New thinking to be blamed

BOB SIMPSON

CAN England's horror run with injuries be attributed to their player rotation and resting policy?

Andrew Caddick, just back from an injury, was surprised when he was asked to play for Somerset immediately after a Test match.

For a couple of years the English team management have been wrapping the bowlers in cotton wool in an endeavour to keep them fresh and fit for national matches.

Their policy of restricting them to limited county matches has infuriated the counties and I believe lowered their match fitness.

It is o.k. to embark on a gym fitness programme, but real fitness for any sport is only obtained by long practice session emulating match conditions and playing in actual matches.

Other sports without exception do it, but English cricket thought they knew best and embarked on yet another untried theory.

Cricket and English cricket in the last few years have succumbed to fashion, fads and theories to the detriment of their cricket.

If it is new and different, it must be better than old fashion ideas seems to be the basis of modern thinking in England.

In their desire to look for a magic fix, they have forgotten the old and basically simple and sound theories which have proved so successful.

They have also not understood that the different lifestyle of our youngsters just doesn't produce youngsters who are as natural fit and strong as youngsters of other eras.

When I was coaching Australia I joined in the warm up programmes with the team.

I had never ever done this type of programme before, but even at the age of 49 I was still more supple and flexible than 80 per cent of the team, and in my playing career only pulled one muscle, a calf, and that was at the age of 42. Interestingly, this particular injury is known as the old man's injury.

Throughout this time I always teased Errol Alcott the physio by saying, "I don't know about these warm ups stopping injuries. But I am sure these are no less injuries than when I played". Privately, I thought there were a lot more.

Australian Ricky Ponting came out with a statement that his country was doing away with the rotation policy.

Resting and perhaps spoiling and pampering players in fact I believe can backfire and make them more prone to injuries.

I thought the attitude by certain English bowlers was clearly seen when Andrew Caddick after being out with injury was recalled to the Test team. He bowled very poorly and when told by coach Duncan Fletcher to play in the next county match, he was quoted as saying "I am surprised that I have been asked to play for Somerset as fast bowlers normally are not asked to do this after playing in a Test".

He had conveniently forgotten that he had bowled badly in that Test and that the only way you will obtain the fitness and the form required for Test cricket is by bowling in the middle.

The range of the injuries to the English bowlers is amazing. Some people will use this as a reason to say these injuries were not created by a lack of bowling or fitness.

Injuries can happen at any time. I don't dispute this.

What I do know is the fitter, stronger, supple and in-form a player is the less he is injured.

I have been very interested in Australian one-day captain Ricky Ponting's statement, that Australia is doing away with their rotation policy and picking their best team for every match.

This is clearly evident by the recently announced one day squad for the next two games containing 12 players, 10 of them Test players.

About time too, that the Australian selectors realised that 90 per cent of the time the Test players are also the best one day cricketers.

This new policy I am sure will restore the consistency to the Australian team which has been up and down for the last 12 months.

While the English management have been bemoaning their injury problem and blaming this for their dismal performances in Australia I think this is just an excuse to hide the real problem. Sure the bowling has been affected but what about the batting and fielding. When your bowling is not strong it can be helped by good fielding. A good catch here and there can lift a depleted attack and lift both theirs and the team's spirit.

England's fielding in this series to date has been deplorable, most of the Australian batsmen who have scored runs have been dropped at least two times.

The English batting has been as fragile as a glass filigree ornament and succumbs time after time to ill advised shots.

Make no mistake about it. This is a magnificent Australian bowling attack which is as dangerous and unrelenting as they are accurate.

Sure they are masters at applying pressure, but they bowl few miracle balls and like all fine bowlers win results by forcing the batsmen to make mistakes.

They are very very good and like all good bowlers can be handled if the batsmen stay calm and make few mistakes.

Unfortunately few of the English batsmen have learnt this. Whereas most intelligent batsmen would be looking to rotate the strike and force bowlers to face a different batsman, the English batsmen too often try ill advised big attacking shots to generally the wrong ball.

Little wonder then most of the batsmen are being caught behind the wicket.