Six to Watch: 2018 – Season Review

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A little premature with the season not quite concluded but here’s 2018’s Six to Watch Review. This year two players from my selection have been promoted to the full England side. One has already debuted and one likely will in Sri Lanka. For the others, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag but should get better.

Tom Fell  (Worcestershire)

Another difficult year for cancer survivor Fell. There were glimpses of his determination and ability but little consistency. Fell has registered only four fifties in 22 innings this term but two of them, including a season best 89, came in the same match against champions Surrey. He’s currently averaging a disappointing 27.82 in the County Championship. Despite an impressive career record in List A cricket, white-ball opportunities have been harder to come by. Fell has only ever played three T20s.

Ollie Pope (Surrey)

So good have been Pope’s numbers (He’s averaging 70.50 in CC2018) that he was fast tracked into the England team. Unlike some sceptics, I think that Ed Smith has got a lot of qualities but his decision to parachute Pope in at number four in England’s Test side was misguided. Pope had never batted higher than six for Surrey! The Chelsea born bat has a good head on his shoulders however and will be better for the experience. This year he’s a Championship winner and breeding that winning mentality can only be good for his development. He’s likely to commence the Sri Lanka tour on the bench but the opportunity to tour will serve him well.

Hamidullah Qadri (Derbyshire)

A frustrating year with limited opportunity and limited success for Afghan born Qadri. Last year the then sixteen-year-old announced his arrival with an outstandingly effective performance against Glamorgan to help Derbyshire win for the first time in… years!

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8204/scorecard/1068618/glamorgan-vs-derbyshire-specsavers-county-championship-division-two-2017

This year’s appearances have been fleeting but four more County Championship appearances is more than most for a man his age. He’s claimed eight wickets at 39.88 in CC2018.

Delray Rawlins (Sussex)

Precocious talent Rawlins’ opportunities have been limited to limited overs cricket but his batting caught the eye of many in this year’s T20 Blast. Rawlins made it to the final with Sussex and made starts in both matches on Finals-Day. The Bermuda born bat ended the campaign with 203 runs at 25.38. His strike-rate was 146.04. Little was seen of his bowling however or the red ball this term. Rawlins could be a potentially good draft for a Big Bash or PSL franchise this winter.

Will Rhodes (Warwickshire)

The move from Yorkshire to Warwickshire seems to have worked well for Rhodes. Yorkshire didn’t seem to know what to do with him and have had Harry Brook (Better suited to the middle order) opening while losing Alex Lees to Durham. Keeping and making the most of Rhodes may have been a good move by Yorkshire but Rhodes is yet another talent they failed to fully develop. Warwickshire are grateful to have been the beneficiaries of Yorkshire’s slacking. The Midlands outfit have persevered with Rhodes and former Surrey man Dominic Sibley as an opening pair, even when the runs haven’t flowed. Sibley can be feast or famine but Rhodes’ consistency has meant that he’s been one of the county circuit’s more successful openers this year. The left-hander has compiled three tons plus four fifties, a top score of 137 and is averaging a healthy 41.05. He’s also a viable bowling option.

Olly Stone (Warwickshire)

Rhodes’ Warwickshire ally Stone commenced the County Championship campaign with figures of 8-80 against Sussex, cue lots of calls for him to make the England side. Of course he promptly got injured again! Like his main rival for the speedster’s role, Somerset’s Jamie Overton, Stone has recently taken wickets in T20 and First Class cricket, crucially… he’s been on the pitch at all! The former Northamptonshire man has claimed 37 wickets in just six matches at a mightily impressive average of 12.27. With Liam Plunkett and his wedding arrangements undone by a flip of England’s tour schedule, Stone will go to Sri Lanka with both the ODI and Test side if not the T20I side. He should debut sometime on the tour and will have an eye on the West Indies trip too.

Selection, Transfers, Drafts and Other Cricket Ramblings

Gareth Southgate selects the England football team… all by himself.

“Football again. I thought this was a cricket blog!”

England cricket coach Trevor Bayliss doesn’t select the team but definitely has an input from time to time. In cricket it’s the norm, certainly in England, for a selection panel to choose the national squad. There’s normally three or four people that spend their days scouting the domestic circuit before getting together to decide if changes to the first XI (Test/ODI & T20I) are necessary and if so, who’s good enough to step up. There’ll normally be one selector who is in position to have the final say. They’ll possibly be referred to as the ‘chairman of’ or ‘chief’ selector(s).

Would such a set-up be beneficial in football?

The main difference between football and cricket, at least in England, is that our national football coach does actually have the time to watch all the domestic players perform. Gareth Southgate can spend a whole weekend watching all of the Premier League matches (Not live obviously) then watch the English teams in Europe during the week. However for the person at the helm of a side such as Australia, where the national side’s players are playing throughout various leagues across the globe, it actually becomes much harder. It’s in these instances where the notion of a selection panel could be worthwhile. On the cricket front, one person would struggle to watch all four days of each of the eighteen English county cricket teams’ County Championship matches, let alone limited overs encounters. That’s even if they were on the telly! Watching selected highlights packages would definitely not be a very good way to go about selecting a national cricket team. This is why a panel of selectors as opposed to just one lone selector is essential in cricket.

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On the subject of the eighteen counties: Only once in a blue moon will Gareth Southgate select a second tier player for the English football team, so should County Championship (First Class) second division players even be considered for England’s Test side?

If they aren’t, we’ll continue to see the Premier League style transfers that are now common place in cricket. Just like in football the supposed better players will join the first division teams but they won’t always play. The second division will get the cast offs, also-rans and not quite good enoughs. At this point it’s worth contemplating what’s more important: The national side or the quality of the product (Sorry, ICC marketing speak!) at domestic level. Loyalty from player to county will also near non-existence and on that subject…

Could county cricket follow the trend of the global T20 leagues and the history of American sport (Including Baseball, Basketball and Ice Hockey) by becoming a drafted league?

Returning to the Premier League but staying on the subject of drafts: Can you imagine the owners of Manchester City, United or Chelsea thinking “Let’s try and make the league a level playing field and have a draft system?”

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At the moment, it’s easy to imagine the likes of Durham, Leicestershire and Derbyshire welcoming a draft system. The likes of Nottinghamshire, Essex and Surrey would likely be less keen. The upcoming city based franchise system will have a draft pick. I’ve mentioned before how this will impact counties as players from the weaker teams will enjoy the better coaching and facilities at other grounds before possibly seeking a transfer in county cricket. To implement a draft system in county cricket would be radical and anything but traditional. As with my proposals for a restructure of world cricket (Or what I’m now referring to as the Global Cricket League or GCL for short), sometimes potential changes to what has been for many years are worth exploring. I’m not suggesting that a draft pick is the way to go in county cricket but it’s a thought and not beyond the realms of possibility in the future.

This isn’t one of those articles that’s going to be rounded off with a conclusion or whatever formal ending an article should have but as the title indicates, I hope that you enjoyed rambling with me!