We need to have a discussion about captaincy in cricket

Dear Editor,

Strangely for a moment, Gower, one of those English captains who suffered at the hands of the West Indies behemoth of the eighties, was “looking to Australia”, while the English team trailed by 137 runs in their second innings. Nevertheless it was a very gripping day of cricket, the kind that makes a cricket lover think of his or her travel agent in connection with the next match. After having dragged myself from bed early enough to see every ball, I foolishly turned on the coffee kettle before turning on the tv, only to find my vigil began with the third ball of the day with my team 2 down. My first thought was that if I were a coach in those circumstances I would have been researching what Anderson was most likely to do with those early deliveries. The evidence almost certainly would have led me to advise Shai Hope to move slightly outside his off stump and use his pad rather than bat. But that’s because I have never been involved in the game at that level.

I was delighted at the approach taken by Blackwood and Holder after the loss of the two wickets, but I thought that since Roach is such a good low order batsman Blackwood ought not to have tried for the third run which cost him his wicket at 49.What is more, since Blackwood is even better with pace than he is with spin, and Chase is the exact opposite and bowls a fair amount, it would be a good idea to switch their batting positions.

When WI’s turn came to field captain Holder was as good as I have seen a medium pacer in a long time. His decision  to bowl Bishoo only 2 overs raised again in my mind the issue of the role of a coach vis-à-vis a captain. Gubby Allen must have been in his early fifties when he captained the English squad to the West Indies in 1947. In those days the criteria for captaincy were quite clear. It was because of those criteria that Len Hutton was the first professional to captain England (circa 1954). Every broadcaster said that since Bishoo was on the team he should have bowled many more overs than he did. Since they are likely right and the captain therefore likely wrong, it seems clear to me that the coach should have instructed the captain to change course, because when firing time comes it is the coach whose  job is at stake. Captaincy in cricket is one of the many things about which, as the Americans say, we need to have a discussion. Another thing about which we must have a serious discussion is the reason that the West Indies did not ask for a review late in the game when I think the umpire missed a catch from an edge by Malan, I believe. The reason was they were afraid they  were more likely than not to be unsuccessful, and thereby deprive themselves of an opportunity for another review when their chances of success would have been better. There is something fundamentally wrong with that, and it has to do with the rule imposing limitations on reviews. The ICC has not given adequate explanations for the limitations because they have not thought about the issue carefully. Batsmen should not be allowed to bat after they are out if it is possible to prevent it. Final point: Dropping catches in the slips as Kyle Hope did with respect to Joe Root can be stopped. It is caused by concentration lapses that are unnecessary. When you are fielding in the slips you operate on the assumption that every ball is coming to you. If you do you won’t miss many. That drop can have a major impact on the result.

The fourth day will be even more interesting, and I believe we have a good chance of winning the match.

Yours faithfully,

Romain Pitt

 

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