Tag Archives: Tests

Duncan Fletcher’s Guardian B-Sides: “Where now for England?”

England should look to Mahmood, Rashid, Brsenan to conquer all

Posted by Duncan Fletcher, Wednesday 19th August

England did really well.  Well done.  Winning the Ashes is never easy.  People keep asking me if this team is as good as my team in 2005.  Indeed, I occasionally offer them an answer.  The key to England’s success was Andrew Strauss, who is a very good player.  He scored 474 runs, which really is a lot of runs. An interesting statistic is that he scored 26 more runs than Michael Clarke, who is a very good player. People keep asking me if I should have made him captain for the 2006/07 Ashes.  However, I know that I always make the right decisions, and always stick to them, mainly because they are often right.

Where now for England? How do you replace Andrew Flintoff? The trip to South Africa will be very tricky, and England need the best three-dimensional young unproven cricketers they can find.  In the last two Tests Broad was exceptional and if anything proves that my old mantra that young, rounded, 3 dimensional cricketers are a good idea, is correct. On that basis, England must get Sajid Mahmood back in the side. I know I talk about Saj a lot, but he really is one of the most intelligent, rounded and brilliant all-rounders I have ever worked with. He could fill Flintoff’s boots.

An example of his intelligent bowling was in an ODI a number of years ago. Saj used his brain brilliantly, sending down 5 of his marvellous slower balls, bamboozling the batsman into only scoring 9 runs off the over, a good economy rate for Saj. Plus of course, he has pace. Pace is the single most important thing a bowler can ever have, and Saj has plenty.

I will never forget the brilliant match-winning 22* he scored against South Africa in 2006. It is probably up there as one of the best lower order batting displays in one day cricket history, but often gets overlooked. I believe that, as a genuine all-rounder, he could be slot into the no. 7 slot, allowing Broad to bat 8, and Swann 9.

I also think that Adil Rashid and Tim Bresnan must tour.  The case for Rashid is obvious, so I will not go over it again.  Bresnan is one of those players whose both his bowling nor batting are quite Test standard, but he offers an overall three-dimensional package that can boost the middle order.

South Africa will be very tough opposition, and England must play to their best to win.  They must also field their best side, and by playing lots of all-round cricketers with multiple skills it could be done.

Duncan Fletcher is the former coach of the England cricket team, who also writes for the Guardian. This column is a selection of his articles that, sadly, were not deemed publishable quality by The Guardian.

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Who’zat?! #1 – Aftab Habib

Loving that hair...

Loving that hair...

Name: Aftab Habib

Teams: England, Leicestershire, Essex

Links: Wikipedia / Cricinfo

It was a heady one day game in 2001 and this young blogger was seriously smitten with a Pakistani maverick named Shahid Afridi. He offered everything a young cricket fan could ever want; a cocky swagger, an ability to bowl ten overs of wicket taking slow stuff and of course an inclination to hit every ball for six which made him a nice change from the style of Atherton that I had come to view as normal.

Unfortunately, on this occassion, Afridi was only able to lose the ball in the car park on two occassions before being ousted by the one bowler who was able to keep his nerve in the face of this howitzer. Leicestershire proceeded to collapse, the only man who could stop the rot was one Aftab Habib, a player who I liked because his name was easily memorable and because he always seemed to have runs to his name on the scorecard. Unfortunately on this occassion the limpit like application of Aftab was not enough as he failed to offer the flamboyancy and aggression required to win the game.

Habib’s career reflected the rather dull ending to this particular match. He had the qualities of a county accumulator but could never go beyond this. In fairness to him he played two Tests which is more than most of us can say but failed to contribute on both occassions. Thankfully, history has chosen to remember his first appearnce at Lords for the 99 not out scored by Alex Tudor rather than Habib’s 1 from 45 balls. In his second test, New Zealand won by nine wickets with Habib failing to shine and he was relegated to the garbage heap of test history.

Not so loving the hair...

Not so loving that hair...

Still, he was not to know this and his good form continued at county level. In 2001, he left the Foxes to further his test prospects at Essex. This bold move might have been the making of him but he struggled to hold down a place or dazzle and was released in 2004. No county would take Habib, except Leicestershire making it abundantly clear that his career was now moving backwards. He played a peripheral role at the county for 2 more seasons before calling it a day; not so much burning out but fading away.

Habib was not finished however and suprised us all in 2007 when he was named head coach of Hong Kong making him the oddest managerial appointment since Ruel Fox took charge of the Montserrat national football team.

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