Flying in the Face of Unoriginal Opinion!

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Hampshire’s James Vince has been recalled to the England squad for this winter’s Ashes campaign and it’s not unreasonable to say that the reaction has generally been one of an underwhelming sensation.

I’m going to propose a radical notion in this world of scepticism… let’s back him! Let’s back him to do what many others including the likes of Justin Langer, Marvin Atapattu and Mark Butcher have done, to be a better player second time around.

Let’s back Ballance too whilst we’re at it.

All these people, whether they be pundits or fans, wanting players with First Class averages of 50+. Those players don’t exist and it doesn’t mean anything anyway, as past selections have told us.

We’d all select different squads but let’s stop moaning and back the players that are on the jet plane. There’s bound to be injuries and the like so I’m sure some people will get their wishes anyway.

Hopefully England’s lineup will be invincibly balanced come the first Ashes Test!

The All-Rounder Index

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Cricket is a sport that brings with it endless statistics but endless isn’t enough for Silly Point.

Introducing the All-Rounder Index.

Career runs ÷ Career wickets = ARI

E.g. Jason Holder’s All-Rounder Index in Tests is:

801 ÷ 31 = 25.84

This means that for every wicket Jason Holder claims in Test cricket he himself scores 25.84 runs.

By contrast Australia’s Mitchell Starc’s Test ARI is as follows:

839 ÷ 129 = 6.50

But what does this mean and which player is better?

Here are some more past and present player’s Test ARI in descending order:

Martin Guptill: 2586 ÷ 8 = 323.25

Mark Butcher: 4288 ÷ 15 = 285.87

Steven Smith: 4311 ÷ 17 = 253.59

Shahid Afridi: 1716 ÷ 48 = 35.75

Graeme Cremer: 411 ÷ 37 = 11.11

Ajit Agarkar: 571 ÷ 58 = 9.84

Zafar Ansari: 49 ÷ 5 = 9.80 (Which coincidentally is his batting average!)

Chaminda Vaas: 3089 ÷ 355 = 8.70

Liam Plunkett: 238 ÷ 41 = 5.80

Chris Martin: 123 ÷ 233 = 0.53

Is Martin Guptill a better cricketer than Steven Smith or Chaminda Vaas?

Was Mark Butcher of more value to his team than Shahid Afridi or Chris Martin?

Is Martin Guptill’s Test ARI of 323.25 better than Chris Martin’s 0.53 or is Martin’s (That’s Chris’) lower number better?

Answers on a postcard please!

Reminiscing About Usman Afzaal

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We all had a favourite player when we were growing up but not for many of us was that player… Usman Afzaal!

Scores of just four and two on Test Match debut in the first Ashes Test of 2001 at Edgbaston, when batting at seven and playing as a specialist batsman is just the sort of performance that will endear someone to me. Not for me are the Test bow double centurions. After his mammoth contribution of six runs on his first outing Afzaal was sent back to the county circuit seemingly forever destined to retire with a Test batting average of a not quite Bradmanesque 3.00. Cue none other than Pakistan’s Shoaib Akhtar appearing on English TV calling for his mate to be provided another chance.

The England selectors obviously heard the Rawalpindi Express’ cries because come the fourth Test at Headingley, though with the series already lost Afzaal earned a recall. After delivering a career best 14 in the first innings Afzaal guided England to victory with an average propelling four not out in the second innings aided in no small part by Mark Butcher’s masterful 173 not out.

In the fifth Test at The Oval Australia compiled a modest 641-4 declared with Afzaal claiming a quarter of the wickets to fall, that of Adam Gilchrist caught by Mark Ramprakash for a quarter century. In doing so Afzaal ensured that Gilchrist was the only Australian to bat that failed to reach 62!

With his confidence boosted by having a Test bowling average Afzaal went out to bat with the sort of swagger that enamored him to the fans, well me at least. In a partnership of 89 with good against Australia but not so against everybody else Mark Ramprakash, Afzaal struck a counter attacking 79-ball 54 with 36 of those runs coming in boundaries. Upon reaching his maiden (Only) Test half-century Afzaal promptly celebrated like a man that had brought up a quintuple hundred. His exuberance and passion brought smiles to people’s faces, well mine at least. Dermot Reeve though wasn’t happy, suggesting that Afzaal was a little too pleased with himself. Maybe Afzaal did get a little overexcited as after hitting Glenn McGrath for his ninth four he promptly had his innings terminated just 46 runs short of a maiden Test century the very next ball. He only made five in the second innings bringing his average down to mortal 16.60… and that was it for Afzaal’s international career bar a superb catch as a sub-fielder in New Zealand.

He seemed like a natural limited overs player but when an experimental squad to tour Zimbabwe that autumn was named Afzaal’s name didn’t feature. On the winter tours England coach Duncan Fletcher brought Afzaal’s weight into question and he never made the final XI. Afzaal flirted around the county scene for a few more years before drifting out of the game. It’s seems absurd that he’s still only 39. In 2013, more than three years after his last professional appearance he popped up playing a couple of List A games in Bangladesh alongside Bilal Shafayat.

He might not have scored thousands of Test runs and even features in some people’s Worst England XI but I’ll always remember his Test half-century and the joy he brought as he celebrated it like a kid at Christmas.

Due to image rights I have provided my own poor quality drawing of Afzaal for this blog post.