News by Neil Robinson 05/07/03
While the make up of the current England squad for the NatWest Series strongly reflects the ECB’s desire to rebuild for the future, the theme of preparation for the 2007 World Cup was again dominant in this week’s announcement of a preliminary shortlist of 15 young players likely to be chosen for this coming winter’s ECB Academy session.
Although the list is not exclusive and other players will be considered during the rest of the season, the number of changes is likely to be minimal. Rod Marsh, the Academy’s director, said, “Creating such a list allows us to concentrate our resources and to film, study and analyse these players in depth, which will allow us to create individual programmes for them in advance.” The scale of this advance preparation suggests that few late-comers will sneak onto a final list which is likely to run to no more than 14 players.
Marsh went on to affirm his commitment to the ECB’s mission statement of winning the World Cup in 2007. He said that this was a more realistic aim than hoping to regain the Ashes in 2005, when he felt that a drawn series would be a good result. His choice of players for this list is clearly weighted towards one day cricket, with an emphasis on two dimensional players and mobility in the field. But there are enough players of outstanding individual talent to reassure fans of the longer game that Test prospects are not being ignored. This year, for the first time the academy will be located at a purpose built complex in Loughborough in the East Midlands, described by Marsh as, “the best indoor facility in the world.” An autumn session in which the cold of England is substituted for the sunshine of Adelaide will have its compensation in a New Year tour of Malaysia and India.
Current trends within the County scene are reflected in the selection of three players of Asian origin and three born in South Africa. Most interesting of the africans is Nottinghamshire’s Kevin Pietersen, who is not yet qualified to play for England. Indeed, there remains some confusion as to when his qualification period will be complete. Pietersen and Nottinghamshire believe it to be July 2004, the ECB are not so confident. The ICC’s player qualification rules, printed on page 1590 of this year’s Wisden, state: “A cricketer is qualified to play in Tests, one-day internationals or any other representative cricket match for an ICC member country of which he is a national.........provided that he has not played in Tests, one-day internationals or any other representative cricket match for any other Member country during the four immediately preceding years.” A further note clarifies that “representative cricket” refers to international cricket at under-19 level or above, but adds: “The governing body for cricket of any Member country may impose more stringent qualification rules for that country.”
The former England all-rounder turned newspaper columnist Derek Pringle, points to Pietersen’s appearance for Kwa-Zulu Natal against the touring England side in December 1999 as a sticking point. But it is hard to see how. Playing for a standard domestic side against the tourists does not appear to be covered by the ICC’s definition of representative cricket, and even if it were that would only lead to his qualification period ending in December this year, four years after that match. Pietersen did play under-19 cricket for the country of his birth, but not, as far as I am aware, any later than that match against England. There seems little in the ICC regulations to prevent Pietersen being qualified for England before the end of this year, unless there is some obscure paragraph within the dusty leaves of the ECB’s own rulebook which would alter the case. If that is so, then I suggest they rip it out and quietly burn it. The tall right handed batsman, averaging over 60 in first-class cricket this year, who also bowls useful off-breaks and is a brilliant fielder, is too good to delay.
One other, minor point of interest about Pietersen concerns his nationality. Born in Pietermaritzburg on June 27th 1980, Pietersen apparently has a British passport through his British mother. Yet according to the website of the UK Immigration & Nationality Directorate (former employers of mine, by the way) anyone born overseas of a British mother and foreign father before January 1st 1983 does not automatically receive British nationality at birth. Sounds like a lucrative job for the lawyers if you ask me.
Of the other players on the list, most will be familiar to keen viewers of the County scene as the brightest prospects around. There are exceptions, though. The darkest horse on the list is Worcestershire’s Shaftab Khalid, of whom I must confess to having never heard. The Worcestershire website gives his birthdate as 6/10/82, birthplace Pakistan. It says he bowls off-breaks, but provides neither any statistics nor a photo. Rod Marsh hopes that there will be a few young players around the country who will be irked at their non-selection and provoked into some startling performances in the second half of the season. It is tough to think of any who will have been truly surprised, however. Perhaps Durham opener Gary Pratt might feel a little hard done by, but others such as fast bowlers Tim Bresnan of Yorkshire and Liam Plunkett of Durham may have been omitted due to under-19 commitments over the coming winter.
Here then is a quick look at the players selected:
Kadeer Ali (Worcs) Tall, elegant right-hand batsman who scored prolifically at under-19 level and has filled in well for the injured Graeme Hick this year. Cousin of seamer Kabir Ali.
Simon Francis (Somerset) One of the less heralded choices. Former Hampshire seamer and useful late order bat who will be 25 next month.
Alex Gidman (Gloucs) Exciting, confident batting all-rounder who likes to play his shots.
Will Jefferson (Essex) 6ft 8in tall opening batsman, similar to Tom Moody in style, whom some tipped for a Test slot this year.
Shaftab Khalid (Worcs) You tell me, squire!
Michael Lumb (Yorks) For my money, the most promising young batsman in England. Son of former Yorshire opener Richard, he was brought up in South Africa but long since qualified for England. This powerful, aggressive left-hander has a touch of Matthew Hayden about him.
Tom Lungley (Derbys) Naggingly accurate seamer.
Sajid Mahmood (Lancs) Lancashire youngster who plays Glenn McGrath to James Anderson’s Gillespie.
Philip Mustard (Durham) Keeper who was the subject of raised eyebrows when he replaced Andrew Pratt, regarded by many as the best gloveman in the land, in the Durham line-up this year. Coach Martyn Moxon said he was the equal of Pratt with the gloves and a better batsman. He hasn’t disappointed.
Graham Napier (Essex) One of the under-19 side that won the World Cup a few years ago, he has been one of the best all-rounders in domestic one-day cricket for the last two or three years. This year he has taken that form into the longer game.
Kevin Pietersen (Notts) Whatever you do, just don’t mention Graeme Hick.
Matthew Prior (Sussex) The third of the South Africans, he moved with his family to the UK when still at school. Excellent wicket-keeper and hard-hitting batsman with a tough attitude.
Bilal Shafayat (Notts) The star of last winter’s under-19 tour of Australia, a wristy, diminutive right-hand batsman who says he wants to be the best in the world and intends to work hard to get there. Good luck to him.
James Tredwell (Kent) Off spinner and late order batsman who secured a place in Kent’s one-day side as a 20 year old last season.
Graham Wagg (Warwicks) The only member of last year’s intake to feature on the shortlist. Left arm seamer who can also bat, yet to really make an impression for his County, but very talented nonetheless.