Strauss’ mysterious batting ailment

The England opener — aged 30 which is hardly too old to learn — clearly needed to go back to the peace and quiet of the county circuit for half a season until he cured himself of his faults and found a new method of acquiring runs, writes Ted Corbett.

I have never understood cricket’s conventions, particularly when breaking one of them can solve an immediate problem.

During the series in England two facts became clear. The first was that Andrew Strauss had been found out, that the leading bowlers in the world knew his weakness on the drive and that his ready run supply which enabled him to make a brilliant start t o his Test life had gone as a result.

His blistering square cut lay unused, his hook and pull were wasted and bowler after bowler pitched the ball up around off stump and waited for an edge to eager hands behind the wicket.

Strauss — aged 30 which is hardly too old to learn — clearly needed to go back to the peace and quiet of the county circuit for half a season until he cured himself of his faults and found a new method of acquiring runs.

After all there was a readymade replacement with a high Test average who had also sought the backwaters of cricket to reshape his mind. Yet the selectors could only talk of his need to prove he wanted to travel abroad.

Marcus Trescothick offers a strange case. The media at large say he has a “stress related” illness without ever revealing what is its cause or its effect.

I could keep you entertained for a week with the rumours, suppositions, myths, legends and wild tales that surround his absence from the England camp; the truth is that no-one is and no-one willing to ask. He has already announced that he will not tour this winter to South Africa, Sri Lanka or New Zealand.

What is quite clear is that Trescothick is only concerned about touring and that he might well take a first step back into Test cricket by playing at home. That would enable the selectors to release Strauss with some well-meaning advice and to see at the same time if Trescothick was ready for his first step back into the big time.

Like Strauss he is 30 but unlike Strauss he has no mysterious batting ailment. Indeed every time I open the sports section of my paper there is a tale of another big innings. If he were not already a seasoned international he would surely be lining up a place on the next tour, so regularly has he tamed county attacks this summer.

Please remember, it has not been easy to bat in England, particularly in the west country where Trescothick plays. Rain has flooded half the surrounding counties, boats have become a common form of transport and the weather has been described as the worst for two centuries.

None of this seems to have stopped Trescothick.

His way back has been prevented by the convention that cricket is a team game, that every member of the side must be committed, devoted to the common cause and never seen to slack.

Thus those who have undergone travels abroad, been abused by Australians, jeered at by foreign crowds and suffered the rigours of trips in club class comfort are deemed to have proved their worth.

Those who, as Shakespeare had it, “lie abed in England” are seen to be less worthy even if they score the runs, win the matches and lead from the front. This ideal may have a point and one that I can sympathise with in part, but surely the England selectors might have tried to fill the batting position that is letting them down.

My recent piece advocating Graham Gooch as the right man for the post of international chairman of cricket and main selector was the regular subject of discussion during the Trent Bridge Test and rightly so since it is an important step forward for England as they move to another encounter with Australia.

Gooch has shown his worth repeatedly as a summariser on Test Match Special to the extent that one former selector has the commentary on the radio pre-set buttons of his posh new car and cannot speak highly enough of the man he thought less than perfect when picking teams a dozen years ago.

At least two other men have put themselves forward. One former captain of England appears to have devoted his post-retirement life to indulging an old passion for food and no longer looks the part although he is always smartly dressed.

He argued long and hard with me that he was the right man for the job and in many ways I agreed with him. But he had such contempt for the interview process that he declined to fill in an application form properly and I feel he will be a poor third.

Another candidate is abroad and has not watched much cricket in this country for many years which is sure to disqualify him; the most obvious candidate is David Graveney who will announce the winter tour parties this month. As I have said frequently I have every respect for Graveney’s achievements but after 10 years in the job it must be time for him to move on.

One man who will have no further part in England plans is their former coach Duncan Fletcher, who visited this country recently to put the finishing touches to his new book which must lift the lid on many secrets from his seven-year stint in charge.

Perhaps it will include the story behind his wish to distance himself and the team from Chris Read, the most brilliant wicket-keeper of recent years, but who under Fletcher had a chequered career.

Apparently it all stemmed from a coaching session in South Africa 10 years ago when Fletcher suggested that Read’s batting would improve if he used a “trigger mechanism” to set off his stroke making.

Read tried the idea and rejected it. Fletcher grew impatient and did everything he could to keep Read out. He once spent two hours arguing with the other selectors and even tried to conclude the discussion by saying: “Read cannot bat and I am not sure that he can keep wicket.”

Read can, in the opinion of many people I respect as good judges of the game, keep wicket better than anyone else in the country. Can he bat? Well, he has made a double century admittedly in a high-scoring match at Chelmsford where runs come easily, this summer when it was half way through July before Mark Ramprakash, the best county batsman of the era, reached 1,000 runs.

Trigger movement or no trigger movement, Read must be doing something right which is more than what can be said of that clumsy acrobatic ’keeper Matt Prior.