England's quest for cutting edge blunted | india | Hindustan Times
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England's quest for cutting edge blunted

Being an England bowler under Nasser Hussain must be a dispiriting experience. Whatever you do, the captain is always ready to remind you there's somebody who does it better.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2003 14:59 IST
PTI

Being an England bowler under Nasser Hussain must be a dispiriting experience.

Whatever you do, the captain is always ready to remind you there's somebody in another side who does it better.

He was at it again after England's six wicket World Cup win over The Netherlands on Sunday, the match that launched their tournament after they boycotted Thursday's scheduled opener against Zimbabwe.

Rookie paceman James Anderson took four for 25 but England's failure to dismiss the European minnows inside 50 overs -- they batted out to reach 142 for nine -- provoked Hussain to say: "We lack a killer player like Brett Lee but we do have great discipline."

Talk about damning with faint praise, although perhaps a failure to take 10 Dutch wickets deserves nothing more.

Even so, they are hardly inspiring words. "Great discipline", rather like "wholehearted" is simply a euphemism for "tries hard but not very good".

Nor is it the first time that Hussain, a batsman, has pointed out the shortcomings in his own attack by referring to the opposition's strengths.

Indeed so often has Hussain berated England's lack of a "mystery" spinner, such as Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan, it iss a wonder Ashley Giles, England's lone slow man for most of his captaincy, has any self-confidence left.

But while it may not do much for the current attack's morale, the point behind Hussain's comments is worth considering. Why don't England have a bowler who sends shivers down the opposition's spines?

Pitches, players and priorities might be the answer.

Too many English surfaces offer assistance to medium-paced bowlers who, although predominate in county cricket are rarely as successful on the more batsmen friendly tracks they usually encounter in the international arena.

And the sheer volume of cricket -- England is the only major nation which has 18 teams taking part in four domestic competitions -- results in reliability becoming an end in itself.

The demands of bowling flat out and playing a full county programme are often incompatible, so many who might have a chance of becoming genuinely quick settle instead for cutting their speed and prolonging their career.

And as for the tricky business of developing "mystery" spinners or, as was the case in the 1980s out and out quicks, many counties simply get round this by importing overseas stars.

The 2003 English season is set to feature the likes of India's Harbhajan Singh (Lancashire), Australia pair Shane Warne (Hampshire) and Stuart MacGill (Nottinghamshire) and Pakistani duo Mushtaq Ahmed (Sussex) and Saqlain Mushtaq (Surrey).

Foreign affairs is often a thorny topic and nowhere more so than in English cricket.