There’s an interview with Ian Chappell over at The Guardian (in which he comes across very well) and there’s a couple of things in it that we want to talk about.
The first is Chappell’s view of the modern world of rest and rotation:
“I can understand that you’ve got to give the fast bowlers a breather every now and then, but to rest batsmen is bollocks.”
Broadly speaking, we agree with this and we think it highlights our main issue with the fixture list and the necessity for rest. However, first we’ll nitpick.
Physical rest versus mental rest
In general, batsmen – and perhaps spinners as well – don’t need physical rest in the way that fast bowlers do. We therefore see little point in resting them from a particular match. However, we do think that they can occasionally benefit from skipping a tour or series in order to retain their enthusiasm.
If that sounds unduly soft, let us explain. It’s not about how the poor millionaires are suffering. It’s more to do with top level sport being about incredibly fine margins and how enthusiasm can ensure that a player fully engages with practice and preparation and all that crap. If you want a batsman at his best for a particular Test series, enthusiasm is one of the ingredients you need and if you’ve eroded that by picking him for a seven-match one-day international series, you’ll have to settle for him performing at 90 per cent or whatever.
But that isn’t really the issue that’s raised by Chappell’s comments. What bothers us is the imbalance. If fast bowlers need resting more than batsmen, you’re forever pitting one nation’s very best batsmen against ‘some of the better bowlers’ from another country.
We suppose this comes back to that question of whether Test cricket should be about identifying the best team or the best squad. Part of us is fine with modern cricket being about having a great stack of bowlers to pick from. It’s a decent measure of a nation’s strength and it’s the same for everyone. However, another part of us thinks it should be about trying to put together a McGrath, Gillespie, Lee and Warne or a Roberts, Holding, Croft and Garner.
Those sorts of attacks test the best batsmen in a way that ‘the best options currently available considering we’ve got half an eye on the next match as well’ don’t and it therefore feels like something is missing from the game at the top level as a consequence.
We’ve something else to say arising from Chappell’s interview, but we’ll save that for tomorrow. That’s right, it’s a double-update weekend. Whatever next?