Monday, 4 August 2008

Maybe next year?

At the risk of being accused as being a defeatist, I think we can kiss any hopes of success this year goodbye.

The Championship will need us to bad much better than we have done so far to get anywhere, while the Pro 40 will require wins in the rest of our games.

It ain't gonna happen people.

The message boards are awash with disgruntled and long-suffering fans unhappy with yesterday's loss and I fully agree with and sympathise with them all. The manner of the defeat was unacceptable and the capitulation at the end similar to the darkest days.

I just wish that our batsmen could approach a run chase professionally. Chris Rogers is a fine player who others can bat around at this level, but he is not a brilliant one day player, being too one-paced for that. It is why he has never been a regular one day player for Western Australia. If he batted the innings through, we would get close in more games than we do, but our young batting line up lacks enough savvy to come in and push the ball around when he gets out in full flight.

Rikki Clarke has shown signs of brilliance in his last two innings, but his strokeplay carries with it an element of risk which all aggressive players have. Chris Wilkins, Michael Slater, Travis Birt, Shahid Afridi - talented players all, but players who could infuriate with a loose shot when games were there to be won. Verinder Sehwag is another, so is Kevin Pietersen - you wouldn't put money on them scoring runs on a given day, but would hope you were there when they did.

I think we have done a bit of a cricket cha-cha this year. A step forward, one back and a few on the spot. There have been signs of genuine potential from young players but this winter and at the end of the season John Morris has tough decisions to make.

As things stand, I see the following as the certainties for next season and beyond for a first choice team:

4 Rikki Clarke
5 Dan Redfern
6 Greg Smith
7 James Pipe
8 Graham Wagg
9 Jon Clare
10 Charl Langeveldt

I think Steve Stubbings is a top pro, but we need to see if there are better openers on the market than both him and Dan Birch. Chris Rogers has done fairly well, but he's no Lehmann, Hussey or Jones. I'm not convinced we can find someone much better, but if we do, he'll cost a lot of money, possibly that earned by Wavell Hinds. The latter is a top bloke by all accounts, but he's yet to make a hundred and you need your top three to be turning fifties into them on a regular basis. Dom Telo is young enough to come again and John Sadler may turn around a poor start. Paul Borrington may be a longer term bet but I tell you what - I'd like to see us go for HD Ackerman.

Clarke is skipper and will hopefully come again. His recent batting form has given cause for optimism and a year's experience will stand him in good stead. Dan Redfern has to come in as he is a precocious talent. He saved England the game today and nearly won it. Like Kim Barnett nearly 30 years ago, he needs to be given his opportunity and persevered with.

Smith, Wagg and Clare are a talented trio of all rounders who can and will improve, while James Pipe is a very able wicket keeper batsman. Langeveldt is a giant of a bowler who has endeared himself to everyone with his appetite for work and his variety and skill. We must all hope that Tom Lungley comes back fit next season and rediscovers the form of 2007, but we don't yet know if our best spinner bowls left or right arm. Both Nayan Doshi and Jake Needham have bowled good spells but have yet to cement a place.

I'll do an end of season appraisal of all the players in due course, but for now I think we need to find three batsmen at the top of the order who can put big runs on the board. Chris Rogers may be one of them, but we need to get two more. Maybe a young player will make a Clare-sized step forward, but the successful filling of those roles will dictate how long we need to wait before this dawn becomes a beautiful morning.

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