Following England’s humiliating series whitewash in India, many disenchanted fans have called for a complete overhaul of England’s ODI plans involving the inclusion of more aggressive batsmen and have pointed to the need for more six-hitters to make use of the powerplays. Indeed, an article on Cricinfo today makes that very point while you only have to read people’s comments on Twitter and other message forums to know that it is a widely held view.
However, is this assumption really correct? It is a fact that England actually hit more sixes in the series (14 maximums to India’s 13) than the hosts. It is also true that England’s batsmen are starting to look more and more like musclebound powerlifters with every passing series. Therefore I would argue that less, not more, power is the answer, especially on the suncontinent, to England’s ODI woes.
In fact what they are actually missing is flair; an ingredient that India’s batsmen have in abundance and an essential quality a batsman must have when facing spin in the middle overs. If you stand Kevin Pietersen next to Gautam Gambhir, or Suresh Raina next to Jonny Bairstow, for example you are immediately struck by their difference in body shape. Gambhir and Raina are wiry and relatively slight, whereas Bairstow or Pietersen have forearms that are threatening to tear their shirts apart at the seams, characteristics that are reflected in their batting styles. Whereas Pietersen and Bairstow look to get on the front foot to the spinners and play them straight down the ground, Raina and Gambhir will sit back and use their wrists to manoeuvre the ball and utilise the full 360 degree arc of the playing surface. The muscular aggression displayed by the first two may well work in the world cup in 2015 when it is held on the faster pitches of Australia or New Zealand, but unless their plans change then the seven-match ODI series against India in 2013 is going to be a long one for England fans.
So what can be done? Well I suggest bringing in a couple of players that pride themselves on accumulation rather than power for the next time England tour Asia. In a nutshell, what England really need is a player of the type of Neil Fairbrother, Graham Thorpe or Paul Collingwood.
Those that know me will be unsurprised to learn that one of the players whose inclusion I advocate is James Taylor, the other being Owais Shah, whose dropping from the ODI side after an excellent Champions Trophy has always puzzled me.
While Taylor’s inclusion is a matter of when not if, don’t expect to see Shah any time soon as he – like Samit Patel who was belatedly included and has been successful - is not one that appears to fit Andy Flower’s blueprint of a ‘new England’ player.
What do you think? Do I have a point or should England continue along their power-hitting route? Please let me know in the comments below.