29 September 2006

England XI to field XVI: is it cricket?

While the cricket world is currently preoccupied with the ICC referee's decision in the ball tampering case (the full decision, which IMO is worth reading, is here), and the collateral speculation about
Umpire Hair's future , another matter, a proposal to change the nature of the preliminary matches of the England tour, has slipped under the media radar.

England has apparently requested that either one ( according to Adelaide Now aka The Advertiser online) or both (according to Cricinfo )three day preliminary matches will become basically centre wicket practice.

In one sense this harks back to the nineteenth century where matches were often played against odds, eg England v XVI of Woop Woop. Then however it was the local opposition, not the touring team, who were allowed to augment their numbers to even up the contest. Now it seems that anything goes, including downgrading matches which have been advertised for some time as first class.

Cricinfo reports this feeble attempt to justify the proposal:
John Buchanan, Australia's coach, said England's request was just a continuation of what is now a common practice. "They want to be able to use as many players as they can, so really they're treating it, as most teams do, as game time and match practice in different conditions," he said. "Albeit that they might not be totally similar to exactly what you're going to play on, but it is time in Australia out in the middle, playing cricket and preparing."

I can't see the rationale behind this: it might be out in the middle and preparing, but if players can be rotated at will this makes a mockery of the game.

Of course, if the last few Ashes tours and reports of the state of fitness of the selected squad are anything to go by, it is quite possible that England won't have more than 11 fit players for these games. If so, what will happen: back to plan A or cancel them?


harrowdrive said...

Is this such a bad thing? The games are set up for England to warm up, so you can understand their desire to get ALL the bowlers bowling and the batsman batting.

I agree its becomes a mere practice game, but that's what England want, not a serious first class competition.

Is it upsetting a tradition? Perhaps. Is it good practice for England? Certainly. Is it cricket? No it's just practice against first class players.

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