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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

England's Gatsby beats against the current of media opinion?

The UK media are covering the Ashes in great detail. Here are some snippets from today:


# Michael Henderson in the UK Telegraph online compares Duncan Fletcher to F Scott Fitzgerald's Gatsby:

At first sight Duncan Fletcher does not appear to have much in common with Jay Gatsby. F Scott Fitzgerald's hero lived in solitary splendour on Long Island, pining for Daisy Buchanan; the England coach lives modestly in Cape Town, and so resolutely avoids drawing attention to himself when he is on duty that one might imagine he is trying to draw attention to himself.

Yet, just as Gatsby tried to re-create the past, so does Fletcher hanker after a golden summer when the larks sang, and all England rejoiced. It was the summer of last year, of course, when England's cricketers beat Australia for the first time since 1987. Grand it was while it lasted, grand, but Fletcher cannot order the future in the image of the past any more than could Gatsby, sitting by his dock, and the way England have begun their tour of Australia has given cause for concern.

In Fletcher's case the role of Daisy is played by Geraint Jones. No sooner had England found their bearings than the coach felt bold enough to loosen the shackles imposed last summer, and revert to the wicketkeeper who lost his place,, at the instigation of the other selectors. Jones will play in Australia, and with the emphatic pronouncement that the Kent man would stand up to the Aussies like a good 'un, Chris Read's Test career became – barring an injury to Jones in the next two months – a thing of the past.

The coach must be commended for being so decisive. He has made it clear that James Anderson will start ahead of Sajid Mahmood, and indicated that Monty Panesar is likely to be the slow bowler. If he changes his mind, and reinstates Ashley Giles, who has spent the better part of a year out of action with a hip injury, he really will be trying to revive something that passed on that blessed September afternoon at the Oval.

Nobody can re-create the past. The England side who beat Australia last year played splendidly, but their lease expired when the umpires removed the bails on that tumultuous Monday, and everybody belted out Jerusalem. Michael Vaughan and Simon Jones may never play again, and others have struggled with injuries. New players have come in, and done well.

These facts have to be faced.

But, despite Geraint Jones' failure with the bat last summer, and his imperfect wicketkeeping, he is back behind the stumps for the toughest series of all. Read, who kept well when he returned to the side, and made runs too, must wonder what he has done wrong. Not much, is the answer. Fletcher simply doesn't trust him and, worse, everybody knows.

[Addendum 22 November: What will Henderson say if Joyce is picked?]


# On a very different tack The Guardian reports on the (mixed) fortunes of members of the current England team playing in Australian grade cricket. Here's one assessment from a current NSW player:

Kevin Pietersen

Sydney University CC, 2002-03

"At club level other teams couldn't really stop him - he got 160 in a session once and 785 runs at 56 over the season. He hit some big sixes, one went over the grandstand at the Sydney University ground, which is a three-tiered building made for watching rugby. It was either nothing off 10 balls or 80 or 100 at a run a ball. There weren't many 20s. On the field he might have been bold and arrogant, but he wasn't like that off it. I reckon the only wicket he'll have difficulty with here is the Gabba because of the sideways movement. Some of the grade wickets that year were a bit under-prepared and he was nipped out early because he went at the ball hard."
Ed Cowan, team-mate.

#The Times has many articles and a Shane Warne podcast.



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