Have you seen Zafar Ansari play? Any good?

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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.


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. He bowls spin and he bats defensively. I don’t care if he’s utter cack, I’m for this.

    And he has wavy curls and gorgeous lips. He’s the best-looking debutant we’ve had since Graham Onions.

    1. According to Cricinfo/Wikipedia, he’s currently writing a 40,000-word dissertation on the 1960s American civil rights group, the Deacons for Defense and Justice. That’ll be difficult to do with a busted thumb, and might not get finished before the UAE tour. And where would that leave him?

    1. KC doesn’t do requests, AP.

      You’ve probably decreased the chance of an Ashwell tombstone by asking.

      But he moves in mysterious ways, you might yet get.

  2. I say all that, but I was just working, head down, and had the idle, horrible thought that Team England will get working on him–out in the hot desert–with that “natural game” guff and by the time he finally takes guard in the Third Test he’ll be caught hooking third ball on the square leg boundary like Zorro The Gay Blade.

  3. Does the dual selection of Hales and Ansari for a tour of the UAE remind anyone else of the dual selection of Nick Compton and Joe Root for a tour of India? Like Hales is just there because they couldn’t come up with a reason to not select him, and Ansari’s the one they really want.

  4. I quite like the rhythm of a news story that might be headlined “Zafar and The Gaffer”.

    The Gaffer might not be the brightest, but he was always robust in the digit department, probably because he was so very precise in fielding the ball, with or without gloves.

    Is Patrick Stewart a distant relative of Micky and Alec? We should be told.

    Brian Blessed’s cricketing credentials were cemented long ago with the gargantuan cry of “bring forth the mongoose”.


    Ah, those were happy days.

    1. Patrick Stewart was recently asked if he had a favourite tea bag and he replied.

      ‘Easy. Yorkshire Gold. Any other kind of tea bag needs two bags. By the way, did you know that I am the man who introduced the concept of the double tea bag to the United States?.’

      He is remotely connected to Rod Stewart, Al Stewart, Alec Stewart and Stewart Copeland.

      There are plans for the Stewart clan to have a reunion in Huddersfield on the 5th Friday in February

    2. Interesting to note that we mention the sitcom in the comments of that post as well. Can’t believe it still hasn’t been made.

  5. I went back as far as the Yorkshire tea post and see no mention of Brian Blessed or Capt Kirk, should I delve further back?

  6. i missed that daneel, it sounds good what with the dog avoiding death every episode. I know i’m going to sound weird if I say I found Francis de la Tour sexy.

  7. I’ve seen him many a time. Tidy bowler, solid batsmen, not always the prettiest to watch, but then neither’s Cook and I like him too! Bit daft that he is asked to bowl 30 overs and then go and open the batting, but there you are. Slightly low front arm, which is my main concern, but otherwise good variations of flight and speed. In fact Batty bowls him first most of the time.

    Took five wickets in the match and scored a hundred against Derbyshire…and it was a slow one, although his least slow of his career (only off 213 balls). And his T20 strike rate is about the best in Surrey’s team so that goes to show…something…probably.

    Also, I work with a chap who played with him at Cambridge when he got Kevin Pietersen out and he says he’s (Zafar, not Pietersen…obviously) a nice bloke so that just about settled it for me, I’m all for him

  8. In other news, my mother’s just sent me a book which pertains to be the A-Z of Ashes Cricketers or somesuch (published 2013) yet which features no entries under J.

    No Simon Jones. No Geraint Jones either, for what it’s worth.

    Should I send it back?

    1. Without making any comment on the risible, pathetic book you describe…

      …in principle, sending any book back to your mum sounds like a very bad idea indeed.

      Saying “thanks very much, mum”, to your mum, would be a better strategy IMHO.

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