Introductions are often the hardest part of an article to actually write. Many is the time that we’ve looked at the word count, sighed and gone back to try and beef up the intro. What could we add in this time? A mention of Margot Robbie? Done that, quite a few times. Jenna Coleman? We’ve drawn from that particular well on many occasions. We haven’t made a Samit Patel fat joke for a while though. Or maybe we could just put a picture in and try and write a really long caption – that one works sometimes.
Yes, that seems to have done the job quite nicely. On with the actual article then.
It’s not that we don’t like James Tredwell. Far from it, we bloody love him. Perhaps it’s the fact he doesn’t really look like a sportsman (in fact he looks like the sort of friendly uncle that is later revealed to be a massive paedo) or the fact he doesn’t really play like one either. Giving the ball some air and actually, you know, spinning the damn thing seem to be outside his repertoire, with the great man preferring to concentrate on darting the ball into the batsman from around the wicket.
Two Tests half a decade apart tell the story of a man who simply wasn’t cut out for the top level of international cricket. Defensive spin bowlers can work in the longer format – Ashley Giles being a prime example – but it’s an extremely difficult act to balance. When your main competition for a place is Graeme Swann, a man who can do both a defensive and attacking job at the same time (and both of them quite a lot better), it’s always going to be a challenge getting into a side with only one spinner. And when two spinners were needed? There was the small matter of Monty Panesar offering the perfect foil to Swann. At least until he lost the plot and started weeing everywhere, like the 51allout cat as he approached the end of his time here on Earth.
Tredders, as he should affectionately be known by everyone, made his Test debut in Dhaka in 2010 as England realised, not for the first time, that they’d a) forgotten to pick an appropriate number of spinners for the opening match against Bangladesh and b) forgotten to pick Panesar in the squad. Tredders came in at the expense of Michael Carberry, with the batting order all shuffling up a place, allowing England the luxury of five bowlers and Tim Bresnan at number seven, back when Bresnan was the shit.
Tredders picked up six wickets in the match as England completed a reasonably comfortable victory on the final day, reaching a target of 209 for the loss of just Jonathan Trott. But with the tour over that was it for Tredwell. He wasn’t needed at home (against either Bangladesh or Pakistan) or in Australia as England won down under for the first time in about 200 years.
And that was the obvious end point for James Tredwell’s Test career. Except, of course, that it wasn’t. At the beginning of 2015 England toured the West Indies without Graeme Swann (now retired), Monty Panesar (having issues) or Moeen Ali (injured for the first Test). A spinner was obviously required; with a tour of the UAE coming up later that year the sensible thing would have been to give Adil Rashid the chance that he so clearly deserved. So England picked Tredders.
It doesn’t really matter that Tredders took 4/47 in the first innings or that the home side hung on to force the draw. All that England really achieved was to hold back a potential match-winning leg-spinner in favour of a guy who was really struggling to force his way into Kent’s four day side. They then decided to drop Tredders to bring a fit-again Moeen Ali into the side, again ignoring Rashid. He did eventually make his debut in the UAE where – unsurprisingly – things didn’t go entirely to plan.
Despite a pointless (but not disastrous, as 11 wickets at 29 can testify) Test career, Tredwell did actually make some significant contributions to England’s ODI team, playing 45 matches and being first choice spinner ahead of Swann throughout the 2013 Champions Trophy. He also failed to hit the last ball of the final for six, causing England to lose, but it’s hard to hold that against him, especially when we can blame Eoin Morgan.
Nor should we forget that he was unbeaten in his career as England captain. In one of the great T20Is, Tredwell attended the toss (lost) and then sat, General Melchett-style, in the pavilion whilst his team faced a Kiwi onslaught for the duration of the innings. Two balls later, amidst the Kennington rain, it was all over: match abandoned, Tredders undefeated.
To conclude then: Tredders’ complete lack of any sort of style or grace is probably what most endeared him to us. It’s probably the same feeling that kids have watching their dad playing local cricket, quietly laughing to themselves as he once again embarrasses himself by trying to actually run after the ball or take a catch. Just a few minutes later he’s making sure that he’s definitely first in line for the cucumber sandwiches, probably by pushing the local vicar out of the way with a knowing comic smile. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was such a lovely fellow, the fact that he wasn’t all that good at cricket might actually get mentioned a bit more often.