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A tale of two Captains

I passed these comments to Joe Root when he was made Captain. I never received a reply or even an acknowledgement so there seems to be no harm in printing them now. Sadly Joe did not take my advice about the Australian Smith. He did have four on the leg side fairly early on, but one of them was in a semi catching position which failed on two counts. Smith does not hit in the air in that area. It still left open spaces for him to collect his one and twos. Now I'm afraid it would be a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Captaincy Notes from Ted Dexter for Joe Root

I admire your initiative to play Test Cricket with good fun in the equation. Putting it into practice has its pitfalls - but they are worth it.

Going back to 1959, my first overseas Tour to West Indies, Peter May told us that if the West Indians (with 3/4 fast bowlers) bowled their overs slowly, then so would we. Hence the unedifying process of throwing the ball from hand to hand to hand on its way back to the bowler to prolong a maiden over by a spinner. We won the Series but so what?

Fast forward to 1962 when I, aged 27, was made Captain for the Australian tour. At my first Press Conference on the SS Canberra before disembarking in Perth, I was asked “what about brighter cricket, Ted”. I demurred at the broad sweep of the question but gave an assurance that we would bowl 20 overs an hour for certain. WHAT? 20 eight ball overs? AH! Lets say 120 balls an hour - and we did. Overrate is a simple way of bringing some life into the game.

I also told the batsmen to go out and show how bloody good we all were - and when we made over 400 on the first day at Melbourne against an Australian XI before theTest Series - the media really picked up on us. That publicity really came to fruition when we had over 300, 000 come to the 2nd Test back at Melbourne. We bowled 119 balls per hour with Trueman, Statham Coldwell and Dexter + one spinner. And we won with some really positive batting and running between wickets on the afternoon of the 5th day

Now to tactics on the field. Up until that series, Bill Lawry had been a real thorn in the England side. Finally I twigged. He never cut the ball. He just stopped the shorter ball on the off-side and ran singles. And he seldom cover drove. Good straight driver, puller and off his legs. I didn’t have the temerity to tell Trueman and Statham where to bowl but first change Coldwell got the message. We had a close fielder on the off side and bowled short of a length just out side off.

It worked like a charm, drying up his runs and stopping him from rotating the strike. His partners became ever more restless and started making mistakes of their own,

Fast forward to the South Africans in England (year?) when they made a mammoth score in an early Test including a Smith hundred.
I e-mailed Andrew Strauss- starting thus: Don’t ask me how to bowl to AMLA. KALLIS and DE VILLIERS but as for that SMITH!! What a one trick pony he is!!
With a bottom hand grip like a gorilla, twisted right round under the handle, he shovelled anything remotely straight round to the leg-side, rotating the strike and picking up easy runs. The bowlers tended to bowl more and more off side
until he started to flat bat it square.

I urged Andrew to unsettle him. Wait till he got to the wicket and start moving fielders one by one to the leg-side - four, then five then six. Keep him waiting and then take one back to the off side. Now the bowlers could bowl straight to him and all his shovel shots were cut off. No rotating the strike and general dismay. Net result was that he never passed thirty for the rest of the series - and scoring those few runs much more slowly - with a bad effect on the guys the other end.

I cite the Smith story because I believe you may need something similar to deal with Mr Smith in Australia. I suggested similar tactics to Andrew, when they were last in England, who said he passed my message on to the England support team. That was before he scored his 200 at Lord’s. Back at Lord’s later in the season I was invited to the “highlights “ box with Mark Nicholas and Geoffrey Boycott. Discussing the same subject. I got them to replay an on-drive, wide of mid-on which went for four. It was a perfectly pitched ball hitting the top of the off! Frightening!

Later at the MCC Cowdrey lecture I met Alastair Cook for the first time. I asked whether he was aware of my suggestion. He replied that he was but added that “if you bowl straight, he never misses”. Wasn’t it worth a try, packing the leg-side for at least a few overs while he made 200? All I got was a parting shrug.

Wishing you all the very best - and don’t let the buggers get you down!!


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