Thursday, September 22, 2011

Who Is England's Best Current Batsman?

The scooping of the major ICC Awards by Alistair Cook and Jonathan Trott was due reward for their batting mastery of the last 12 months. The recognition of their excellence, also put the focus on the class and calibre of the rest of the batting line up, and with it posed this question....

Who really is England's best batsman?

The Candidates:

These are consisting of 4 names, Alistair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell. So lets undertake the arduous task of dissecting the merits of all 4, and trying to anoint the best

Alistair Cook: Age 26

Career Record: 72 Tests, 125 innings, 5868 runs average 49.72, 19 centuries and 26 50's

Last 18 Months: 22 Tests, 2217 runs, average 67.09, 9 centuries

The fact that Cook is a relatively young man in batting years, and the record he has already compiled is very admirable. Then looking at his domination of the last 18 months. It is conceivable, that if he bats for another 10 years, he could play another 120 Tests, and end up competing with Sachin Tendulkar for the most centuries in Test cricket and highest run aggregate. This contention supported by the dearth of quality bowlers and batting friendly nature of pitches

His mastery of figures in the now, and more than likely in the future certain emphasises his calibre. Though in determining the best in a field, figures are indeed useful, but they are a bit like a woman's skirt. In the respect, that they hide, more than they reveal

Case For:

Cook's incredible numbers are his biggest claim to being the best of the current English. Though as previously remarked that is a flawed means to judge. His greatest claim to being the best is the fact that he has achieved his record as an opener and duly against the new ball. Then the mastery of what he is....

In regards to an old style opening batsmen in the Sunil Gavaskar and Geoff Boycott mode. That finds great pleasure in a perfect leave or a forward defence, than most of the others who indulge in T20/ODI flash in the Test Arena. A perfect accumulator of runs and dispatcher of the bad ball. Then he is truly relentless in his hunger for runs, and fully cashes in when he has a chance. The effects this has on the opposition can't be under played for he grinds bowlers into the turf with how hard he is to dislodge. As a result the Team benefits greatly by the opportunities he creates for his batting mates.

Also from a future sense, you couldn't find a player more dedicated in improving and refining his game. So whenever challenge confronts him, he might be stifled for a phase, but overcome it in a manner that improves him as a player

Case Against

Cook's remarkable rise to prominence in the last 18 month has been stellar. Though a critic might say that he has been merely feasting on buffet bowling. So, rather than be the calibre of player many view him to be, he is merely a very fine batsman made to look better by very average bowling. This given support by decent swing bowlers like Mohammad Amir and Zaheer Khan making him look at their mercy.

Also, though he is a master at the defensive style of game he has. He hasn't the versatility in his game to change gears and truly dominate against decent bowling, rather than just merely accumulate

Jonathan Trott: Age 30 

Career Record: 23 Tests, 38 innings, 1965 runs, average 57.79, 6 centuries and 7 50's

Last 18 Months: 20 Tests, 1690 runs, average 58.27, 5 centuries 

Trott had a late start to the Test arena, but since his debut in the last Test of the victorious 2009 Ashes. He has made every post a winner culminating in winning the ICC Player of the Year Award recently. He is very much in Cook's likeness, in regards to a defence orientated old style batsman. That plays the number three position, in a Rahul Dravid manner, rather than a dominating Ricky Ponting manner.

He is very much a accumulator of runs, and most of his runs come through his expert leg side play.

Case For:

His exceptional figures are his biggest claim to being the best. Though like with Cook, there is a real flaw in judging from figures alone. His play give rise to consideration by the fact that he bats in the hardest position in the Team, and does it in a manner that improves the Team. Since Trott has entered the English set up, and assumed the role at three. The Team has improved greatly. For like Rahul Dravid is for India, Trott is the same for England. A rock at three, that allows the other stroke players in the line up to thrive by his presence

Case Against:

The biggest query against Trott is that he hasn't stood the test of time. So Teams are still adjusting to his style, and developing plans to counter him. Interestingly on this point was his recent relative struggles against the Indian's who bowled almost exclusively on a tight off side line with a stacked off side field. Thus eliminating his main strength of playing through the leg side.

Also having struggled on his initial tour to Asia against the weakest Asian Nation Bangladesh. The jury is still out about his ability against spin

Kevin Pietersen: Age 31

Career Record: 78 Tests, 133 innings, 6361 runs,average 50.48, 19 centuries and 25 50's

Last 18 Months: 22 Tests, 1562 runs, average 52.06, 3 centuries 

Kevin Pietersen, in my mind the temperamental master of World Cricket. At his best, he has no compare on the World scene, and it doesn't matter the conditions or the bowlers. If KP is on, he will brutalise any attack. In truth, after he took the World by storm in the 2005 Ashes, where he belted an Aussie attack that included Warne and McGrath. His career record is slightly disappointing in the sense of the rare ability he showed.

Though as we have seen of late he is back in a big way

Case For:

Biggest point in his favour is that he has excelled against the very best. As shown against the mighty Aussies of Warne and McGrath

Then in terms of the completeness of his skills, Pietersen is the best by a long way, and comparable with any player on the World scene. His range of strokes coupled with his audacity and mastery of innovation, makes him unstoppable for any attack, when he is on.

Worryingly for the Worlds attacks is the adding of a patient more assure element to his game. As seen against India recently.

Case Against:

Pietersen has a reputation of being fragile against left arm spin, but I don't buy into this.

The biggest query over Pietersen is buying into his new found maturity. For of recent, he was more know for his churlish little hissy fits, that got him an unwanted reputation of being his own worse enemy.

Always viewed him as similar to a burst player in football. In regards to being capable of the sincerest of brilliance, that truly captivates, but not of the sustained consistency. That is the basis of the type of greatness, that is respected.

Ian Bell: Age 29

Career Record: 69 tests, 116 innings, 5027 runs,  average 49.28, 16 centuries and 28 50's

Last 18 Months: 18 Tests, 1736 runs, average 86.8, 7 centuries 

The English prodigy Ian Bell has gone from ridicule at the hands of the Aussies in his initial career. To being dropped, after the English getting dismissed for 51 in the Caribbean in 2009. Then returning in the third Test of the 2009 Ashes, and going from strength to strength from there on.

Everyone knew of Bell's class and calibre from a young age, and he is one of the most complete players from an attacking and defensive sense one could see. Though until recently, where he has dominated, and put his critics views of him to bed. It was thought that he hadn't the mental strength to succeed in the tough World of International Cricket 

Case For:

The completeness of Bell is hard to resist. In the regard that he is at the top echelon of shot makers, and then at a similar level from a defensive point of view.

He is in truth, a perfect number three, and would provide a greater scope for England at that position than Jonathan Trott. For he can dominate as naturally as he can defend.

Then a huge feather in his cap is his ability of late to show that he is very able in crisis situations. As first seen in his 78 in 2010 against a rampaging Steyn and Morkel at Capetown. That lead to the virtually unsavable match being saved. This reputation enhanced in the recent Ashes, and conclusively against India at Trent Bridge in the last series.

You can't under estimate his hunger too because of the fact that of his early difficulties that lead him to be dropped. So, when you know what it is to struggle and be hungry, when you have a chance to feast you duly do.

Also his ability to improve is a huge strength of Bells

Case Against

Like Pietersen, there are few weakness in Bell's game on the field.

The major query against him is whether his new found mental maturity is cast in stone or just a passing phase.

From a play sense, some of his recent dominance can be diminished in credibility by the fact that it has been achieved coming in at 5 with the Team well on top and the bowlers decimated.

So greater credibility to his claims would be similar dominance higher up the order. That he has shown a capacity for of late.


This is tough, a bit like you having 4 kids, and trying to think who you love the most. Though this would how I rate them in the now, and their abilities in the future.

1. Ian Bell- The most complete player, and will likely move to three in the order. Where he will make England an even better side than they are now. He will finish his career as not only an all time English great, but with similar reputation in the game as a whole

2. Alistair Cook- I was tempted to have him as number one because of the fact that he is an opener, and he has achieved a dominance against the new ball. Plus the glut of runs he has scored has positively impacted on the other names in this comparison. Though I believe him to be a very fine player, I think a lot of his dominance has been accentuated because of the standard of bowling he has been flaying. I still have doubt about him against quality swing bowlers

3. Kevin Pietersen- If I could trust in his consistency as much as I do his sincere brilliance. He would be number 1 by a long way

4. Jonathan Trott- Great record, but we haven't seen him in all conditions. So until we do, we will reserve judgement on him


  1. Hard to choose Tim but I'd agree with Ian Bell at No. 1. His 150+ at Trent bridge was the best innings by an Englishman that I've been lucky enough to witness from the terraces.

  2. England should swap Trott and Bell around, and have Bell at 3.

    But, you are right Michael, so tough to choose between the 4, and that is the true testimony to Englands strength. Then Strauss and prior aren't mugs with the willow either

  3. Come on what about Eoin Morgan???

  4. I like what I read Tim and after all we each have an opinion that has our own interpretations of a players strengths and weaknesses. And I would agree that Pietersen can be his own weakness... but for sheer ability & brilliance when on song no other player is as exciting to watch. regards Peter B