Archive | October 6, 2014

Checking under the bonnet

carsWho should be England’s ODI openers? Which player should bat at three for Australia? A favourite to take the new ball for India? How should Kallis be replaced? Who’s ready to step up when Sanga & Jaya step aside?

It’s only the most successful teams who don’t have selection dilemmas. For the rest there’s always some sort of uncertainty over personnel that we, the cricketing cognisants, will have a view on. There will be a player that we will fancy seeing given a run in the side. Somebody that we have a sense, a conviction, could be their side’s next 100 Test player. A new player, whose excitement on debut we can share and who might just give us confidence for the future. Or an established pro, ready for a recall, toughened and capable now to hold their own in the international game.

It’s one of cricket’s sideshows, vibrant on non-match days or in rain delays: speculating, giving testimony, lobbying amongst our peers who have as little ultimate influence as ourselves. What expertise and insight do we, would-be selectors, really bring to these debates?

My car is nearly eight years old and has covered 100,000 miles. But it’s the knocking noises and the escalating cost of services that have forced me to the decision that I need to replace it. But replace it with what? I don’t want a blue one again, nor one of that shape and I’ve no loyalty to that manufacturer. I can come up with some positive requirements too: a figure it must cost less than, a desire for fuel economy, big enough to fit the family for occasional long trips and a boot that can swallow three cricket bags. But that gets me no nearer than saying England need an opener with a solid technique, experience of batting at the top of the order and a good record against pace.

I like the look of some cars more than others. I would rather watch an opener who gave it the full face than an nudger and nurdler. Some brands are more reassuring; some I would positively like people to associate me with. A young batsman bursting into the team excites me more than the pro who has worked his way up the pecking order to be picked. There’s data: tables of emissions, acceleration, load capacity. I want any contender for a batting spot to be near the top of the season’s averages and aggregates, with a history of converting starts into hundreds.

I don’t know which car is better. I wouldn’t know what to look for under the bonnet. I just know that my judgement is swayed by all of the factors I have mentioned, none of which, necessarily points to a better vehicle. In fact, they are all features that are marketed to me, to influence my decision, to draw my cash. I am just as prone to distraction and deception when plumping for the player I would like to see next in the England team. I see far too little professional cricket below international level to have any meaningful overview of who deserves an England cap. Are you any different? Maybe you watch a lot of one county; providing you with a deep and biased understanding of one squad of players?

I consult ‘What Car?’ to perform the function of the cricket correspondents whose proximity give their tips credibility. But still there’s a gut reaction: Woakes, VW, Mazda and Hales; not Stokes, Fiat, Vauxhall and Robson.

Opinionated ignorance costs me nothing in one sphere. In the other, I have a real and pressing decision to make, with large financial consequences. I would be interested to hear your interpretation of the cricketing equivalent of throwing my lot in with a Skoda in metallic Topaz.