Pringle: Late call-ups can cer­tainly work out

The Cricket Paper - - FRONT PAGE - DEREK PRINGLE

There are those who ar­gue se­lec­tion is an art, rather than a science, and that Eng­land’s se­lec­tors should be paid as much as its coaches. But what hap­pens when a player like Keaton Jen­nings tri­umphs? Do they get a bonus for be­ing bold or hand some money back, Jen­nings’ ar­rival in In­dia be­ing down to hap­pen­stance rather than shrewd judg­ment?

As masters of off-field spin, the se­lec­tors will say that Jen­nings owed his chance to Haseeb Hameed’s in­jury.

Oth­ers might ar­gue that an al­ter­na­tive opener, Ben Duck­ett, was al­ready in the squad and that, as an orig­i­nal pick, he should have re­placed Hameed for the Mum­bai Test.

But then again, over­look­ing Duck­ett, whose tech­nique against qual­ity spin is flawed, and thrust­ing a rel­a­tive un­known into a piv­otal Test at the Wankhede sta­dium, takes chutzpah, so it could be six plau­dits for and half a dozen brick­bats against, de­pend­ing on your point of view.

Jen­nings is not the first player to ar­rive un­bid­den and play the hero. Alas­tair Cook did some­thing sim­i­lar in In­dia on his de­but ten years ago.

Jet­ting into Nag­pur from the West Indies where he was tour­ing with Eng­land Lions, fol­low­ing in­jury to Michael Vaughan and an emo­tional break­down to Marcus Trescoth­ick, Cook opened in Nag­pur and scored 60 and an un­beaten 104. Eng­land drew that Test so Jen­nings can get one over his cap­tain should they man­age to pre­vail this time in Mum­bai.

Chris Lewis also re­sponded to a late call-up for Eng­land, this time from Grade Cricket in Ade­laide dur­ing the 1994/5 Ashes tour. A back in­jury to Graeme Hick gave Lewis his first Test ac­tion in al­most a year and he re­sponded with six wick­ets, four of them in Aus­tralia’s sec­ond in­nings, as Eng­land went on to win by 106 runs.

With the Ashes al­ready gone it was some­thing of a pyrrhic vic­tory though not for Lewis, who went on to play another six Tests on the back of his un­ex­pected re­nais­sance.

Un­like Cook and Jen­nings, Lewis was an es­tab­lished Test player at that stage, al­beit one dogged by in­con­sis­tency.

Psy­chol­o­gists will tell you that one of the rea­sons play­ers thrust un­ex­pect­edly into the caul­dron of­ten do well is that there is lit­tle weight of ex­pec­ta­tion on them. I can re­call Bob Wil­lis say­ing that his first Eng­land cap­tain, Ray Illing­worth, told him that he’d had a good Test de­but af­ter he’d taken one for 27 against the Aussies in Syd­ney.

Pa­ram­e­ters change, though, and nei­ther Cook nor Jen­nings seems the kind of per­son happy to set­tle for any­thing less than a fifty, even on de­but.

If Cook’s flow­er­ing in Nag­pur was im­pres­sive, Jen­nings’ prob­a­bly pips it, pro­vid­ing we dis­re­gard the dropped catch when he was on nought. The main rea­son for rating his knock more highly is be­cause the ball turned sharply and he would never have en­coun­tered a spin­ner as classy as Ravichan­dran Ash­win in such help­ful con­di­tions. Un­der those cir­cum­stances it was a bravura per­for­mance.

Such ex­cel­lence is rare among novices. Gen­er­ally, sud­den late ar­rivals re­spond like the af­ter­thoughts they are, even when they have bags of ex­pe­ri­ence to call upon. Eng­land were get­ting blitzed by Den­nis Lillee and Jeff Thom­son when Colin Cow­drey was called up to bol­ster a team bruised and bat­tered af­ter just one Test. Aged 41 at the time, Cow­drey was thrust into the 2nd Test at the WACA with scarcely a sighter be­fore fac­ing some of the most fear­some fast bowl­ing ever seen in an age be­fore hel­mets. Those present say he did not shy from the chal­lenge and was not over­whelmed ei­ther. In­deed, his brav­ery en­sured he played in the re­main­ing four Tests af­ter Perth de­spite av­er­ag­ing only 18.3 and with a top score of 41. If the cur­rent trend for late re­place­ments is that they go on to have de­cent Test ca­reers, there are also those who have been strictly one-offs, stop-gaps in the right place at the right time when in­jury or ill­ness has struck the squad proper. It is a cat­e­gory to which Sus­sex’s Tony Pig­ott be­longs, a whole-hearted per­former fa­mous for tear­ing in to bowl at break­neck speed, though not al­ways with the ball reach­ing a cor­re­spond­ing ve­loc­ity. Pig­ott was play­ing club cricket in New Zealand when Wil­lis, Eng­land cap­tain at the time, broke Neil Foster’s toe in the nets with a yorker. Quite why Eng­land did not have enough cover is one of those mys­ter­ies that no­body seems able to re­call. Go­ing into the Test se­ries, Gra­ham Dil­ley had been lead­ing wicket-taker in the warm-up games only to be re­buffed when the im­por­tant cricket came around.

Eng­land lost the first Test in Welling­ton, in which Foster played, then picked Pig­ott for the sec­ond, his lo­cal knowl­edge ap­par­ently be­ing the clincher.

Ac­cord­ing to Graeme Fowler, who played in the match, Eng­land’s plan was to bang it in short and bounce New Zealand out. Trou­ble was, it was a ropey pitch on which a full length was even more haz­ardous, as Richard Hadlee re­vealed with eight for 44.

Any­way, Pig­ott, pre­sum­ably bowl­ing to or­der, took two for 75 in a hum­bling de­feat and never played for Eng­land again. A fairly philo­soph­i­cal fel­low, Pig­ott would prob­a­bly set­tle for his lot as com­pared to Ri­cardo Ell­cock, picked for Eng­land’s 1990 tour of the West Indies.

A bustling fast bowler, Ell­cock bowled just six balls in the nets on that trip be­fore returning home with a back prob­lem.

Although he re­cov­ered to re­turn to county duty with Mid­dle­sex, he never played for Eng­land – liv­ing proof sec­ond chances can elude main squad mem­bers as well as late re­place­ments like Pig­ott.

Psy­chol­o­gists will tell you that one of the rea­sons play­ers thrust un­ex­pect­edly into the caul­dron of­ten do well is there is lit­tle ex­pec­ta­tion

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

Back with a bang: Chris Lewis made a suc­cess­ful re­turn af­ter a late call-up for Eng­land in Aus­tralia

Dream de­but: Alas­tair Cook scored a ton in In­dia

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