Tuesday, 29 April 2014
Madsen for England?
Let's get the negatives out of the way first. At 30, he's not in the first flush of youth that modern thinking dictates should get national notice, though he has many more years in the first-class game ahead of him, hopefully in Derbyshire colours. Then again, Nick Compton was 29 on Test debut and there are plenty of examples of senior players (Steve Kirby anyone?) who have had Lions recognition in their late 20's and beyond.
Indeed, players know their games by that stage, the greatest flaw in the ECB only paying counties for playing talent up to the age of 26. Madsen has matured considerably over the past couple of summers and though a fine player when he arrived at Derbyshire, is much improved now. It does make you wonder how many other late developers are cast aside prematurely, but that's another argument for another day.
Then there's his nationality. There has been a 'kick back' on playing South Africans in the national side, though for me a player who has made Britain his home and observed all the qualification regulations has as much right to play for the national side as anyone else, if their performances warrant it. Wayne and his delightful wife Kyla have made Britain their home and only the accents betray their country of origin. For me, this shouldn't be an issue, though perhaps the Derbyshire skipper could cultivate an "Ey up lad, you want to coom and toss up" for the opposition skipper, if it made some more comfortable...
Ah, but that won't help either, because Derbyshire players don't get picked for England. I think that's fair comment and one could point to such luminaries in the club's history as Les Jackson, Harold Rhodes and Kim Barnett, all of who should have had greater national recognition. Each had scant reward for their outstanding county records and there was a 'rationale' for them all. Jackson was 'only a county bowler', yet out-bowled almost everyone on the circuit and was the one that most batsmen feared coming up against. Rhodes was 'a thrower', but wasn't, merely a pawn in a bigger game, sacrificed in the authorities' quest to be seen to be doing the right thing, even if they weren't. Barnett was too unorthodox, with his walking stance and leg stump guard, yet scored more runs than most whose every movement came from the MCC coaching manual.
Mike Hendrick, Geoff Miller and Bob Taylor all had decent international careers, but would that have happened but for the Packer revolution that took a few players from the selection equation? I suspect not, which would have been a crying shame for all concerned. Miller may have had the best chance of doing so and his role with the national side in recent years should heighten awareness of what is required.
Not just because of Miller's new role at the club, I think that Derbyshire are now seen in a more favourable light than before. It is testimony to the way that the club is now run and the policies that they have adopted. We are now seen as advocates of best practice on and off the pitch and not as hicks from the sticks, at one time a rest home for the soon-to-be retired. Once the work in the academy brings forth genuine fruit, the transition will be complete.
Which brings us back to Wayne Madsen, a product of our satellite academy in Natal....
Yesterday I made the assertion that he had to be in the ten best England-qualified players on the county circuit. Try this one, as I did and see if you get the same result.
Ignore those on central contracts, already in the England set up, and go through the counties, one by one. Remember, you're picking them for four and five-day cricket and ask yourself this. If you could swap a batsman from those counties for Wayne Madsen without any detriment, how many could you come up with? Remember, we're talking about a man who was first to a thousand championship runs last summer - in division one - and we're not talking prowess at T20, where he usually bats too low to make any major impression. Even there he looks a class act, his hockey background making him one of the few players who can make a reverse sweep look a natural stroke. You are picking players solely to play 'proper' cricket.
I struggled to get to four, with reservations on them all. That's even before you consider his captaincy and an ambassadorial role for the club that few could match. There's a lot of good players out there, but does their recent record match Madsen's, or would you back them to play the sort of innings he did yesterday on a regular basis?
The bottom line should be that form and weight of runs is what counts. Madsen has looked in good touch this summer, following on from a magical 2013, and his appearance at the crease gives a look of solidity to the Derbyshire batting that it hasn't enjoyed for some time. Indeed, it too often appears that he, with Shivnarine Chanderpaul, carries our hopes on his shoulders, something that appears not to have affected his form at all.
A class man and a top-class player, Wayne Madsen. They could do an awful lot worse.