We’ve always had a theory that Surrey England players are, in general, worse than those provided by other counties. The thinking is that you don’t have to do quite as much to get noticed if you play for Surrey.
Surrey is a big club and the ground seems to be a regular haunt of many cricket journos. If you play well, there’s usually someone there to see it. Equally, if you’re the one going down to report on a game, there’ll always be someone to write about.
It’s basically the flipside of that timeless philosophical question: ‘If a wicket falls at the County Ground in Derby and there’s no-one there to live blog it, does it really count?’
So that’s our preamble to Zafar Ansari’s England Test selection and our entirely reflexive, not-at-all-based-in-fact sense that he maybe isn’t ‘all that’.
That’s a tough and entirely unfair thing to say about a young player. As with most 23-year-olds, there’s more to come than’s been with Ansari. It’s just that in previous years we’ve read reams and reams about how great and fantastic and exciting the likes of Jade Dernbach and Stuart Meaker were and then when it actually came down to it, they weren’t particularly good. They often became newsworthy simply because someone had spent the day in front of a laptop at The Oval and didn’t feel they could file a blank page.
So column inches are not directly proportional to quality, which is why we reserve the right to be cautious now that Ansari is getting more and more of them.
Our views on the second division of the County Championship are fairly straightforward. This season, playing at that level, Ansari has averaged 36 with the bat and 31 with the ball. That’s okay, but it only makes him six runs better than fellow Surrey spinner Gareth Batty for the former and six runs worse for the latter.
But maybe this already pointless umming and ahhing is redundant anyway. We’ve just noticed that Ansari’s gone to hospital with some sort of thumb knack. “Fingers crossed for him,” said Alec Stewart – which seems an unnecessarily cruel turn of phrase to use in reference to someone who’s just bust a digit.
We hope he’s okay and we hope he turns into an excellent cricketer. Cynicism and hope cohabit within us like Patrick Stewart and Brian Blessed in the gay domestic sitcom a friend of ours once envisioned.