First of all, apologies for my absence over the last few days. I found myself trapped in a bizarre world in which frustrated actors walking around in animal costumes are idolised. That’s one way of looking at Eurodisney anyway.
On my return yesterday the breaking news in English cricket – a world in which frustrating administrators walk around in suits but are idolised only by themselves – is that good old Jonathan Trott is apparently returning to international cricket with the Lions.
This development took me by complete surprise. Firstly, I never expected Trott to appear in England colours again. Even if he can trust himself to get through a long international tour, I wasn’t convinced the selectors would.
Secondly, Trott will be 34 by the time next year’s Ashes arrives. According to many of the ECB’s supporters, batsmen are over the hill at that age – particularly if they come with mental baggage.
However, such is fragility of England’s top order – particularly when it comes to strength in depth – that Trott’s unexpected return to the fold is good news. Of course, he’s got a long way to go before playing test cricket again, but it doesn’t seem so inconceivable now.
If Trott can emerge from the Lions tour to South Africa intact, score a few runs, and impress the watching eyes – which will presumably be monitoring where he sits at breakfast, who he shouts at from long leg, and most importantly, what he says about the alleged bullying culture alleged by a former teammate – then Trott might yet play against the Aussies next year.
I know what some of you are thinking: there’s no room in the new England team for Trott. Our new number three, Gary Ballance, was exceptional in the summer, Bell is entrenched at four, and Root pulled up trees at five. Then there’s the Beard to Be Revered at six. Trott would therefore be a reserve batsman at best.
However, I disagree. I actually think there’s one spot in the England team where a rejuvenated Trott could prove rather useful: opening the innings.
As our former number three, Trott is used to facing a new ball. After the summer of 2011, when England briefly became world number one, he often had to walk to the wicket early. Andrew Strauss lost form alarmingly in the last year of his career and then Alastair Cook’s batting fell off a cliff.
There is also a well publicised vacancy alongside the skipper. Sam Robson is unlikely to play in the Windies next year and although Adam Lyth has been mooted as a possible replacement, nobody knows whether England’s management actually rate the bloke, or whether his face will fit in the dressing room. Trott on the other hand is a known quantity with a good track record.
The problem for Trott is that opening the batting against his tormentor, Mitchell Johnson, isn’t going to be easy. Were his problems against Johnson mental (a symptom of his anxiety related issues) or technical? Trott’s record against top class pace bowling isn’t brilliant.
At least if he opens, Trott will walk to the crease with a friend, rather than stewing on the balcony before he bats. What’s more, Cook and Trott have forged a number of useful partnerships over the years. Maybe they can help each other?
It’s also possible that the new atmosphere in the England dressing room will help Trott. One of the alleged bullies, Graeme Swann, is no longer around. What’s more, Trott might benefit from Peter Moores’ more relaxed approach. I don’t doubt Moores is still something of a woodpecker, but he’s surely more relaxed and cuddly than the iron fisted Flower.
Talking of England’s former head coach, it still seems utterly bizarre to me that he’ll be leading the Lions to South Africa. When Trott walks into that dressing room it will feel like the good / bad old days to him.
One hopes, of course, that Trott has been recalled for proper cricketing reasons. In the light of recent bullying allegations, cynics might suggest Trott’s inclusion in the Lions squad is simply an attempt by Flower and the ECB to keep old friends close and potential PR threats even closer.
However, I severely doubt anyone would be this cruel. To dangle the carrot of an international recall in front of someone recovering from a mental illness would be beyond the pale if it were not entirely genuine, right?