Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Why England should keep Kieswetter

Before this week started, Craig Kieswetter was a run of the mill county player who happened to have been born in South Africa. Now, after two innings against representative sides, the Somerset stumper is English cricket's hottest property. And definately English.

While the cricket community is ablaze with tales of his two limited overs knocks of 81 and 140-odd, the English selectors need to stop themselves being carried away in the sea of hysteria. I am not knocking Kieswetter's right to choose to play internationally for England. Indeed, I am actually supporting his claim for a starting berth in the First ODI against Bangladesh on Sunday. What I am calling for, however, is caution.

Before the circus of the mini Twenty20 series in Dubai, Paul Collingwood was asked whether Kieswetter would be fast-tracked into the side for the games against Pakistan. Collingwood answered no, claiming that the squad had already been picked, and that there was no need for change. Merely five days later, after more top-order woes (see my earlier blog), Kieswetter was rushed into the squad for the Bangladesh leg of the tour. Quite why there was this about-turn in selection policy is unknown, and rather bemusing, as England already had taken two wicketkeepers in Matt Prior and Steve "Friends on Facebook" Davies. So to add a third smacks of bandwagon jumping from the selectors. I totally accept the decision to add Kieswetter, but surely it could have been handled in a better way by the ECB. By pushing someone who has only been English for a week into the squad immediately (after initially refusing) could be seen by some as brave, but by others as greedy.

In any case, Kieswetter has been taken, and by all accounts, is doing a pretty good job of it so far. In his one appearance (as of now), he has an average of 143, reaching his century from 123 balls. While there will be critics who argue that Kieswetter was playing against the blind school (Bangladesh Cricket Board XI) on a road of a pitch, and that he was dropped four times, I am of the school of thought that he can only take advantage of the situation. There is never a player who gets lucky to get to a century (apart from Ramnaresh Sarwan in Jamaica last year). And don't forget, England's premier batsman in Kevin Pietersen got a first baller. Kieswetter is clearly a player in form, and should definately start on Sunday (which he almost certainly will).

So how should England structure their side? The team which fared so well overnight included Liam Plunkett (who will not play again this tour barring disaster) for a resting Stuart Broad, with Matt Prior batting at 7. While I rate Matt Prior as a batsman, it seems odd that after getting so much stick for his keeping that he is behind the stumps while a perfectly accomplished wicketkeeper is fielding at midwicket. By keeping (see what I did there) Prior in the team as a 'specialist keeper', or indeed handing the gloves to Kieswetter with Prior still in the team is effectively saying that the selectors rate him amongst the top 7 one day batsmen in England. When quite simply, he is not. If Kieswetter plays (which he will), he might as well keep, which allows England to bring in a better batsman ahead of Prior.

Ahead of the 50 Over World Cup this time next year, Craig Kieswetter needs an extended run in the side, and can take his chance to open with Alastair Cook this series (against a less than formidable Bangladesh). Let's just hope that England can 'keep' the right balance

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