Dec. 6th, 2006

chickenfeet: (spin)
Duncan Fletcher's 'logic' for playing Giles and not Panesar at Brisbane and Adelaide is that the needed 'to be able to bat to eight' and they needed to play five bowlers. This is utter rubbish. No team 'needs' to bat to eight and no team 'needs' five specialist bowlers. What teams need are enough specialist batsmen to score a defensible score and four bowlers who can take twenty wickets in a match.

Let's look at the number of bowlers question first. Australia keep winning with four specialist bowlers (two of them well past thirty). Teams, traditionally, have been built around four specialist bowlers. England pick five because, frankly, they can't trust any four of the ones they pick to show up on the day. Unacceptable! England also have an unusually strong bowling second line in Pietersen, Collingwood and Bell. A fifth specialist bowler really is unwonted. The 'logic' for having five really is that Fletcher knows he's going to pick Giles so knows he needs an additional bowler!

My solution; pick Flintoff, Harmison, Panesar and Hoggard and an extra batsman. The bowling is actually strengthened and now the team bats, genuinely, to eight. (this also takes care of the carefully ignored problem that Flintoff isn't really a top six test batsman).

OK, so suppose, being a pig headed bastard, Fletcher is determined to pick five bowlers. What law of nature says the bowling position to be weakened in favour of shoring up the number eight spot should be the sole spinner rather than one of three seamers? The calculation ought to be one of biggest bang for the batting buck for least harm to the bowling. In that light I'd argue that Panesar gives a significant boost to the bowling relative to Giles while switching out Anderson in favour of Mahmood would hardly weaken the bowling at all while giving a Giles like boost to the batting. As far as I can tell this option hasn't even been mooted. It doesn't surprise me. The 'logic' is a post hoc justification for sticking with the same old failed formula.

Fletcher's final justification is almost hysterically funny. he claims that Andrew Flintoff is in full agreement. Flintoff is a fine and inspirational cricketer but as a strategist and thinker he rates somewhere around the amoeba level.

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