Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Spinning runs at eight

Right, well, I have another blog, but I never really post.

However, angrily reading the paper on the tube this morning got me thinking about this whole Giles-Monty issue. Apparently, Duncan Fletcher values runs at number eight above all else and attributes an Ozzy victory to Warne’s 100+ stand with Clarke. Contrary to over a hundred years of cricket strategy and common sense, Fletch is convinced that runs down the order are the key to winning tests matches. Never mind the fact that we have done without them over these last few series, number eights are the greatest champions in the world.

Warne’s recent form with the bat, South African’s consistent side of all-rounders, Vaas’s efforts early this summer all may have been the cause of the over-weight Zimbabwean’s fixation on this one stratagem. There are other approaches to winning, however, like getting your batsman to bat, for instance, but these crazy ideas have already been poured over by many. Also, the whole Monty for Prime Minister lobby group has now become over-whelming in its numbers – just this morning Cork, Botham, Nasser, Chapple pledged their undying support to the movement.

My concern is for the following: when we talk of runs at eight, we are always assuming that those runs will come from a spinner who bats a bit (a batter who spins a bit?). Why is this? I mean, there are other alternatives to this problem: for instance, we could drop Anderson (or even Harmy) and acquire some ordinary county all-rounder that bowls a bit of line-and-length. But this solution isn’t even being considered: the talk is centred on dropping Giles for Joyce or Dalrymple. I simple do not understand why. The side already has three good quickies, why not pick a proven spinner and chuck in a Mark Ealham-type character to hem-in one end, and chip in with handy runs at eight?

Yet, an English side would never do this. Because runs at eight always must come from a spinner. What got me angry this morning was the reasoning behind this principle: spinners are, on the whole, useless, and to earn your place in the side you have prove another dimension to your game. This assumption stands irrespective of your ability to win matches, it is simply based on the traditional English attitude which doesn’t take spinners seriously. Its quicks that win matches, and the more we have of them the better. For me, this is a rather old-fashioned view, especially in the light of unresponsive modern pitches, you need some one who get something out of nothing and a spinner automatically gets movement by the virtue of his trade.

I have nothing against Gilo (he has twirled his little heart out for the cause) he just doesn’t produce this movement. But, if your objective is just control, then pick a steady medium-pacer, who won’t go for much and can allow a proper spinner to at least try to win the match at the other end.

Anyway, the main source of my anger was the following scenario: assume an England where all the bowlers consisted of Mathew Hoggards. Up and down the land, mop-haired Hoggies plying their trade. There are two exceptions, in the West Country, two spinners have developed: from Bristol, young Muttiah Muralitharan and from Taunton talented Shane Warne. They have topped the county bowling tables for years, they have both destroyed county teams single-handedly, and what’s more, they’re English, too. Now, the question is in the first test, at Headingly, would England pick both of these spinners? Or would they pick three Hoggies and opt for one spinner? I fear the latter.


Blue and Brown said...

True enough. Panesar seems an unacceptable number 11, yet Fletcher's okay with Anderson being there.

Sounds like Stuart Broad might one day be the man who allows a non-batting spinner to play, by earning his place as a bowler AND being able to bat at eight.

We'll probably have to bat to nine by then, though.

niceguyeddie said...

A fine West Country boy, that Murali ;o)

Not sure that it's just an English thing - South Africa treat their spinners similarly I think, and I'd suspect Zimbabwe too. Can you see what I'm getting at?

I think the culture of having a top-class attacking spinner as an integral part of your attack is just, well, missing in countries that haven't had one recently.

Yes, a containing bowler who can bat a bit is a very useful thing, but it doesn't have to be your spinner. Grrrr!

It's a bit before my time, unfortunately, but did the Aussies have any decent attacking spinners in the 80s?

scott c said...

"a Mark Ealham-type character to hem-in one end, and chip in with handy runs at eight"

I might be missing something here, but isn't that what Liam Plunkett is supposed to be able to do? If not, why is he even in the squad? Wouldn't we have been better off taking another attacking fast bowler? *coughjameskirtleycough*