England’s next batsmen

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2 minute read

The most interesting thing about all this tiresome bollocks with Kevin Pietersen is that we get a little peek into England’s future. James Taylor made a solid and unspectacular start to his Test career in the first Test and now Jonny Bairstow will return to play a few eye-level cricket shots. The future doesn’t seem all that shiny at first glance, but let’s take another look after five days of cricket before we firmly commit to pessimism.

But is the selection policy right when it comes to batsmen? To our eyes, new England batsmen of recent years can generally be lumped into one of three categories.

Competent old boys

Slightly older cricketers who take to Test cricket fairly quickly, often having played a fair few one-day internationals already. Examples include Jonathan Trott (Test debut aged 28) and Andrew Strauss (Test debut aged 27).


Young cricketers who take to Test cricket pretty much instantly. Examples include Alastair Cook and, er, that’s about it, actually. Probably shouldn’t have made that heading a plural.


Bit harsh, but we like the word. Most new England batsmen fall into this category. These are batsmen who are promising but wobbly and are in and out of the side until they’re older and more consistent. Examples include Ian Bell (Test debut at 22), Ravi Bopara (22), Eoin Morgan (23) and Jonny Bairstow (22).

There’s a case for saying that the competent older boys are just older blunderkinds, in which case surely the most logical selection policy would be to focus on established batsmen like Mike Carberry and Nick Compton. That’s a simplification though and adopting that policy would have meant wasting a lot of years of Alastair Cook.

We’re finding it hard to feel optimistic about England’s next batch of batsmen right now, but how much is the oft-cited strength in depth of England’s bowling down to the fact that so many seam bowlers have had chances to play Test cricket? Maybe Bairstow and Taylor are about to usher in a brave new world where England’s batting is the envy of the world?

It seems doubtful. Batting is different to bowling. There’s more catastrophic potential. Bowl a leg-side full toss and at least you get to turn at the end of your mark and have another go. Miss a straight one and that’s that.

Don’t miss any straight ones, lads.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. Please, I don’t mean to be picky but exactly how many One Day Internationals had Strauss and Trott played before their Test debuts?

    1. Strauss, six. Trott, just a couple of Twenty20 internationals.

      Although we didn’t name him, we were thinking of Collingwood when we said ‘a fair few’. The main point is that these guys took to Test cricket quickly. The lack of one-dayers supports what we’re saying.

  2. As a side-note – FAO ‘The Media’: I don’t give a sodding flip about Kevin Pietersen – not sure if I am really representative of the average ‘news’-consumer though.

    1. As a representative of ‘the media’, I can honestly say that we don’t give a sodding flip what you think.

    2. I’ve been getting that impression over the last couple of decades. Still, good to have confirmation.

  3. KP will be back, so that’s not the issue (for now). England has had the ideal opportunity for creating a master race of dominant test batsmen – that being a solid-to-dominant top five, an innings-rescuing wicket keeper, and a bowling attack that has every chance of defending 250. If they’d asked me to have a go at #6, I wouldn’t feel I was going to single-handedly lose the match for them.

    The risk is that this structure falls apart before it is actually of use. A new #6 becomes a competent #6 becomes a full-blooded replacement for the next retiree from #s 1-5, and the cycle can begin again. But this hasn’t happened, and now the new #6 comes in with the responsibility to save a series.

    For all the compliments given to the selection committee, the failure to find the right #6 in the last few years will come back to haunt them. And if it doesn’t come back to haunt them, I will, by rattling chains in the dead of night and moving ornaments around.

  4. Don’t think you can sensibly categorise in this way, really.

    They are all individuals.

    CHORUS: “Yes, we are all individuals”…

    Eoin Morgan had played heaps of ODIs but is still young and is stepping up to a more glare-filled level with England and with tests.

    Taylor, Bairstow et.al. are coming through a much improved and more professional youth/Liosn system than we had in the past.

    Let’s see what happens and then retrofit our opinions with the benefit of hindsight. Much safer.

    1. The thrust of this piece is, primarily, ‘let’s see what happens’.

      However, there does seem to be an emphasis on youth and we haven’t seen too much evidence that’s the way to go (yet). Maybe the Lions system is better, but does it accelerate development such that a few years’ cricket and life experience aren’t still greatly advantageous?

      As we say, let’s see – but we have reservations.

    2. You have Lions reservations?

      I think Kenya have those too. Their cricket team isn’t too good. Not sure we should be copying them?

    1. If Shankar is a “gate” then surely the KP texts and parody tweets are a “gate”.

      As an aside, Daisy believes that “KP text-a-twit-gate” needs a conspiracy theory. While recognising the illogicality of a conspiracy theory for the affair, she points out that the alternative “realities” are even less plausible than conspiracy.

      I think Daisy is simply unaccustomed to people with KP’s propensity towards random and self-destructive behaviour.

      Be that as it may, we really do need to decide whether imbroglios around cranky cricketers in England are “gates” or not.

      KP, we need a ruling from you. The responsibilities of majesty and all that.

    2. I meant that we need a ruling from KC, of course.

      KP is not, IMHO, a leader. And certainly is not OUR leader.

      KC, it’s all down to you.

      Please be wise, please be resolute, please be kind.

    3. The problem is that it’s so hard to sum things up in a single word.

      You can’t have KP-gate, because there’s so many KP related things that could be. Twitter-gate is too vague, as is Text-gate.

      KP-Genius-gate? That’s too specific. There’s other, unrelated elements to this.

      It might just be too sprawling and complex for a -gate.

    4. One of The Sun’s headline writer’s finest moments was referring to the Monika Lewinski affair as “Fornigate”.
      One should never overlook the value of a pun in a time of crisis.

    1. I thought I heard a quiet, plaintive whisper of Anthony McGrath. My hearing is, however, notoriously unreliable.

      If only Ramprakash hadn’t just retired. He must be kicking himself. Is Trescothick fit again yet?

  5. I had an epiphany this morning.

    The answer is staring us in the face. Going by the title of your post, I’d suggest England’s Next Top Batsman, but perhaps How Do You Solve a Problem Like Kevin?

    Phil Tufnell, Michael Vaughan and Ian Botham have toured Australia and the West Indies, but now they take on their toughest challenge yet; finding an answer’s to England’s #6 (or #4) problem.

    This winter, they will train a series of underprivileged young offenders, many of whom have never even seen a cricket bat. They’ll put them through a series of challenges, with the ultimate prize being a guaranteed slot in the first T20 against New Zealand next summer.

  6. Last night I texted my lady friend saying ‘KP on Radio 2 now.”

    I was referring to the folk singer Karine Polwart, who we had enjoyed at a festival just a few weeks ago and was giving an interview and live performance on the Mike Harding show.

    My lady friend thought I was referring to the other KP – Kevin Pietersen – and when she turned on the wireless to find music rather than the South African prince of preening, she promptly switched off.

    1. The 65 not out and 162 not out against Bangladesh weren’t viewed with too much seriousness by the end of that summer. It was far from plain sailing in his early days.

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