England’s worst-ever run of Test debutants?

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Liam Dawson (via Channel 5)

“Not so much a lack of good players, as a lack of opportunity for many good players to gain the experience needed to become very good.”

Slippery and awkward as it is, we can see this becoming a new catchphrase of ours. It’s about recent efforts to select viable England Test cricketers and is an attempt to sum up a situation where half the most promising players no longer get any real opportunity to build on that promise and effectively fall out of consideration.

Why does this happen? Because the players in question are already far too busy playing or preparing for international cricket.

This is the area in which we found ourself when we tried to write about England’s jaw-droppingly bad run of Test debutants for Wisden.

There’s a fun game hidden in the middle of the article where we challenge people to find an even less productive spell of debuts in the Nineties before concluding that this isn’t actually possible.


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. The list between Allan Lamb and Robin Smith in the 80s doesn’t have a lot of successes. 35 players, no 50 caps. And amusingly, includes James Whitaker.

  2. And all those slackers before Jack Hobbs. Only Wi lf Rhodes got to 50 caps.

    Not a lot between Patsy Hendren (181) and Herbert Sutcliffe (215).

  3. I would categorise as follows:

    Shows promise/persevere with: Stoneman, Crane, Malan

    Started off well, tailed off/got found out: Ballance, Robson, Lyth, Jennings, Jordan

    Out of form/favour but should see more of, maybe in a different role/as conditions dictate: Buttler, Hales, Moeen, Rashid

    Injury curtailed promising starts, should see more of: Overton, Wood, Hameed, TRJ, Curran

    Absolute dogshit, should never be allowed near an England squad again: Ball, Westley, Dawson, Duckett, Vince, Ansari (ret)

  4. What about this Livingstone bloke, then?

    Carrying drinks in NZ, or coming in at 5 with Malan up to 3?

    1. Drinks, you’d imagine. Would be weird to reselect Vince only to drop him.

      Look forward to Livingstone’s debut though. He’s fun.

  5. Perversely, the lack of depth in Australian cricket has provided them with a competent team. This much-praised bowling line-up is actually a series of not-much-choicers, who have been given a decent run at it by virtue of that fact alone.

    You could make a case for there being a predictable plot for a new player:

    1. Comes into team with overburdening weight of expectation, does OK.

    2. With reduced expectation, starts to prosper.

    3. Becomes new The One.

    4. Gets found out by oppositions.

    At this stage, they tend to get dropped. But this is actually just the beginning of something which, if allowed to, will blossom into something good.

    5. After having been found out, works out what it is about themselves that has been found out and takes steps to correct that.

    6. Begins the process of finding out how difficult test cricket is.

    7. Becomes resilient to whatever the opposition can throw at them, because they’ve been there and done that.

    8. Retires as one of the greats of the game.

    The archetype of this process is James Anderson, the most eminently droppable bowler in English cricket for seven years, and the best we’ve seen in three decades.

    1. Wise words Bert, a significant number of greats have been dropped and come back better for it, e.g. S. Waugh, Ponting, Root, Clarke. I think that’s one reason why Cook is looking a bit jaded these days despite theoretically having 5+ years left in him. Having never been dropped, he probably doesn’t realise how much he really wants to be there.

    2. Does that mean we can look forward to seven years of Vince looking flash for 10, 20 or 30 runs, then flashing at the wrong one outside off stump?

  6. So, since the debut of the last undoubted success story for the English selectors (Moeen Ali with 49 tests), 19 players have been chosen to represent England. Of these, none has played 20 matches (Buttler comes closest with 18) and they have scored a grand total of 3 centuries and taken 2 5 wicket hauls.

    The best score is 140 (Malan) and the best bowling is 5/57 (Roland-Jones).

    Since Strauss’s retirement 5 and a half years ago, only Joe Root has debuted and played more than 50 tests.

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