Michael Vaughan, the former England captain and now a broadcaster and a columnist after retirement, had written a scathing column about England’s batting after the loss in the second Test of the just concluded series against South Africa. Joe Root, the current England Test skipper, didn’t seem amused by it and though he didn’t say anything against Vaughan who has been a hero and mentor to him, he did indicate that Vaughan may have overstepped a bit in his assessment of the performance of England’s batsmen.
Now Vaughan can be cheeky at times and has done a great job of winding some people, especially Indian cricket fans with his comments on twitter or his columns and then sat back and enjoyed the fun.
However if one looks at the results of Test matches in recent times then one will find that his assessment that today’s Test batsmen have little idea how to plan and play in a situation where a bit of patience is required is absolutely spot on. Vaughan’s view that most, if not all modern batsmen after playing a few dot balls look to play an attacking shot and mostly end up getting out has also been borne out in recent times. The temperament to ride out the tough period when the bowler is on top and the pitch is assisting the ball to deviate, is almost gone out of the game. Yes, there are still batsmen like Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hashim Amla, Steve Smith, Virat Kohli to name a few but most others look to break free with an attacking shot and while some succeed for a little time they get out sooner rather than later.
The grinding patient innings to save a Test match is simply gone out of fashion just like autographs have lost out to selfies today. When it comes to batting out the last day of a Test match or the fourth innings of a game there are no batsmen capable of doing it and that’s why most Test matches are finishing in four days nowadays. Chasing 350 plus in the fourth innings is hardly seen today though the Sri Lankans did it recently against Zimbabwe when they got almost 400 runs to win that Test match.
The South African batsmen also were incapable of playing the long innings to take them home against England in the final Test match and so ended up losing a Test series in England after a long time. While most people, especially the South Africans, were lamenting the absence of AB de Villiers there has been no known instance where he has played an innings that has saved a match. Sure, he has played many a breathtaking innings that have won matches for South Africa especially in limited overs cricket, but at the Test level it is tough to recall a game he has saved for his team.
Before the Test series started there were articles about how Heino Kuhn deserves the call up after the patience he showed in sticking to South African cricket and not taking the escape route that most other white South Africans take to ply their trade elsewhere. Africa if AB de Villiers had not decided or been asked to keep wickets in all formats of the game. That decision could well have been to keep out a coloured keeper who had earlier replaced Mark Boucher. After Boucher returned to the team and then suffered an unfortunate career-ending injury, it was AB de Villers who kept wickets. After that, there were some other keepers before Quinton de Kock made the spot his own but that period where he was also keeping wickets in all formats has certainly not helped AB de Villers who now has a back and shoulder injury that kept him out of international cricket for a while.
The point though is that Kuhn’s performances nails the Canard that is usually spread about how transformation is hampering South African cricket. Apart from Kevin Pietersen show me one South African- born player who has shown he is world-class. Look at the current team and you will find that most have learnt their cricket elsewhere before going on to play for England. That’s why England teams should really be called rest of the world than England.