Anorak News | The New George Best?

The New George Best?

by | 19th, August 2003

‘IF James Kirtley played football for Manchester United, he’d now be hailed as the greatest player ever. Journalists at that team’s sister business, the Sun, would be filling page after page of copy about how wonderful the discovery is.

Only he doesn’t play football. Kirtley plays cricket, and plays it very well. He is not the world’s greatest bowler and, in truth, doesn’t look like he ever will be. But he does have spirit.

On taking the fifth of his six wickets in South Africa’s second innings yesterday, the player visibly welled up. Given that cricket is peopled by many men who look like a stump has been placed squarely up them, Kirtley’s emotion was all too welcome.

And Kirtley got his dues, being voted man of the match by the Channel 4 audience. To many who watched the game this was a somewhat contentious selection.

Shaun Pollock was the obvious choice with his eight wickets and decent run haul. But since this was a vote by the domestic audience it was unlikely a South African was going to be the people’s champion.

Michael Atherton suggested that Nasser Hussain, whose hundred in the first innings and 30 in the second was instrumental in England’s victory, should have been given the bottle of champagne and £10 record token.

But no. Kirtley earned and, vitally, needs the award. Hussain does not. Any young player, especially one making his debut as Kirtley was, needs lots of encouragement.

His performance should be praised from the rooftops. He will accept his reward and bouquets in good grace, bowing his head in real embarrassment at being singled out.

But inside he will be delighted. Being the hero of the day for your country on your international debut is something great in a sportsman’s career.

Kirtley will be eager to prove at Headingley on Thursday that Trent Bridge was no fluke. No competitor has his day every time he plays, and Kirtley will certainly experience moments of utter despair.

But at least he’ll always know that he is capable of doing the job.

And with that lodged in the back of his mind, he’s right now worth his weight in gold.’

Posted: 19th, August 2003 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink