Saturday, 13 September 2014

Weekend warmer

With just eight days of first-class cricket to go, Yorkshire have won the first division, which they thoroughly deserved as a very strong unit, while Worcestershire are promoted but could yet be pipped for the title by Hampshire. Northamptonshire have had a dreadful summer and they, probably with Lancashire, will be back with us in 2015.

I do feel a little sorry for Worcestershire, as there have been a number of comments doing the rounds regarding their success being largely due to a bowler whose action has now been declared illegal, with way more than twice the permitted 'flex' in the elbow. That their season has stuttered since his departure was hardly surprising, so influential was he on early season results, but they still needed to get the runs for him to bowl at, while someone still needed to bowl at the other end.

In recent weeks I have had the pleasure of several chats with former county spin bowling legend Edwin Smith, from which an interview will appear during the winter months. Here is a man who took over 1200 wickets for the county and was close to an England call at a time when every county side had a decent spinner, often two.

He told me that when the Derbyshire batsmen wanted to practice against a ball that was really turning, he would throw them down and they would turn and spit spitefully. You would expect nothing less from a man who got plenty of turn from his orthodox and perfectly legitimate action, but it serves to show what advantage can be obtained from a bend, or flex of the elbow.

There is a degree of unfortunate irony that some players - and I will use Harold Rhodes and Peter Eyre as examples from our own patch - whose actions were unusual but not remotely questionable, had their career prospects harmed, while others have been allowed to take many wickets at international level with little consequence, until now. Irony is one word, but there are many others...

Going back to Yorkshire and I think it a disgrace that their excellent skipper, Andrew Gale, was banned from receiving the trophy and wary of speaking to the press after their triumph yesterday. Gale was suspended from playing for Yorkshire for falling foul of the 'code', a term that sounds Mafioso-like, perhaps by design.

Why should his suspension include off-field activities? I'm sorry, this is the latest in a long line of ridiculous, poorly handled issues by the ECB who should really be more accountable for such fiascos. That Gale had a tete a tete with Ashwell Prince during the recent Roses match is undeniable, but was his 'crime' so heinous that he should be denied participation in the moment that he had worked for all summer?

Of course it wasn't. It shows that Derbyshire aren't always the victims in such circumstances, but Gale, a good man and a cricketer I respect, didn't deserve such shoddy treatment.

Speaking of which, someone else who deserves better is Alex Hughes. I have seen a few comments regarding his role in the side and one, on another site, suggested he 'wasn't good enough if we really want to go places'.

Seriously? We have here a lad who is just completing his FIRST full season as a professional, with all the physical and psychological demands that this entails. He's averaged around thirty, has added as fair bit of speed to his bowling and was our second most economical bowler in the Royal London One-Day Cup. He fields brilliantly too and is not close to the finished article - at 22 why would you expect him to be - yet people still have a go.

It's neither fair nor remotely clever. He will be better known next year and there are hundreds of examples of players who 'dip' a little in their second summer, but I think he will be a bigger threat with the ball in 2015, as well as tighter in technique in the early part of his innings. Give him and other young players a break though, for there's a long and winding road between promising tyro and county stalwart.

Take Darren Stevens, an excellent and perhaps similar player recently linked with a move to us (which I don't see happening, for the record). In his first summer he scored 562 runs at 28 and in his second 457 runs at 20. He didn't take more than one first-class wicket in a season until his EIGHTH summer as a professional!

Likewise Paul Collingwood. 464 runs at 23 in his first summer, 316 at 26 in his second, while taking a combined nine wickets over the two summers. He didn't turn out too badly, did he?

Cut young lads some slack. It's not easy, as the cases of Richard Johnson and Peter Burgoyne highlighted this summer. Some will succeed, others will fall by the wayside, but it's not for the lack of trying.Think back to what you could, or more appositely couldn't do at that age for a comparator and think about that before you put things into print.

Slater, Hosein, Hughes, Cotton, Taylor, Cork, Knight. All young lads, finding their way in the game.

The onus on all of us, as supporters, is to do what the name suggests.

Support them.


playing mantis said...

re worcs, the simple fact is had ajmal not played they would be near the bottom/mid of the table. he won them many games and his influence isn't just in his own wickets, he creates wickets for his teammates as they look to attack the other end as they cant score off him. there is no question his action hasn't suddenly changed so he's been breaking the rules all season. its not worcs fault, but its should not be glossed over as it has been by the likes of cricinfo, as without ajmal, worcs would not be going up. they will come straight back down too.

broad tweeted he was chucking after they beat essex at new road. a pro would not make such public comments about a fellow pro were it not patently obvious. the blame lies on the ecb and umpires who were simply too scared and didnt want the furore, and usual claims of racism, that follow, of doing the correct thing and calling him.

Peakfan said...

Like the name, Playing Mantis and I cannot argue with the sentiments...

Marc said...

I think you know my opinion of the ECB well enough by now. A bigger collection of numbskulls would be impossible to fine. Obviously they view Gale as another Luis Suarez. Just imagine what will happen if they bring red and yellow cards into cricket. They would be better concentrating on how to re-invent this mess of a domestic cricket schedule for a start. Then again,would anyone seriously trust them to do it?.

As for Worcestershire,there is little doubt that without Ajmal they would not be heading for the top flight. How he,s made it to 36
with an action that has not changed in years is open to debate. If anyone has a spare tenner,a good investment would be to place it on Worcestershire finishing bottom of the pile next season.

I,m not going round the houses again with Alex Hughes,only to repeat he needs to kick on next year. There is no reason he can,t do that but I do believe there will be greater demands placed upon him and it,s up to him to respond. All those mentioned at the end have much potential and all could easily make the grade,but for one or two,next season will be important in terms of the level of progress they show.

knack said...

What a little battler alex hughes is, an absolutly tremendous character.

Peakfan said...

I think you're stating the obvious with all the players there Marc, not just Hughes.

Hughes will kick on, but I think it grossly unfair to expect him to go from first-year rookie to time-served professional in his second summer.

Cricket, like life, doesn't always work like that. But I agree with Knack - he's a terrific cricketer who I have massive time for.