The finishing post?

With the mode of dismissal today – playing a short ball poorly – the cricketing obituaries for Jonathan Trott’s international career will doubtless be written overnight. Yet he has been put in an extremely difficult situation, being asked to come in an open the batting, something he’s not remotely experienced in. The suspicion that he was a sacrificial lamb to avoid placing the spotlight on Cook should he have had a bad tour remains, particularly if, as has been suggested, Cook and Moores were the two prime movers behind the selection of him in that role. That it hasn’t worked particularly well is at least partly their responsibility, especially given England do have a specialist opener in the squad.

Trott himself would of course have leapt at the opportunity even to take on an unfamiliar role – it was a chance to get back in the side, and there was a seeming vacancy in order to do it. But the odds were always against him being a success in the position, even in his best form. The focus on his technical flaw against the short ball seems to be a little inconsistent with the belief that Cook (for example) would overcome what has plainly been a major technical flaw in his own technique and the patience shown towards him.  You can certainly make the point Cook deserves that patience; perhaps the nature of Trott’s departure from the Ashes tour makes people less inclined to do the same, along with his age.  Trott has played fast short pitched bowling well in the past; is it entirely inconceivable that he could do so again?

Nevertheless, it can’t be denied that there seems to be a problem when looked at in its own right, even if the point about choosing the technical issues to focus on is a valid criticism. And given that age and past history, it is likely enough to mean that we are witnessing the end of his Test career. It is notable that the prevailing response to that seems to be sadness more than anything. And perhaps when it is looked back upon, that is in itself evidence of the regard in which he  is held.

Trott’s performances did tail off significantly in the last couple of years before he left the Ashes tour, but overall a Test career of approaching 4,000 runs with an average in the mid forties represents a player who performed admirably during a period in which England did have a fair measure of success. To put this into context, even with that decline in form, Trott scored more runs at three than any other England player in history (3,109 runs), bar Wally Hammond. When defined by average, for those players who have scored more than a thousand runs, then in the last 30 years only Gower has been more successful – until the arrival of Gary Ballance last year. Ballance of course is at the start of his career, only time will tell if he continues in the same vein, but let’s be clear here – if Ballance performs across his career at number three at the same kind of level as Trott has done, then England will have an excellent player.

Of Trott’s ten centuries, some will live long in the memory. His partnership with Stuart Broad against Pakistan, while subsequently tainted through no fault of his own – was a rollicking performance by the pair of them (perhaps a repeat from Broad is just as unlikely as one from Trott come to that), while the iconic image of Gabba scoreboard showing 1-517 probably represented the personal high point of his career.

In ODI cricket, his presence in the side, while often criticised, did lend England a solidity that has been sorely lacking in the last 18 months – perhaps it is ironic that his absence has been that which highlighted his contribution most of all.

All of which is intended to be a reminder that Trott is hardly alone in seeing declining returns across a career, indeed you could argue it is probably the norm, as few get to end on their own terms. If it is the end for him, let’s remember that for a few short years we thought we had the answer to a problem batting position, a position that had been a problem since David Gower left the scene. And you know something, we did have the answer.

It was called Jonathan Trott.

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18 thoughts on “The finishing post?

  1. escort May 1, 2015 / 8:17 pm

    I hope it is not the end for Trott but a failure in the second innings here would certainly make it difficult for him to stay in the team. Looking from a different point of view i would say he and Cook opening together will always be a “stone walling” operation and could possibly lead to others having to force the run rate because they as a pair would just plod along at 2 an over should they both survive the new ball.

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    • escort May 1, 2015 / 8:19 pm

      In the half an hour it has taken me to type the above post (and spell check it) Cook has scored 5 runs.

      Like

  2. Zephirine May 1, 2015 / 10:29 pm

    I just hope Trott himself is all right about it.

    If he’s approached this tour in the spirit of ‘give it a bash and see how it goes’, or alternatively if he was secretly rather hoping to be rescued from it all, then fine, what’s happened has happened and no doubt Warwickshire will be thrilled to have him back.

    On the other hand, if he’s been obsessively focused on regaining his England place, then he’s going to be devastated.

    But then again, better to be devastated now than humiliated by the Mitchells – and possibly injured.

    Liked by 2 people

    • thelegglance May 2, 2015 / 8:51 am

      He’s had a very good career. And been an important player over the last five years. That’s pretty good. Hopefully he can see that maybe not right now, but soon.

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  3. Mark May 1, 2015 / 11:14 pm

    It would seem this is the end of the line for Trott, and if it is he will join Marcus Trescothick as not successfully returning after health issues. It doesn’t bode well for anyone else who suffers the same kind of problems. That’s a shame.

    One thing I find odd about his career is how much success he had before someone decided he had a weakness to short pitch bowling. You kind of wonder what took top bowling attacks so long to work him out? That’s probably harsh but there was a profound change when teams had worked him out. In these days of laptops, and analysis I find it weird.

    His recall and his elevation to opener is not ideal, and there will be tin foil hats all round about the motives of the people who pick the team. One assumes Flower has been a major player in his re selection. Again it all seems rather weird. But 4000 odd runs is not to be sneezed at ,and if it is the end I wish him good luck.

    As we may be now looking for a new opener I offer this observation. The dropping of Carberry after fronting up against Australia, and not disgracing himself looks even more bizarre a year on. Didn’t he deserve another series? He might have blossomed last summer against mediocre opposition.

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    • Pontiac May 2, 2015 / 1:35 am

      Carberry, known to be studying to be an electrician for his post cricket career possibly not being quite the type that gets more than a quick glance. He seemed to me to hold up pretty well comparatively during the Ashes for one thing.

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  4. Clivejw May 2, 2015 / 1:37 am

    One thing I find odd about his career is how much success he had before someone decided he had a weakness to short pitch bowling. You kind of wonder what took top bowling attacks so long to work him out?

    Nasser had been saying for years that he didn’t understand why no one bowled short to Jonathan Trott, given the way that he walks into the ball. Lehman is the only foreign coach I’ve seen with earplugs in, listening to the Sky commentary.

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    • Mark May 2, 2015 / 6:36 am

      You’re right Clive about Nasser. He had been pointing this out for quite a while.

      In fairness to Trott, I do think this past 5-7 year period was not a vintage one for quality fast bowling. I think there are a few batsman who have had the good fortune to play their cricket at this time, and avoid real fearful pace attacks. Whatever the reasons, flat pitches,restrictions on bouncers, better protective kit? Batsman of this time also had the good fortune to miss the Warne Murili era.

      This has been the age of swing and reverse swing where the tendency is to pitch the ball up much more than in the era before. Johnson reminded everyone last Ashes how devastating 90/95 mile an hour short pitch bowling can be.

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    • thelegglance May 2, 2015 / 8:48 am

      It’s a fair point, except that the walking towards the ball is a relatively recent development in his play. When he first arrived on the scene he didn’t do that.

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      • Clivejw May 2, 2015 / 12:11 pm

        True, but he’s always tried to get forward to every ball. Pietersen also had a period when he was walking into the ball.

        Liked by 1 person

      • thelegglance May 2, 2015 / 12:32 pm

        I’d argue Ricky Ponting did that too. Coming forward to the ball is less than ideal, but it wouldn’t have got him in the horrible tangle we’ve seen the last 18 months. All batsmen have weaknesses, but with Trott it became critical not because he came forward as he’d always done, but because he was on the walk. You’re spot on that Pietersen went through a phase of doing the same thing. And got himself out of that habit because of the issues it caused.

        Everyone gets a trifle lazy on technique. What’s sad with Trott is that for whatever reason he didn’t seem able to come up with an answer. The same open question is there for Cook with the full ball.

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  5. metatone May 2, 2015 / 8:23 am

    Selvey repeats his opinion that there’s not much difference between being a number 3 and being an opener.

    I think on paper that is true (and more so in an age of better protective gear etc.) but in fact it’s a transition that rarely goes well. So, there must be something about the pressure that feels real.

    As such, given the circumstances of Trott’s departure from the England side, it seems like this was really rather poor management. He of all people didn’t need that particular pressure on return.

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    • thelegglance May 2, 2015 / 9:22 am

      It’s a different role. I doubt Selvey has ever so much as done it at league level, and clearly no higher. Quite why it’s different is hard to explain, it’s partly a mental thing, it’s partly the actually having to walk out first. I personally hated number three with a passion and just never scored any runs doing it. I couldn’t begin to explain why that is, it’s just a reality. Middle order was fine, basically any other position except three was fine, although I’d always been best as an opener. But three? Hopeless.

      You can go further, because we’re dealing with humans. I had opening partners who were good, but turned into a gibbering wreck if they were number one rather than two, or who got jittery if they didn’t take the first ball.

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      • Mark May 2, 2015 / 10:19 am

        Opening the innings and batting at 3 are as you say different. Selvey has probably never had to do it at any meaningful level. (Some bowlers can only bowl first change and don’t like holding the new ball. You would think Selvey would understand this.)

        I remember hearing Ian Chapel talk about the difference between batting at 3 and opening. His point was that at 3 you had to be a much more versitile player. You could be coming in after just one ball of the innings in the first over of the new ball. Or you could be coming in at 150/1 and needing to push on and score at a quicker rate. Some openers find sitting around waiting to come in to bat if they get moved to 3 very difficult. You see it with openers when a last wicket stand is developing and they are getting frustrated as to when they are going to bat.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Arron Wright May 2, 2015 / 10:37 am

      “Selvey repeats his opinion that there’s not much difference between being a number 3 and being an opener.”

      Coming soon, Geoff Boycott on why Jimmy Anderson’s length doesn’t matter a jot.

      Liked by 1 person

    • thebogfather May 2, 2015 / 9:06 am

      Vian – Your post was every bit as eloquent and respectful of a player who put his soul into batting for England

      Like

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