The Reverse Sweep – The Week In Cricket

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This week we pick our England XV for the World Cup following the end of the thrilling and controversy filled series with Pakistan. We also ask just how much of an idiot Ijaz Butt is, pay tribute to Andrew Flintoff, bemoan the decision of Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard to reject their West Indies contracts and look at Yuvraj Singh’s annus horribilis.

The Reverse Sweep is an irreverent and acerbic round-up of the week that was in cricket. For similar musings on the sport that God would play, please visit our blog also entitled The Reverse Sweep – selected as one of the 50 best cricket web sites in the world by The Times. Alternatively, you can read our regular column on CricDude, or follow us on Twitter @TheReverseSweep.

Is this how England’s World Cup squad should look?So the Ashes squad was named yesterday and other than Shahzad for Bresnan, we were happy with the selectors choice even if the decision to omit Rashid from the Performance Squad was strange to say the least (see our reaction to the Ashes squad announcement here).

The battle for the little urn isn’t the only major event that the England team will embark upon this winter. There is also the small matter of the World Cup and with the one day series with Pakistan having concluded this week (see our marks out of ten for the England squad here), it seems an opportune time to pick our intrepid XV who will battle to lift a trophy that no England side has won.

Mike Atherton recently chaired a panel of so-called cricket experts comprising Darren Gough, Alec Stewart and Derek Pringle to name their England XV for the World Cup. They surprisingly left out Andrew Strauss, who promptly scored his 126 at Headingley in the hours that followed the transmission of the panel’s choice. Gough also pressed for the inclusion of Andrew Flintoff.

As such we wisely chose to wait until the end of the series (no television deadlines for us). We do concur though with one of the views of the panel, who suggested that England should utilise an extended squad for the seven (oh no, not seven again) one day internationals against Australia that immediately proceed the World Cup.

This will enable England to rest key players and then make the borderline decisions that will be required to arrive at the final XV by picking players in form. As such, we will name 20 players, but highlight at the end the 15 we would choose now so no one can accuse us of sitting on the fence.

Batsmen

With Strauss, Morgan, Pietersen and Collingwood probably assured of their places in the final squad, it will likely come down to two from Bell, Trott and Bopara to join them. Each offers something different. Bell is the most talented batsman of the three and as he showed in the recent CB Final is capable of shifting through the gears to play a match-winning one day innings. Trott averages just under 50 in his 11 ODIs and whilst there is some concern over his strike rate, it is difficult to argue against the volume of runs. But if he doesn’t bat in the pivotal number three role (where KP is arguably a better bet), can Trott fit in anywhere else in the middle order? Bopara would seem the best suited of the three to the number six role as he can repair, embellish and support a one day innings in equal measure depending on what is required. His medium pace could also prove useful on the slower sub-continent wickets.

Wicketkeepers

Davies would seem to be in pole position to open the batting with Strauss and wear the gloves in the tournament following a good showing against Pakistan. That leaves Kieswetter and Prior to battle it out for the second wicketkeeper slot if indeed England decide to pick another keeper in the final XV (it could come down to a choice between a second keeper and a third spinner). In our view, Prior has had enough chances at one day level without ever really convincing so should be left to concentrate on test cricket where he has shone over the last 18 months. Kieswetter’s ability to hit over the top may actually make him better suited than Davies to the wickets on the sub-continent, but he may complete his hero-to-zero 12 months by failing to make the cut.

Spinners

Two spinners will be needed in the XI in the World Cup, so three may well be required in the squad. Swann and Yardy are clearly in pole position, but the latter doesn’t take many wickets and proved expensive in the series against Pakistan. In our view, Samit Patel is a better batsman and bowler than Yardy and in our opinion should be selected irrespective of his supposed girth. The other option is Rashid, but unless the selectors have decided to keep him as a secret weapon then his omission from the Performance Squad tells us everything we need to know.

Bowling all-rounders

Despite rarely taking wickets with the new ball and being regularly carted around for runs, the selectors seem set on retaining Bresnan in the XI. Wholehearted trier? Yes. Useful runs down the order? Yes, sometimes. Bowls the occasional good spell with the old ball. Occasionally. But surely England need a more potent option to open the bowling? The other permanent feature in England ODI squads is Luke Wright. We wouldn’t take him in our XV, but hell why not give him the chance to prove us wrong in Australia.

Seamers

We actually agree with the selectors decision not to blood Steve Finn in ODI cricket and he should be left to concentrate on tests for the time being. Anderson and Broad pick themselves and to that illustrious duo we would add the names of Shahzad and Tremlett.

So, the Reverse Sweep longlist of XX for the one day series with Australia is (with our current choice for the World Cup XV in bold): Strauss, Trott, Bell, Pietersen, Collingwood, Morgan, Bopara, Davies, Kieswetter, Prior, Swann, Yardy, Patel, Rashid, Bresnan, Wright, Broad, Anderson, Shahzad, Tremlett.

Chairman Butthead
It’s fair to say that this column is not exactly a fan of PCB Chairman Ijaz Butt, but the worst cricket administrator in the history of the game sunk to a new low even for him with his ridiculous and unfounded allegations against the England team last week. Butt’s suggestion that the spot fixing allegations are a “conspiracy against Pakistan and Pakistan Cricket” by “august cricket bodies” would be hilarious if they weren’t so potentially damaging to world cricket. The sooner that this bungling fool is removed from his post the better for cricket in general and especially cricket in Pakistan. That said, Butt’s buffoonery does provide the opportunity for some satire and we didn’t miss out on that opportunity. Check out ‘The Ten Commandments of Ijaz Butt’ and Zeroes: Ijaz Butt by clicking on the links.
Au revoir Freddie
Last week’s column came out just before Andrew Flintoff finally accepted the inevitable and announced his retirement from cricket due to a catalogue of injuries finally taking their toll on his body. There was a lot of subsequent debate from cricket commentators as to whether Freddie should be considered “great” or “good”. His overall statistics would suggest that Freddie fell into the “good” category, but from 2003-06 at least he was England’s talisman invariably rising to the occasion with bat or ball when the situation demanded. And in the 2005 Ashes, he delivered a performance worthy of Ian Botham’s heroics in 1981. We’ll miss Flintoff for his explosive batting, brutal 90 mph bowling and the colour and character he gave to the game. Read our full tribute to Freddie here.
The rise of the cricketing mercenary
Flintoff of course turned down an England contract last year so that he would be free to play in the Twenty 20 leagues permeating around the globe. Given the money on offer this was perhaps an understandable move by someone entering the twilight of their career. But the decision this week of Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard to both decline the offer of a contract from the West Indies Cricket Board is a worrying one. It means that if given the choice of playing for the West Indies or say the Baghdad Pirates in some trivial domestic T20 cricket league, the two will be free to opt for the latter. This effectively makes them cricketing mercenaries and means that they can tout their wares to the highest bidder – a bit like a prostitute we suppose. The consequences for the poorer cricket boards like New Zealand, Bangladesh, West Indies and Pakistan could be devastating if this trend continues.
Yuvraj’s Annus Horribilis gets even worse

It’s been an awful year for Yuvraj Singh. Injuries, poor form, a fallout with the Kings Punjab XI hierarchy and now his omission from the Indian test squad to take on Australia in the forthcoming series. In some ways Yuvraj has only himself to blame as he has never fully justified his talent in the five day game with an average only in the mid-30s. Although he will probably be an integral member of India’s World Cup squad, Yuvi may find it a long road back to the test side given the initial success of Suresh Raina in the recent Sri Lanka series and the call-up of the immensely talented youngster Cheteshwar Pujara who has a first-class average of over 60.
Quote of the week

David Lloyd can always be relied on for a good quote and he doesn’t disappoint this week, sharing our sentiments about the Champions League currently being played out in South Africa. The consensus that this is one tournament too many is one that Bumble obviously agrees with judging by a Tweet he made last week:
“Bit baffled… Cricket on TV… teams made up of Saffas, Indians and WIs… what is it… what are they playing in?”
Nice one Bumble. That’s all for this week, folks.

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Comments

  1. Allan R says

    On freddie,
    He was in the good catagory. Unless Australia was touring england for the shes, We seemed to bring out his full potential with bad and ball, The best spells I’ve ever seen him bowl were all to us and all match and series winning performances. So maybe a new catagory is in order, good players who rise to the big apponents. In that case you’d have to slot most of the NZ team in there too, on papaer they have no right to be close but on the field I alwasy rate them a chance against us, and have been proven right to do so more often then not recently.

  2. David Siddall says

    I think overall he was in the good category. Had injury not prevented him continuing the 2005-6 period then we might very well be talking about him as an all time great. But he was great for the game, that’s for sure.

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