Those of you who don’t know can probably guess: he’s injured.
He had his knee operated on in April and he’ s out for the season. He made it to August last season and that’s about as much cricket as he’s ever managed in one go.
So Simon Jones sits in the SWALEC stadium and the camera lingers on him as England’s bowlers toil. The subtext is ‘if only’ which is a sign of how bad things are.
Simon Jones is widely considered a magical, match-winning bowler purely because there’s an absence of evidence to the contrary. He’s untainted. Two five wicket hauls against Australia (not to be sniffed at, but with a few tail-enders in amongst the wickets) do not Malcolm Marshall make.
The view of him as an England match-winner is largely a fiction and says more about what’s happening on the pitch now than anything he himself ever did.
It’s hard not to feel for Jones though. We find ourself plummeting into despair when we can’t find a clean teaspoon. We wouldn’t be able to cope with the grim inevitability of the lengthy injury setbacks Jones faces every time he’s been off crutches for longer than a fortnight.
Simon Jones isn’t one to watch for the reasons you think.
A lot of English (and Welsh) cricket supporters think Simon Jones is England’s Imran Khan or something; a master of fast swing bowling who can destroy any batting line-up. On top of his game, he’s a great bowler, but we can’t help but feel he’s got better and better during his long spells on the sidelines.
As England have floundered, so Jones’ reputation has soared, largely through having no opportunity to bowl a great whack of shod overseas. Maybe he would have been the best bowler in the world over the last four years had he been fit, but the odds are against it.
And he hasn’t been fit. Being fit is important. Other than polishing your unsullied reputation, you can’t do ball all while you’re injured. Simon Jones’ puny little legs can’t carry his artificial gym torso and they repeatedly buckle.
But yet he’s one to watch?
Darn tootin’. Last year Simon Jones cleaned up for Worcestershire. He took 42 wickets at 18. Crucially however, that was in Division Two.
Is Division Two inferior as we have so confidently asserted? That question will be partly answered by Jones’ performance now that Worcestershire have been promoted. Jones’ team mate, Kabir Ali, took 59 wickets at 18.74. We’ll be watching him too.
Give Simon Jones a mop and present him with a flexible rear appendage and he will GET TO WORK.
Jones took 5-30 against Leicestershire yesterday, clean bowling eight, nine and ten to finish the innings. It’s not the first time this season he’s bulked up the wickets column by polishing off tail-enders, but the overall impression we’re getting is still of a bowler clefting county cricket in twain.
That’s right. You heard. Clefting county cricket in twain.
You’ve got to write these updates when you’ve the chance. We’re a bit worried because we wrote this on Sunday. 24 hours is an eternity when you’re talking about the fitness of Simon Jones.
We’ll plough on regardless though. Thus far in the County Championship, Simon Jones has taken 5-92, 1-2, 4-14 (from 4.2 overs – way to mop up the tail) and 4-41. He’s taken nine wickets at 15.55 in the Friends Provident Trophy as well.
It’s perhaps time someone gave some serious thought to our suggestions as to how to protect cricketers from injury.
Key points of our manifesto:
(1) Gauntlets to be worn at all times.
(2) Cricketers to be LITERALLY wrapped in cotton wool.
(3) Keep key players safe by putting them in a drawer.
Andrew Flintoff is injured again. If only there were another English fast-bowling hope we could all idiotically and unreasonably crush with our mindless, unjustified hope.
Step forward Simon Jones. Step forward carefully though. Don’t want you twisting an ankle or rupturing your pancreas or something. Simon Jones took 5-32 yesterday for Worcestershire against Hampshire, as if he were an actual cricketer who did this kind of thing for a living.
Flintoff should only be out for a couple of weeks, so Jones only needs to get through about four matches to fill the gap. Will he make it?
Thinking about Simon Jones, he reminds us of a very interesting quote from Tom Cartwright, the subject of Stephen Chalke’s really rather good book The Flame Still Burns, from where these words were taken:
“An hour in the gym isn’t the same preparation for bowling as a nine-hour day working on a farm field or down a mine or even in a heavy-industry factory. You may have similar energy output, but you don’t build up the same core strength – so you haven’t developed the ability to keep your concentration when the body is starting to get tired, when the physical stress it can exert is in decline.
“There’s an important relationship between physical stress and concentration. It’s difficult in the modern world to replicate the preparation for bowling that people had when they walked everywhere and there was more manual work. Doing a lot more bowling is part of what’s needed, but it would be hugely beneficial if young bowlers went off and spent winters doing hard, physical work. It would build their core strength and that’s irreplaceable by anything else.”
How many times have you seen Simon Jones in that stupid vest, showing off his biceps while watching an England game in which he’ll play no part? Tom Cartwright, on the other hand, bowled at least 700 first-class overs in a season 13 years in a row and continued bowling until he was 42.
Admittedly, Cartwright was a medium-pacer, but there’s truth in his words.