When is an omission a rotation and when is it a good old-fashioned drop?

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

There’s a subtlety to England’s current approach to one-day cricket which may have passed some by. It’s not about ball-wallopery or -whangery, it’s to do with that other key aspect of international cricket – man management.

Everyone’s agreed that one of the keys to one-day success is a no-blame culture which allows the player to go out and express themselves. Quite why ‘joyous abandon’ is the only thing players are expected to express is beyond us. Players of earlier vintages used to express uncertainty and paranoia incredibly well, but apparently you don’t talk about those as being expressions of self.

Add ingredients and cook on heat for time

There’s a certain alchemy to creating this sort of environment. We’ve said before that as a coach you can’t simply say ‘play positively’ – you have to show, not tell.

England have partly ‘shown’ through picking a whole bunch of players with reputations for cricketing positivity. It’s not just about picking ‘the right players’ – the constitution of the whole also serves as a message to each of its parts. Were any of the individual players in an entirely different squad, they wouldn’t be able to play in the same way. They wouldn’t believe that they could get away with their current approach without being harshly judged. If we had to boil the psychology we’re describing down to three words, we’d go with ‘safety in numbers’.

There’s a certain critical mass that’s necessary for this to work and this gives rise to an interesting academic question as to how players from earlier eras might fare were they dropped into this squad. Encouraged by his surroundings, maybe someone like Mark Ramprakash would have felt liberated enough to play with the devil-may-care attitude that would have allowed him to succeed – no more gritty paralysis with the weight of his entire career bearing down on the innings being played in the here and now.

How to drop someone, how to rest someone

Which brings us to dropping players or ‘rest and rotation’ in the parlance of our times. Trevor Bayliss has thus far employed a neat trick, making it clear to everyone that ‘dropped’ and ‘rested’ are not synonyms.

The traditional way of doing things is that as often as not, you ‘rotate’ the players you’re not sure about. You leave out your third seamer or a young batsman finding his way and you say that they’re not dropped, they’re rested and they’ll be back again soon enough.

However true this is, when it’s always the same players in and out of the side, it blurs the distinction. England have of late operated a different policy. When a player’s been omitted, it’s been the captain or the vice captain or the best batsman. As often as not, it’s been abundantly clear that they haven’t been dropped.

Rather than showing support to those who least need it while undermining those on the fringes, Bayliss has flipped things around. There’s an illusion that he’s been able to rest his strongest players because his squad has such depth, but the squad has depth precisely because he shows support to those on the margins.

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17 Appeals

  1. If we’re going to talk about good old-fashioned drops, can we also spare a moment to talk about good old-fashioned both-batsmen-racing-each-other-to-get-to-the-same-end-first calamities, as so expertly practised by Pakistan in this T20 series? (With hilarious conseqeunces – what’s this interminable pause in the ESPN live commentary? Oh, that’ll be the third umpire trying to decide which Pakistan batsman is run out following the latest running-between-the-wickets disaster).

    • I’m starting to imagine Mohammed Hafeez and Shane Watson batting in the same team. Imagine running so confused and ponderous that the fielders have the time to run the batsmen out at both ends (assuming Watson doesn’t just plant his front pad right in front of the stumps of course).

      • King Cricket

        December 1, 2015 at 12:31 pm

        As we said on Twitter the other day, one of the great tragedies of our times is that Hafeez didn’t get to bat with Inzy more often.

  2. News from afar – Bangkok in fact.

    China beat Netherlands by five wickets in the World T20 Qualifier.

    And that’s China China, not Hong Kong playing under the banner of China, nor a bunch of ex pats playing under the brand name of China (which is what a lot of lower-ranked international teams are made of).

    Netherlands only lost to Zimbabwe by two runs a few days back so it is not as if they are rubbish … and cricket has been played there at a decent level for well over a century. China is only just getting started and this is the first win I can recall for them against an “established” cricket nation.

    Cricinfo don’t even have a Chinese flag to display next to the team at the moment. Times are moving fast. Ok, it is the women’s T20 and the fact that the women’s game is mostly amateur means the playing field is more level below the top few teams, but it is impressive.

    There is prima facie evidence that we will see China competing at a high level before we see the USA doing so, and they have better resources than Afghanistan, say. Times are a’changing. Perhaps we should ship Tim Albone out to Beijing….

  3. Is Ian Bell back yet?

    • I’d imagine he’s home by now, yes… unless you’re talking about a chronic inflammatory disease of the axial skeleton? Maybe that’s why they ‘rotated’ him?

  4. Umar Akmal, having just been given out in a BPL game, has been dismissed 3 times within the last 24 hours.

  5. In other news, the ICC rated the Nagpur pitch “poor”, a rating which the Perth pitch didn’t get. I know which game was more interesting though.

  6. What has definitely been dropped and not rotated is the location of the Appeals link on these articles. It has moved to the bottom from the top, the very definition of a drop. This is the best dropping since Ramprakash XXIV (but don’t book a holiday or anything, Mark). Previously, one had to decide whether or not to read the article before going to the comments. Now, one can get to the comments button by reading the article, surely a major encouragement to do just that.

    Well done, KC. Of all the royalty-themed sardonic cricket websites out there, yours is by some distance not the worst at responding to customer complaints. Three cheers for King Cricket – Hip Hip, Hooray, Hip Hip, come on everyone, at least join in a bit, Hip Hi… oh suit yourselves.

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