Friday, March 17, 2006

Back to the real stuff

In the wake of the much-discussed batathon, it's refreshing to see some real Test match cricket going on around the world. A real contest between bat and ball is what it's all about, even if it is a little disappointing that most batsmen, reared on flat one-day tracks, are simply not up to the task. Of course, as I write this, Stephen Fleming is wading into Ian Bradshaw just so as to make me look foolish.

The Mumbai Test starting today promises to be no different, only in this case, the two teams are now firmly in Test match mode, and therefore might have that little bit extra to offer. Until now, for all the absentees, I felt it was Simon Jones whom England sorely missed, but the addition of Harmison to the crocked list puts them in a very difficult position.

India are debating whether to include the bowler who took 4 wickets on his debut a fortnight ago, Sreesanth, or the batsman who played the knock of 281 in the match, VVS Laxman. Either would likely play at the expense of Piyush Chawla.

Andy Flintoff, on the other hand, has to first decide whether to retain Liam Plunkett (who scored 0 and 1, and took 1-59 in 11 overs last week), or to replace him with James Anderson. Having done that, he then has to choose between Andseron, Ian Blackwell (who supposedly played the Test in Nagpur), Shaun Udal (who turns 37 tomorrow, and took 3 wickets in 3 Tests in Pakistan) and possibly Owais Shah (an unfulfilled talent in the Mark Ramprakash mould).

I know whose shoes I'd rather be in. For the record, I'd personally go with Kaif in place of Chawla for India, and Anderson and Owais Shah in place of Harmison and Plunkett for England. I know Duncan Fletcher wants 5 bowlers - but I think he'd be just as well served by using Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood and even Kevin Pietersen's pseudo-offies.

More likely we'll see Laxman in for India, and Udal and Plunkett for England to maintain their desired batting depth. I wonder if Duncan Fletcher realises that he's slowly going back to the utility player days of Dermot Reeve, Derek Pringle, Ronnie Irani, Adam Hollioake and co. It's an easy trap to fall into in the search for all rounders, and 'bowlers who can bat a bit.'

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