Anorak News | In A Stew

In A Stew

by | 20th, May 2003

‘IS Alec Stewart the best wicket keeper-batsman in England at the moment? Yes, almost certainly.

The Methuselah of English cricket

Should he have been selected for the two-Test series against Zimbabwe, which starts on Thursday? Almost certainly, no.

Stewart is 40 years old and, although he remains remarkably agile for a man his age and although his desire is still as great as ever, he is past his prime.

Whatever Nasser Hussain and the selectors say about not being able to take the opposition lightly, this series is a great opportunity to blood new players.

Three have already been chosen in the squad for the first Test.

James Anderson has earned his chance by his performances in Australia and at the World Cup.

James Kirtley is another who already has experience of playing for England in one-day internationals.

And Anthony McGrath has been given then opportunity to stake a claim to an all-rounder spot by Andrew Flintoff’s continuing bad luck with injuries.

Maybe it is this inexperience towards the bottom of the batting order that has persuaded the selectors to choose Stewart ahead of pretenders like James Foster or Chris Read.

If so, one can only hope that the return of Flintoff and/or Andrew Caddick prompts a bit of a change of heart.

There never is a right time to swap your most experienced player for a relatively untried youngster, but it is hard to think of a better time than now.

Without their one genuinely world-class player, Zimbabwe should be no match for England.

Surely, batting Foster or Read (both of whom have experience of Test cricket in far harder circumstances) at No.7 wouldn’t have been too much of a gamble.

If the top six cannot perform against a side as inexperienced as Zimbabwe, they do not deserve to win.

The problem now is that, if Stewart gets runs against this below-par bowling attack, then he will become impossible to drop for the rest of the summer.

And that, in the longer term, is bad news for England.’

Posted: 20th, May 2003 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink