Some things do a good job. They perform perfunctorily. A paper clip, for example. Or tupperware. Fine inventions for sure, but a tad boring. In a similar manner, some things never let you down. Like mineral water, thinsulate gloves or, disturbingly in the case of Rod Stewart, an old raincoat. But where’s the excitement with these things? Where’s the tension that comes from not knowing if something is going to fail tragically or succeed hilariously? Take gin: one day it will cleanse the mind and elevate you to a higher plain, the next it will crush you like a juniper-flavoured elephant stepping on an empty cereal box. Less excitingly, objects and machines that might sometimes make you beam with delight due to their outrageous ability to make your life better, but then refuse to respond to frequent stabs and ever-heavier kicks, are altogether much more interesting than a boring old paper clip. After all, there’s more to life than worrying about if a draught is going to blow your pile of timesheets off your desk.
Which brings us to James Tredwell, by way of the cliche-rich, soundbite-clad management-guff that is often spouted by sportsmen in lieu of any actual opinion or insight. He knows his roles, he does his job. He’ll never, ever let you down.
For England, he may only have played one Test, two T20s and 12 ODIs, but his strengths and weaknesses are really quite plain to see. If England need a spinner for a limited overs match and Graeme Swann isn’t available, then Tredwell is your man. However statistics such as 18 wickets at 25.44 or a run rate of 4.82 runs per over show just how perfunctory he is. They’re fine; they’ll do.
However, there is a case to be made for England not selecting Tredwell. At the age of 30, he’s young enough to be on the scene for at least a few more years still. Now those two sentences might seem incongruous, but unlike Test matches, ODIs are less about the ‘now’ and much more about the big events. Later this year, England host the Champions Trophy (actually, scrub that, the Champions Trophy is a pretty meaningless and pathetic tournament, about as much loved as a third-hand raincoat) and it is just two short years until the next World Cup. With England building a more than handy squad (number one in the world until the other day, lest we forget) and the 2015 competition to be held in Australia and New Zealand, there is good cause to get excited. So long as his elbow holds together (anyone got any paper clips?), and no other injuries affect him, Swann will be England’s front-line spinner in two years time – even though he’ll be 36 by the time of the final. If for some reason though, he is plagued by hideous form or his cat gets stuck under the floorboards again, then Tredwell will still probably be a handy reserve.
But aren’t there other options? If you’ve nothing to lose, wouldn’t you want to test-drive a new Ferrari before you lay down a deposit on a reliable Nissan Micra – even if the supercar turns out to handle like a camel and be as comfortable as a barbed-wire chair? England really have the luxury of being able to experiment with their ODI team at the moment, knowing that there is a core of players, all aged between 26 and 33 who should be still at their peak or thereabouts in 2015. To be fair to the selectors, they are testing some fringe players and have not been scared of doing so in the past, and hopefully their careful management of Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler will pay dividends soon. Meanwhile we are learning an awful lot about Jade Dernbach and Chris Woakes (and we hope they themselves are taking lessons, such as ‘don’t bowl wide full tosses to MS Dhoni’). So why not use ODIs, which generally get forgotten the moment the series finish, to start blooding the young spinners, the up-and-coming kids who’ve been in the Lions squads for a few years but have only the occasional sniff of Ian Bell’s jockstrap to show for their time in the adult team?
Oh, but we might be laughing in exasperation as Scott Borthwick gets smashed for 100 runs in a single innings; Simon Kerrigan may break down in tears when he drops his fourth catch in the same over; but if England get to AusZealandia ’15 with James Tredwell still in the squad, we bet there’ll be plenty of people saying, “oh, wonder why Danny Briggs never got an opportunity.” And that’s not a slight on Tredders – he’ll keep tredding the same way that a simple twist of metal keeps clipping paper together.
A few months ago, there was a strange occurrence on the pages of 51allout: an argument that wasn’t about whether the Boo Radleys were better than the Lightning Seeds. Myself and James Knight were discussing the merits of Monty Panesar. I made the argument for Monty, whilst James questioned why England weren’t bothering to try and play a young spinner instead. My point then was that Tests are very different to any other form of the game and moreover, every single result is worth caring about (plus that Panesar was actually a handy bowler to have as back-up in a Test match). However, as nice as it is to beat India over 100 overs, these one-day games are ideal chances to begin learning about what someone like Briggs (joint sixth leading wicket-taker in last year’s Pro40) can do.
If Tredwell is aboard that plane to the World Cup in two years’ time, we are sure that he’ll do a job for England. But it would be nice to know that the other spinners had been given the chance. Such experiments could go wrong, insofar as the players are shown to not be of international quality, in which case, England can turn to the reliable Mr Steady. But they could go brilliantly well and reveal a match-winning star of the future. Be bold, England. Live a little. Push aside that bottle of water and reach for the gin.