How Joe Denly got to play for England

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Joe Denly is in front of Tim Paine in this instance

This isn’t specifically about Joe Denly. He’s just the example. It’s about being a young English cricketer and what you have to do to play for the national side. It’s also about Australia’s wicketkeeper, Tim Paine.

Paine and Denly are just starting their careers and have been opening the batting for their respective nations in the one-day series between England and Australia. Paine hit one hundred and one fifty in seven innings. Denly hit two fifties in five innings.

Honours pretty much even – Paine perhaps slightly ahead – but it shouldn’t really be like that. Paine is a wicketkeeper primarily and arguably Australia’s fourth choice in that position. Denly is a specialist batsman and has been identified as a key player for the future.

How to get noticed

How do young cricketers make themselves known? They do it through consistent, solid performance, don’t they?

Do they balls. Not in England anyway.

There are 18 first-class counties playing every week, so there are about a hundred batsmen fighting for column inches in newspapers that have half a page at most devoted to county cricket. One 95-ball hundred on a flat track is far more likely to get you a mention than three consecutive fifties on difficult pitches.

There’s always another chance

If you can make some noise by playing such an innings, then you’ve got to go for it. If you fail, it doesn’t matter because there’s always the next match. This season, Joe Denly’s Kent side will have played 16 first-class matches, eight 50-over matches, 12 Twenty20 matches and eight 40-over matches.

In contrast, Paine’s side, Tasmania, have 10 first-class matches, 10 50-over matches and five Twenty20 matches next season. There isn’t always another chance for Paine and even if there were, he doesn’t need to make a name for himself in the same way as Denly. There are only six first-class sides in Australia, so you don’t need occasional exceptional performances to get noticed. Consistency is noted.

So our two points, which are closely linked, are:

  1. A high volume of domestic cricket on any given day encourages batsmen to go for broke in a bid for attention
  2. A high frequency of matches encourages a ‘there’s always next time’ mentality

Neither makes for good preparation for international cricket.


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  1. You could also say that with the increasing amount of pointless cricket at international level, county cricket should actually be the perfect preparation.

  2. Spot on, KC. I agree 136%. Now all we have to decide is where the county-killing axe should fall. Obviously Yorkshire first, but after that? I favour a merger between Kent and Somerset.

  3. Denly is in the England setup because the selectors decided several years ago that he’s the next Trescothick. All other considerations are irrelevant.

    As for the county setup, the problem is quite simple: There are too many northern counties.

  4. Aren’t there 18 first-class counties? Other than that, agree with you 137%. That’s one more per cent than Bert.

    But there aren’t enough Northern counties. Northern counties are the only ones that produce quick bowlers.

  5. Northern counties just field bowlers, southern counties just field batsmen. Bowlers will always take wickets and batsmen will always score runs – there’s the consistency.

  6. You seem to assume batsmen are batting purely to get noticed by England selectors/ the press, and never bat with a mind to aiding their team.

  7. No, but we’re saying that if they DO want to get noticed, the current environment encourages a certain approach.

  8. D Charlton has it! The solution to all our concerns. Eight counties in the league, being:

    Durham (as champions)
    The South

    Think of it! A never-ending conveyor belt of gritty, honest fast bowlers who’ll run in all day and who aren’t scared of a bit of graft and who’ll put in an honest days toil and… (continued in Fred Trueman’s autobiography). And from The South, a series of laid-back, curly-haired fops to do the batting. The only conceivable problem with this idea is that it might be difficult to get all the required cricket played on the five days it’s not raining.

  9. King, in Australia a player who isn’t in the Australian side will also play for their club side. Paine could have played anything up to 18 games for his club side (probably more like half that) so the volume of cricket isn’t massively less – the difference is that every game counts. Not for points on the table, but because your mates aren’t going to put up with anything less – Paine will have grown up in club cricket with a lot of older blokes who might never play first class cricket but they are tough old bastards who aren’t going to take shit from a youngster like Paine, no matter how good or pretty he might be.

    I hate to shatter your illusions, but the difference is pride. Australians don’t like to lose, don’t like to fail, don’t like to look weak – ever. English players are champions one week, and don’t even bother the next. No pride.

  10. Our illusions are intact. The whole point of the article was that so many games in county cricket don’t count. ‘There’s always next time’.

    And English players being champions one week and not trying the next – that’s the same again.

    Stop agreeing with us and painting it as a disagreement.

  11. Australians don’t like to lose because losing has consequences in grade and state cricket. That’s what creates that pride.

    Pride isn’t some innate Australian quality – although Aussies would like to think that it is.

  12. Excellent suggeestion D Charlton. Can I suggest that we add another count, SudEfrikanshire to the mix to produce match winning batsmen for us.

  13. I played with his dad, Nick who captained the UK Customs side in the 1990’s. If he has half his mettle, he will be Strauss’s long term replacement. His old man was batting with me against the Fire Brigade at Dunstable. They hold the British handgliding championships in the same valley so it was a bit windy and it didn’t need Nick blowing kisses at the Aussie opener every time he hooked him for four with me waiting downwind at the other end. Denly’s good enough and if lineage means anything he won’t be the psychological wreck some of his recent peers have turned into Tresco, Ramps, Hick et al.

  14. That’s a proper recommendation.

    Why don’t the rest of you play more games alongside the parents of future England players?

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