There are many maverick players in the world, but unfortunately, none are wearing three lions. This is not just an issue of ‘excitement for fans’, but the fundamental balance of the England team suffers.
The one who cannot be named used to be that man. Many want him back. But let’s be clear here: What is needed, is to replace his runs, not him personally.
Statistically, England have lots of very solid batsmen.
But this is in the same fashion that you might bake a cake with lots and lots of good flour and sugar.
You need other things to make it taste nice.
Alastair Cook and Ian Bell are the experienced substance of the team, with 15,000 Test runs and 46 Test hundreds between them.
Joe Root and Gary Balance are the emerging stars, in the middle order.
But there is no sugar or eggs or yeast. There’s no kick of brandy either, to separate it from the blandness.
England miss that combative player.
And let’s be realistic here. Nobody is calling for a T20 batsman in the middle of a Test match. Kevin Pietersen’s strike rate in Test cricket (61.72). Cook’s is 46 and Bell’s 45. It was his attitude. His willingness to take on the attack and fight fire with fire, but also his ability to bat at a quicker pace, and consistently get scores.
Cook and Bell are lovely to watch on a sunny day at Lord’s.
But could they hurt you?
Could they take to pieces?
Certainly not at the moment. They set up an innings, for someone to do that. It would be like South Africa having a whole team of Hashim Amlas’, with no killer Ab de Villiers.
In the last three years, Bell has averaged a meagre 33.60, 41.87 and 34.76 and Alastair Cook, has he only scored two hundreds in his last 40 Test innings. They may be right up in there in the record books, but you win games by scoring runs, not by playing top trumps.
The news that England had recalled Jonathan Trott to the England squad was welcomed, but consider the fact that England are now going to include a likely top five of Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell and Joe Root. Realistically, there is no single standout player in this top five.
Nobody is ‘scary. ‘ It’s grey. It’s one paced, and a little monotonous.
Let’s see if this ‘thrilling’ lineup can compete with the IPL, or even with County cricket, where the likes of Pietersen, Sangakkara, Che Pujara and others will be performing.
England’s only option to reverse the malaise is to redress the makeup of their side.
This is not about personnel, but about roles.
Who is going to lay the base? Who is going to use that base to attack further? Who is going to hurt the opposition.
England need to reverse the malaise in batting form by balancing their top order. To do this, an attacking batsman simply must be allowed some time at the crease and an affect on the game.
There are a number of options England could have to look at.
They could recall Kevin Pietersen. They could call up someone like James Taylor or Jason Roy. They could promote Jos Buttler or give Moeen Ali the role of attacker in the middle order. Or they could search County Cricket for an appropriately attacking batsman – such as Alex Hales.
What is clear, is that prizing out a batman who was known for his attacking style, and not replacing them will leave a large hole. The top order is now dominated by a one paced style of batting.
England do not necessarily need KP to return. But, they do need to figure out a way to replace what he did. Score a lot of runs, score a lot of hundreds, and score runs when it mattered.