midst and seek to nurture it. Whether this is through psychological or technical support is a matter for Vince, Bayliss and his colleagues to decide. What can be said with certainty is that this outrageously talented batsman should be given every possible chance to succeed at test level.

There will continue to be growing pains but how often have we heard the expression that nothing worth having in life comes easy? One feels that James Vince is one score away from a springboard to great things in the test arena. Let’s hope he is given the chance to climb the ladder and reach that springboard this summer.

Mark Cohen


2018-04-25T16:47:37+00:00April 25th, 2018|Player Spotlight|26 Comments


  1. Hungerpang April 25, 2018 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    Sorry I don’t buy it, or that Ramprakash wasn’t shown loyalty. I wonder if there are any other specialist batsmen who played 52 Tests and scored just 2 hundreds!

    • James Morgan April 25, 2018 at 4:31 pm - Reply

      I think the point about Ramprakash (and Hick) is that they might have flourished in the current era where there are central contracts and more emphasis on player psychology and man management. This might have given them the security and confidence they needed.

      • JackieL April 25, 2018 at 4:55 pm - Reply

        I don’t buy it either. Ramps didn’t succeed at Test Level despite been given 52 Tests! He was a wonderful player in County cricket but he couldn’t make the step up to the international arena. It takes a special player to play Test cricket. It’s not talent alone although that is the first requirement.

  2. Mike April 25, 2018 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    Root is our only decent batsman, any suggestion he should move from his preferred position is a bad one in my book.

    I could live with giving vince at go at number 5 before discarding.

  3. Kropotkin April 25, 2018 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Glad to see someone sticking up for Vince like this for once. I, too, can’t shake the feeling that he may well go on to great things if he can just get this monkey off his back.

  4. muffin April 25, 2018 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    Statistics often disprove memory. For instance, my abiding memory of David Gower (quite a successful player, apparently) is of him standing open-shouldered and flat-footed and slicing the ball to be caught at gully. I do tend to remember Vince’s elegant cover drives rather more than his nicks to slip….
    In the absence of anyone banging on the door to take his place, I would continue with him for at least a couple of matches.

  5. JackieL April 25, 2018 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    For a Test player averaging 24 the accolade is strange. Also Vince is 27 so hardly a young player making his debut. I cannot see a huge talent although he has a stylish cover drive. But does he have the array of strokes? If bowlers dry up his cover drive then he may get frustrated. I think it shows the paucity of really talented young batsmen that Vince was even recalled. Test cricket needs outstanding players but where are they? Doesn’t he have to impress for Hampshire? In the early season it can be a bit hit and miss but he didn’t do that well last year. There’s a lot of special pleading from Mark Cohen. How does “raw talent deserve better”? Whether it applies to Ramps or Vince. If you can’t make “raw talent`’ work at Test level then you don’t deserve to be there.

  6. Andy Cheese April 25, 2018 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    Remember you don’t drop team members – you replace them with somebody else who is thought to be better. Who is the better replacement for Vince?

  7. john April 25, 2018 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    ‘He must let Vince drop down to number 4 and give the less experienced player a chance to survive and thrive – both in the midst of any given innings and at test level on wider scale’

    forgetting that JV has had 8 innings at 4 (Ave 19.75) and 3 at 5 (ave 18) so his modest average of 30 at 3 is stellar by comparison

  8. SimonH April 25, 2018 at 5:49 pm - Reply

    Steve Waugh was a near all-rounder in that early part of his career. Before he scored that first century he was averaging under 40 with the ball and took two 5WIs. He had also been a crucial cog in a World Cup winning team. There really isn’t much comparison.

    A better Australian comparison might be Bobby Simpson although even he offered something with the ball plus being one of the greatest slips who ever lived.

  9. Doug M April 25, 2018 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    I agree that if he stays he should bat at 5 but that’s only because no one else yet is knocking at the door. He was hardly impressive at the Oval last weekend on a good pitch where he batted at 4. He’s never a Test number 3, and I don’t think, like others he has the mentality for Test cricket. He’s not in the same room as Waugh and at County level a mile away from Ramps, who was probably the most technically correct batsman of more recent times.

  10. Paul April 25, 2018 at 9:33 pm - Reply

    James Vince is not this generations Mark Ramprakash or Graeme Hick. Those two were phenomenal talents who destroyed domestic attacks. James Vince isn’t.

  11. Marc Evans April 25, 2018 at 11:37 pm - Reply

    If you’re going to stick with Cook, better he drops to 3, a position more suited to a new ball specialist like him than Vince, who to me is a 4 or 5. Vince reminds me of Frank Hayes, who should ever have batted at 3 and despite making a good hundred on his debut never lived up to it, playing too many loose shots. I like Malan, who is capable of attacking and defensive innings and certainly showed enough metal in Oz to be given another chance this summer. With Root seemingly entrenched at 4 there would be no room for Vince anyway.
    Getting, Ramps and Hick all had phenomenal county records compared to Vince, so there’s no comparison.
    I cannot see that Vince has learned anything from his failures to capitalise on starts at test level. If he had improved there would be a case for continuing, but like Ballance he carries on playing the same way.

    • Nigel April 26, 2018 at 9:12 pm - Reply

      Though Ballance, unlike Vince, seems quite capable at times of dominating in county cricket.

  12. Andy April 26, 2018 at 6:18 am - Reply

    As a Hampshire supporter for many years I’d love to agree with you Mark and to some extent do. What we have to remember is that both Ramps and Hick were prolific county batsman, plundering runs across the shires before ultimately failing at test level.

    James has a county average of around 35, has frustrated many Hampshire fans over the years when he gives a jaunty 33 from 31 balls when what we needed wass a hard fought 80 in 2 sessions.

    I’d still give him another chance but then I would say that ?

  13. James April 26, 2018 at 7:38 am - Reply

    I think the key point here is that you don’t drop Vince unless you can find a better replacement,

    • Marc Evans April 26, 2018 at 11:20 am - Reply

      Or a potentially better replacement. Rarely does someone push themselves forward as a gimme. I don’t see Vince displaying the potential to succeed, either at test or county level. At 27 his game is probably beyond major surgery, both technically and mentally, rather like Ballance. There are plenty out there as talented, who deserve a chance to see if they can apply themselves and produce the goods under pressure, largely a matter of shot selection, something you can never know till they’re given a chance and Vince has had plenty of those without seeming to improve. Younger players are easier to fine tune and develop along the way before they develop entrenched bad habits.

  14. Pete Cresswell April 26, 2018 at 9:29 am - Reply

    Dear ECB.

    We think James Vince is an amazing talent, and would love to see him in England colours next time we visit.your fair shores

    B. Toult & S. Touthee

  15. SDHoneymonster April 26, 2018 at 11:46 am - Reply


    This is a really good analytical blog that makes a point that I agree with: that there’s a touch of confirmation bias with Vince as he can play a lovely cover drive. A sexy cover drive does not necessarily mean there is a talent worth persevering with in there. I’d certainly keep Vince involved in and around the white ball squads – his T20 record is excellent and he hasn’t really been given a proper chance in that format for England yet, especially considering Roy’s relative underperformance in the 20 over game for the national side (although playing one every few months doesn’t really help there – T20 is still an afterthought in international terms) but in Tests I’d like to move on. The major issue is whether there’s actually anyone around who would do better currently. That blog suggests yes, but I’m not so sure. As for Root moving up to three, if you look at his career stats his average gets steadily worse as he moves up the order – if anything, I’d be moving him back down to five rather than up to three. If data and moneyball style analysis is going to play a greater part in selection moving forward this is the sort of thing that really needs to be looked at.

    • Pete Cresswell April 26, 2018 at 2:11 pm - Reply

      Interesting piece.

      I just checked those predictions vs the actual averages for the 5 batsmen in their list who played in the Ashes (Root, Cook, Malan,Stoneman, Vince). Overall, strike rates were lower than predicted. However, the combined innings predicted average for those 5 was 193.7 – vs 189.5 actual, which is pretty close. Looking at individuals they were bang on for Cook (courtesy of his Daddy ton in Melbourne), Malan did 10 runs per innings better than predicted, Vince did 2 runs better than predicted, Root was 6 runs worse & Stoneman 10.5 runs worse.

  16. Cricket-Now April 26, 2018 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    He’s a good batsman… I believe he’ll get better with time.

    • Pete Cresswell April 27, 2018 at 8:28 am - Reply

      He’s a stylish batsmen. Good batsman don’t average under 40 across 8 seasons of county cricket …

  17. Comte April 26, 2018 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    1) Is Vince the best we have? Let’s park that.
    2) The Ramprakash comparison was a huge turn off. Ramps was mentally feeble for Test cricket and I cannot understand why he is part of the England coaching set-up. Comparisons with Hick are not relevant. Hick’s average was 4 runs higher and he amassed 6 tons.
    So, back to (1), given that Vince is in place, is there anyone out there making a strong case to replace him? I’m not sure that there is, which unfortunately says a lot. However things may change.

  18. Silk April 26, 2018 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    Sorry. No. If he had runs in the CC you’d back him, perhaps, to step up. He doesn’t.

    The Gatting argument is not a strong one. Gatting is statistically the weakest batsman to have scored 4409 or more (only Botham, Boucher, Dev and Vettori average less, and none of them were pure batsmen). Gatting was never particularly good, though arguably he was better than the alternatives.

    I don’t see Vince as obviously better than Browne, Lawrence, Clarke, or Northeast.

  19. Mike Chaffin April 26, 2018 at 8:37 pm - Reply

    Regardless of whether he’s good enough he definitely isn’t a 3.

    Ok so no-one is knocking the door down but I’d still give Livingstone a go as a replacement.

    Ideally drop Vince, move Cook to 3 and bring in another opener.

  20. SimonH April 29, 2018 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    Sad story, although well done to Lancs for offering some support:


    The forgotten Adam Riley is also getting a rare outing for Kent in the tour game.

Leave A Comment