Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Change in emphasis

A late start for me today as I'm working later this evening, so a chance for a couple of observations on recent news in the cricket world.

First is the news that there will be "further discussion" on the Morgan review, which is only right. Irrespective of what else comes out of it, the Championship must remain a competition where each team plays the others twice, home and away. Whether that means that one division of eight and one of ten ensues is a moot point, but how one would then accommodate eighteen four-day games for the larger section is questionable. I can still see a retention of the status quo and I remain unconvinced that moving back to fifty overs for one day games is a step forward either.

There is a skill set required to play Championship cricket and another one to master the requirements of T20. Forty-over cricket is simply a merging of both, producing a game that supporters can enjoy in an afternoon and evening, while fifty means they have to give up an entire day. I could not be convinced that the art of fifty-over cricket is substantially different to the forty-over version, when effectively all that is missing is the "knock it around and jostle for position" stage. I'd argue that if first-class cricketers can't do that they are perhaps in the wrong career...

Over in Australia, there's been a strong argument for the benefit of experience in the Big Bash, where all the best performers have been veterans. Travis Birt, Herschelle Gibbs and Brad Hodge were the standout batsmen, while the best bowlers have been Stuart McGill, Brad Hogg and Brett Lee. Indeed, so good have been the last two that at 40 and 35 respectively they have been recalled to the national side for T20. A few years back, that sort of move was the preserve of England selectors, yet no one who has watched the domestic competition could dispute their right to selection.

Hogg has quite frankly baffled batsmen with his left arm spin variations and it was amusing to watch youngsters who had come across no such bowler in their brief career trying to work out if it was spinning in or away. Hogg also looks as fit as a butcher's dog and his sheer enthusiasm for the game is an object lesson to all. Lee, by the same token, is far removed from the young tyro who put fear in batsmen's hearts with raw pace, but in many ways is now the complete bowler. He reminds me of the mature Richard Hadlee, bowling with great accuracy and still retaining the ability to bowl the 85-90mph ball if required. He can't do it all the time now, but in a way the element of surprise is an even more potent weapon. I would be surprised if a county didn't move for him for the T20, though whether his recall to national colours could extend to fifty-over games is the big question. If it did, he'd be touring with the Aussie one-day side.

In its way this is all one in the eye for the trend to focus on young players to the detriment of older heads. I am 100% convinced that Derbyshire's blueprint is a way forward, but we need to remember that youngsters need quality players of good experience alongside them making major contributions. Not old heads for the sake of it, but those justifying their roles with consistent performances. The type we get from Wayne Madsen, Wes Durston and Tim Groenewald, not that they're so old, and what we hope for from our T20 specialists when they are announced.

For all the enthusiasm and raw talent of the rest of the squads, Sydney Sixers would not have made the final without Lee and McGill, any more than the Perth Scorchers would without Gibbs and Hogg.

Getting the right mix, that's the all-important thing.

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