Promising English fast bowlers like Sajid Mahmood

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Saj Mahmood puts his hand up - and his other handEngland are generally impatient with promising young players. They bring them in, everyone who can voice an opinion takes it in turns to daub them in excrement and then it takes six years for the smell to wear off.

Let’s make a comparison. Sajid Mahmood and Mitchell Johnson were born within a couple of months of each other. Both were branded ‘once in a generation’ bowlers early in their career.

Sajid Mahmood was hastily picked for England, played a few matches and got his various slower balls carted to all parts. He played eight Tests, three on an Ashes tour and played his last Test in January 2007.

In contrast, Mitchell Johnson made his debut in November 2007 and has lasted the course.

Now we know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say that Mahmood’s whiff of excrement is from his bowling, while Mitchell Johnson is moulded out of solid magic by the hands of God.

That might be a little extreme and it might also have a little truth in it, but that’s not the point we’re making.

Our point is that Mahmood is currently among the most promising English fast bowlers around. He’s got all the attributes he always had (pace, bounce, swing, reverse swing) and might now have learnt when to use those skills – but he’s tainted. He’s tarnished by his previous, premature stab at international cricket.

The very name ‘Sajid Mahmood’ is a kind of cricketing shorthand meaning ‘the wheels have come off during a one-day international’. It’s unfair.

The same applies to Liam Plunkett, while Steven Davies is currently being given a chance to build a bad name for himself as an England wicketkeeper.

What would have happened to Mitchell Johnson had he been English? Australian readers might want to be particularly hilarious at this point.


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  1. It’s a real conundrum and no mistake.

    Mitchell Johnson had an extended run in the Australian side, during which time he has (it seems) developed into a very good bowler. He didn’t get this extended run because of genius and planning by Cricket Australia. He got his extended run because there was no bugger else. See what they’ve done to their spinners for proof of a lack of plans and genius at CA.

    The English equivalent is not Saj Mahmood, it’s Stuart Broad. He is the recipient of what some would argue is a generously extended run. In his case, England seems to have a plan that they are prepared to stick to, and it seems to be paying some dividends.

  2. The point we’re making would only apply to Broad if he gets dropped. It’s still relatively early days for him.

    If Broad gets dropped and is then making a case for reselection when he’s 26 or 27, will everyone dismiss him out of hand as someone who was found wanting?

  3. Fair enough. And you’re right – all English players who have been dropped carry that stigma with them, which is daft.

    According to some, the current test schedule means that fast bowlers will always be injured for a good part of their career, so what you need to be a consistently successful team is a ready-made stock of replacements. A squad, in fact. This only works if those in the squad aren’t made to feel failures for not always being in the team.

  4. the only good thing about sajid mahmood is that he has the same initials as simon jones

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