Monday, 10 January 2011

Will he? Won't he? I'm starting to not give a sh... Part 1

New year, new start apparently but the frustrating saga surrounding Sean Ervine and his umming and ahhring over whether he should return to International cricket with Zimbabwe or not continues. It's been ramped up today with Radio Solent reporting that Ervine has told them that he's leaving Hampshire after the Caribbean T20 to return to Zimbabwe. In reply Hampshire have said that no decision has been made. This isn't the first time that Ervine has gone to the press and it isn't the first time that Hampshire have rebuked the claims. Back in November, it was reported that Ervine had spoken to Zimbabwe Cricket and had agreed to return home to play for the national team. This was followed by a Hampshire statement that expressed in no uncertain terms that Ervine was still under contract with the club, and that discussions over Ervine's future would be held during the Carib T20.

It is clear that Zimbabwe Cricket and its supporters see Ervine as the last and largest piece in the puzzle, with his return signalling a new era for the national side as they re-embark on their journey as a test playing nation. Certainly Ervine would supplement a line up that though talented was painfully exposed by the Bangladeshi spinners and the South African fast bowlers in consecutive tours. The likes of Brendan Taylor, Craig Ervine and Tatenda Taibu are deserving of their place and of a chance to face the best bowlers around the world in the longest form of the game and likewise Zimbabwe deserve a chance again. I fear that Ervine may not be the answer though. Completely, at least.

Having followed this winding saga for a while, something that has concerned me has been the expectations placed upon Ervine by the fans, and I fear that such expectations may also be harboured by the board. I've often wondered about the effects caused by player dislocation and the resultant talent exaggeration this can cause. It can occur in any sport but cricket and specifically Zimbabwe cricket, given their history, most of all. It would appear that perceived ability and influence a player has on a team is directly proportional to the length of time that player is absent from that team. Ervine has been out of the side for six years, and it is hoped by many fans that he will bat at four in the test side, and be the first change bowler, as he apparently can bowl the ball fast and swing it.

The last thing that I want this to be is sour grapes. Maybe it is in a way though. Hampshire are losing a fine allrounder, one of our best performers who puts his heart into everything he does. And yes he is a good batsman. But a test level number four? At first class level the highest Hampshire were happy to bat Ervine was at five, often with him coming in at six or seven. Ervine is of an International standard on his day, and in limited overs matches he works better batting slightly further up the order, but five first class centuries in six years suggests that if Zimbabwe are looking for a number four test batsman then Ervine is not their man. The less spoken about his bowling, the better.

Ok, repeat: I am not bitter. I am not bitter. I am not bitter...