The Reverse Sweep

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This week we bask in the glory of England finally winning a major limited overs cricket tournament after 35 years of hurt by speculating over the likely make-up of the side for the 50 over World Cup on the subcontinent next year. We also pay tribute to Michael Hussey, look at the Michael Clarke conundrum facing the Australian selectors and round-up the latest fallout from India’s early exit. Finally, we look at a new name and an old face that could well meet in an England team in the near future.

The Reverse Sweep is an irreverent and acerbic round-up of the week that was in cricket. For similar musings on this wonderful game of ours please visit my blog also entitled The Reverse Sweep, read my twice-weekly column on CricDude, or follow me on Twitter @TheReverseSweep.

World champions England begin to look to the future

As the celebrations of England’s World T20 triumph begin to die down (and trust me we had the hangover from hell in the Reverse Sweep household on Monday morning), thoughts begin to turn to what the future holds for England in limited overs cricket.

One of the reasons that England won the tournament (see our full analysis in our CricDude column) was that the selectors made some brave and audacious picks in Michael Lumb, Craig Kieswetter, Michael Yardy and Ryan Sidebottom. All of their punts came off, but will they employ similar ruthlessness when it comes to the England one day side?

Since the nadir of the 6-1 Nat West series reverse to Australia last autumn, the fortunes of the one day side have greatly improved. First they reached the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy with a new attacking approach that was also visibly on show in the Caribbean. Then they won back to back series in South Africa and Bangladesh. Now with the success of the Twenty 20 side, the selectors have some interesting decisions to make.

The first is the biggest. Do they retain Andrew Strauss as captain of the one day side knowing that aggression at the top of the order will be critical in the World Cup next year in the sub-continent? Anyone who remembers the 1996 World Cup would agree that Lumb is much closer to Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana than the more obdurate Strauss. Whoever wins the battle will partner the hugely impressive Kieswetter at the top of the order.

Once the selectors have solved that interesting conundrum they will be pleased to know that bar injury or serious loss of form, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Eoin Morgan are certainties for the next three spots in the batting order. Presumably Collingwood, now the ginger Bobby Moore or Martin Johnson, would take the captaincy should the selectors make the brave (and correct) decision to leave out Strauss.

Luke Wright did very well in the Caribbean, but the feeling that he is a place too high at number six in Twenty 20, is probably even more the case in 50 over cricket. Assuming that Andrew Flintoff’s time as an international cricketer is over, then this position is up for grabs with Wright, Ravi Bopara and Matt Prior (which would allow Kieswetter to concentrate on just his batting) the main candidates.

Tim Bresnan has surprised many (including us) with the way he has performed with bat and ball in international cricket and seems to have the number seven spot nailed down. Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad are also certainties barring injury, loss of form or in Broad’s case suspension for upsetting one umpire or match referee too many.

That leaves one seam and one spin vacancy, as two spinners will clearly be required on the slow turners of the subcontinent. Michael Yardy was the right horse for the T20 course offered up in the West Indies, but we are not sure whether this is the case for 50 over contests in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. With the selectors likely to require a second spinner that can bat, Monty Panesar will be deemed surplus to requirements, which leaves James Tredwell and Adil Rashid to battle it out. If Rashid can rediscover his mojo with the ball this summer, then we’d go with his leg-spin option.

Ryan Sidebottom’s incredible renaissance in the World T20 showed that the variety he offers could also prove valuable in 50 over cricket. That said we will be very surprised if James Anderson, the erstwhile leader of England’s attack, is not back in the side for the World Cup.

However, before all this, England’s next assignment is a two test series with Bangladesh, which starts next week. Strauss will clearly come back for that and we see a likely England line-up of Strauss, Cook, Bell, Pietersen, Collingwood, Prior, Bresnan, Swann, Broad, Anderson and Finn, with Trott replacing Finn if a safety first policy of six batsmen is adopted. Don’t rule out a surprise return for Steve Harmison either as England look to ready themselves for the Ashes battle next winter.

Michael Hussey – the ultimate limited overs batsman

Australia may have lost the final to England, but they did feature in the match of the tournament. Michael Hussey’s incredible heroics to beat Pakistan will live long in the memory. What a ridiculous luxury it is to have a player of Hussey’s quality and versatility coming in at number seven. He is literally a chameleon in that his batting can adapt to whatever the situation is when he comes to the crease. If you need someone to repair and resurrect an innings, you’d turn to Hussey (see the match against Bangladesh). The same if you want someone to play a support role by rotating the strike to an already set batsman (as Hussey did with Cameron White in the Sri Lanka match). And finally Hussey is a finisher in the class of Michael Bevan – only Hussey can smash sixes at will too. He may have ended the tournament on the losing side, but he did so with the highest strike-rate, a place in our best XI of the competition and recognition that he is arguably the best limited overs batsman in the world.

Australia’s Clarke conundrum

The Australian selectors have an interesting decision to make about Michael Clarke. They have publicly earmarked the man known as Pup as the eventual successor to Ricky Ponting as captain of the test and one day side and had given him the Twenty 20 captaincy in lieu of that. As a captain, he has done well with the defeat to England being Australia’s first under his captaincy (minus a super-over defeat to New Zealand). However, as a batsman, Clarke is clearly not suited to Twenty 20 and does not merit a place in the side; he certainly makes it into our Worst XI of the World T20. So what do the normally ruthless Australian selectors do? It will be an interesting story to watch.

India’s cricketers show some passion at last

The fallout from India’s premature exit from the World T20 continued with a media frenzy surrounding allegations that several Indian players were involved in a bar fracas with disappointed fans. There seems to be some accuracy in the reports, which supposedly happened on the day India were knocked out, as the BCCI has requested explanations from seven of the players involved. Given that the alleged offenders include Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja and Zaheer Khan, who were all woeful in the actual tournament, perhaps it is good to see some belated passion from them. Whatever the outcome, it is clear that with the IPL India’s cricketers are now regarded as prey for the gutter press in the same way as Premier League footballers are in the UK.

…and Sir Viv Richards wades in too

We’re not sure how serious Sir Viv Richards’ offer to help the Indian batsmen learn how to play short-pitched bowling was, but it made us laugh. Richards told Indian news channel Times Now that “I’m available, maybe they (India) will call me sometime to know how to handle such aggression.” In our view, Richards is either taking the mickey or is looking to earn some extra cash, and we doubt the BCCI will take him up on his offer.

A future England cricketer?

It’s been a fantastic to see some county cricket live on Sky with the coverage of the Kent-Durham match. We saw Steve Harmison’s fiery fast bowling somewhat over-shadowed by a remarkable 261 from one of our favourite cricketers Rob Key. In our view, Key should have played more tests for England and has been harshly treated by the selectors. Then in Durham’s reply we saw a brilliant hundred from 18 year old Ben Stokes. Look out for him as he is an England test player of the future.

Is Monty on the comeback road?

It is good to see that Monty Panesar has been called up to the Lions side to face Bangladesh this week. Monty hasn’t featured for England since he famously teamed up with James Anderson to secure an unlikely draw in the first Ashes test at Cardiff last year. He has made a solid start for Sussex since his move from Northamptonshire and has been preferred to Adil Rashid and James Tredwell. This is a good move by the selectors as Rashid’s form (which is partly down to mis-management by the England set-up) has been too patchy. Panesar is also a better bet than Tredwell to fill the second spinners slot should England need a partner for Graeme Swann in Adelaide and Sydney this winter.

That’s all for this week folks.

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