Monday, 3 August 2009

In a spin

It is quite unfair that Jake Needham seems to be getting a lot of the blame for the defeat tonight.

While he was outbowled, it is unfair to burden Needham with the blame for defeat. Tredwell is 5 years older, with England A tour experience and has almost seventy games more first class cricket under his belt. That's a lot of learning.

A number of fans suggest we need a top class spinner, but where are they?

Before the Second World War and in the 1950's spin was king. Rhodes, Freeman, Verity, Laker, Lock and many more came into their own on tracks that became spiteful when left uncovered and open to the elements. Even if I go back to the 1960's and 1970's when I started watching the game it was different.

We had Venkat (what could we do with him now?) Essex had Acfield, East and Hobbs, Gloucestershire had John Mortimore, Kent had Derek Underwood. There was Flat Jack Simmons and David Hughes at Lancashire, Birkenshaw and Illingworth at Leicester. Emburey, Edmonds, Bedi, Langford, Pocock, Gifford, Wilson - every county had a decent spinner who came up with the goods on a regular basis.

Fred Swarbrook would be in contention for an England place today, no doubt about it. So would Edwin Smith. Both good bowlers but eclipsed by the many others on the circuit in their time.

Today it is different. There's Kaneria at Essex, Croft at Glamorgan, Tredwell at Kent and Swann at Nottinghamshire. After that it's pretty hard to come up with someone semi decent. Rashid is the big hope but his 160 first class wickets have cost 35 and this year he has just 15 wickets at 40. Big bats, short boundaries and moribund tracks don't help the cause, but it is hard to see light on the horizon.

As I mentioned earlier, there's nothing exciting overseas. There's Harbhajan Singh, the "Turbanator" from India, Mendis and Murali from Sri Lanka, Hauritz from Australia, Vettori from New Zealand, Afridi from Pakistan and Botha and Van der Merwe from South Africa. Yet few of these would fancy the slog of the County game, nor be allowed to play. The two South Africans are good, tight one day bowlers, but don't strike me as bowlers who could run through the opposition in favourable condtions. Vettori needs another county stint like a hole in the head, while the Sri Lankan workload rules out their two fine bowlers.

For me, IF we were to go for a spin bowler, there is only one candidate. I never thought I would say it, but the man to go for would be Shahid Afridi. I was disappointed in his stint with us a few years ago, but he was a young bowler then. learning his trade. At 29 he is the finished article now. 257 first class wickets at 27, a similar number in one day internationals and over 350 in one day matches around the globe. We all know he is an explosive batsman, with over 100 fifties and 18 centuries, but for me, his batting would be a bonus.

He could open in the Twenty/20, tie people down with his potent mix of leggies and googlies, and bowl them out on dryer tracks as the season progressed. Of course, he would command a hefty fee, but perhaps the County could work a similar deal to that which took Rahul Dravid to Scotland a few years back. Perhaps a local businessman, or consortium could be persuaded to sponsor some of his salary in exchange for a little PR work when appropriate? Afridi is a cricketing deity in Pakistan and local followers would love the chance to see him in action.

Importantly, Pakistan have little international cricket between April and September next year. Indeed, they and Australia have the least commitment, so it could work on various levels.

There are any number of good international cricketers who could do a sound job for Derbyshire next season and I have every confidence that John Morris will source someone to do the business. If it is decided that a spinner is the way that we should go, you know who would get my vote.

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