After New Zealand’s dramatic victory off the final ball in the fourth ODI, all the talk has been about the collision between Ryan Sidebottom and Grant Elliot. Mr President isn’t going to heap blame on Paul Collingwood, however, as he seems to be one of the few people who thinks the England captain did nothing wrong. How, for example, was that incident in any way different to when Shaun Pollock collided with Kevin Pietersen?
Well, apart from the fact that there the bowler seemed to willfully change direction in order to obstruct the batsman whereas this was clearly just an accident. A cynic could also call McCullum’s overtly angry reactions on the balcony somewhat hypocritical given his run out of Muralitharan as the latter congratulated Sangakkara on his century.
In fact in that latter case the umpire was wrong to give him out; the laws state clearly that a batsman has to be seeking a run to be given run-out. It should have been called a dead ball. Note, the umpires had a similar choice here, because the laws state that if a player is injured it’s a dead ball. If Elliot wasn’t injured England were entitled to run him out, just as South Africa did to Pietersen. Did Graeme Smith call him back?
Quite frankly the whole thing stinks of hypocrisy, the idea that it’s ok for other sides to play cricket with a “win at all costs” mentality, but England are to be the only team in world cricket that adheres to the “spirit of cricket”. Where was that spirit when current vice-captain McCullum ran out Muralitharan? Or doesn’t that apply to the Kiwis?
To be fair, the right result was reached, as England didn’t deserve to win the game and New Zealand, overall, were the better side, but the media witch-hunt over that “controversial” incident seems to have overshadowed that. All the talk is of “karma” and “justice” being done, when it was nothing of the sort. To compare it to the underarm bowling incident is ridiculous; that was a willful action, this was just an accident.
England’s selection policy needs to be looked at. What did Phil Mustard do so wrong in his few short outings (in fact didn’t he score 80-odd off 70-odd balls in his last match?) to warrant being dropped for Ambrose. The idea of wanting the same wicketkeeper in both forms is simply an excuse. England have different captains in both forms, and besides, there will always be specialists. What next, select Mascarenhas for Tests because he does well in ODI cricket? Tim Ambrose is fine for Tests but not ODIs.
Some have said Luke Wright shouldn’t be opening, and this might be true, but Mr President wonders if he’d do better if he had an aggressive partner. As it currently stands he feels under pressure to score quickly because he’s been put up the order specifically to do that. Partner him with Mustard and perhaps he’ll relax knowing that there are two of them to do that job. Look at how well Ryder and McCullum did.
Bell could drop back into his more comfortable position at three (he’s scored his only one-day hundred there) and Pietersen drop back into his more comfortable position at number four. He doesn’t look comfortable against the new ball (why would he, he’s a middle-order batsman) and when he goes early it really boosts the opposition.
Owais Shah should bat at five, with Collingwood at six. Bopara looks a fine player for the future but in a balanced side there’s really only room for six batsmen, with Flintoff batting at seven, Broad at eight and Swann at nine. That’s a fairly solid tail, which leaves Bopara and Mascarenhas as excellent cover for Shah, Collingwood and Flintoff.
In the T20 format Bopara could even slot in at seven, Flintoff at eight, Mascarenhas at nine, Broad at ten and Swann at eleven. Flintoff and Broad are certainly good enough to open the bowling with their tight and accurate bowling. Mascarenhas, Wright and Collingwood are all capable of bowling four overs and Swann provides spin, so England can bat down to eleven in the 20 over format without weakening their bowling.
Coupled with home advantage, maybe England can win the next World T20?