Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Stoneman must accelerate where Carberry stalled

For England cricketers there is nothing tougher. Playing and travelling on the subcontinent may still have its moments, but for intensity and hostility nothing beats an Ashes tour. If anything it has got harder. Gone are the leisurely trips up country ostensibly to  'spread the game' but really to escape, to spend some time in quiet reflection, consolidation or recuperation away from direct spotlight. Now those games have gone and the spotlight is everywhere; social media points its searchlights into every nook and cranny of their lives.

But these are professionals. They don't do difficulties, only challenges; if they see a wall or a barrier its merely an invitation to jump over it or run through it. It is why they do what they do and why the best of them thrive under such conditions. It's all about character you see.

Given all this, one might imagine that any personal success, even only relative success, on an Ashes tour would stand a fellow in good stead, for his future career and all that. A casual observer might think that, so might a so-called expert. But sometimes it doesn't quite work out like that. Just ask Michael Carberry.

On the 2013-14 tour, Carberry scored 281 runs in 10 innings. As raw statistics they are not going to impress anyone and certainly not our casual observer. But context is everything, or at least it should be. If he was not a shining light, or a beacon of hope, Carberry was at least a token symbol of resistance on that miserable expedition. He fought hard at Brisbane and was still fighting at Sydney. Had other shown the same resolve, well it would probably still have been 5-0 actually, but you get my point..

It wasn't just Carberry's mental strength. He left the ball better than any of his colleagues, better than Cook, Root or Bell. In doing so he faced more balls than any other English batsman. No one spent more time on the front line. It is true that he did get tied down from time to time, and would have been deeply disappointed not to have cashed in on a number of good starts but he was hardly alone in that. Not once did he look out of his depth, not once did he look overawed in the face of the unrelenting onslaught. We shouldn't forget, not only were Johnson and Harris fast, agressive and nasty they were startling accurate too, especially Johnson. If you got through them Siddle, Lyon and Watson were parsimonious in the extreme. There was no respite.

And what was his reward for a winter dodging 90mph bullets? Well firstly he was dropped from the  squad for the 50 over and T20 series to follow. A decision which must have been hard to take given his 63 had secured England's only win in the home series four months earlier. But it got far worse. When the selectors convened to pick the Test side for the following summer, Carberry was nowhere to be seen. They had seen what he could do and decided to move on.

It was cruel certainly but more than that it just seemed damned unfair. Not perhaps in the Larwoodian echelons of selectorial betrayals but not entirely removed from it either. Were the selectors right? For once the raw statistics don't lie. Alastair Cook's latest opening partner Mark Stoneman is his nineth since Carberry. In four years.

Stoneman may actually be the most promising prospect since Carberry to partner Cook. Like Carberry he has courage and skill, hopefully he has more luck.

No comments:

Post a Comment