OPINION: Children of the Robinson Revolution

An England cap has always been something to be treasured. Lately, though, they have been so rare that had there been an England Cap-Making Company it would have had to go out of business. Only two players – Tash Farrant and Becky Grundy – have gained a debut ODI cap in the past three years, and the idea that England might look outside their pool of contracted players has – since the one-off last minute selection of Sonia Odedra in the August 2014 Test against India – gone out of the window. Alex Hartley’s selection today – long overdue – bucked a trend. It also makes her the first Child of Mark Robinson’s Revolution.

Sociologists have written entire books about what, precisely, constitutes a “revolution”. It is a question I sometimes ask my students when teaching on the subject of modern British history. “A change that happens quickly”, is normally the initial hazard at a definition. “So if I dyed my hair purple before our seminar next week,” I reply, sceptically, “would that constitute a revolution?”

In cricket terms, alternatively, one might ask: does calling up one uncapped player and one player who has not worn an England shirt since 2011 actually constitute a revolution? Fran Wilson did not even play in any of the three matches; a cynical soul (ahem) might suggest that Mark Robinson’s Brave New World looks pretty similar to the old one, minus the run-machine that was – to the end of her England career – Charlotte Edwards.

https://twitter.com/RafNicholson/status/745185030608199680

And if one possible headline from today’s game is “Brunt Takes Five-Fer”, one might well imagine that continuity, not change, has been the watchword: for all the criticism England have endured over the past few years, their bowling – almost always fronted by the ever-passionate Katherine Brunt – has rarely been the problem.

So has anything changed? Absolutely. Just look at the batting order. Lauren Winfield and Tammy Beaumont are opening: it feels familiar, until you realise that while they have both done the role previously, they have never done so together prior to this series. And until you realise that instead of weakly holeing out they are getting themselves in and staying there.

If I’d had to put money on a player coming close to beating Edwards’ record score of 173, Beaumont isn’t the name I’d have chosen; but there it is in black and white on the score sheet, and in the record books – and the way she played I don’t think anyone could argue that it doesn’t deserve to be there.

Amy Jones is behind the stumps. It would have been understandable if she had gone through this series with the media spotlight firmly upon her, stepping up as England’s first choice wicketkeeper in the absence of Sarah Taylor. Yet she has barely been mentioned. She should not take it personally; or rather, she should: going so far under the radar is a tribute to her talent with the gloves.

Of course, with Georgia Elwiss at 3 and Nat Sciver coming in up the order, Jones has not been required with the bat. Sciver is another point of interest: were she a Friends episode, she would be entitled ‘The One With the Big Reputation’. She has long been touted as England’s power-hitter; their answer to the Grace Harris’s of this world. She has never quite lived up to this billing – until her innings at Worcester the other day, that is.

Yes, Pakistan are not the strongest side; but the clinical way in which they have been dispatched should not be underestimated. England have a tally of 910 runs this series against Pakistan’s 495. It has been not just a victory but an annihilation.

Robinson’s Revolution does not look like I thought it would a few weeks ago. In this case revolution has not, really, been about a change in personnel, but a change in attitude and environment. Brunt – whose plain speaking makes her a pleasure to interview – summed this up after close of play. “He’s sparked something in me and it’s making me want to stick around for a while,” she said. “If you’re doing the same things over and over it just becomes a bit monotonous. I’m not a big fan of change but this change has really helped me out. It’s about pushing you out of your comfort zone, figuring out what you’re capable of, and then taking even that further. The biggest thing for me is watching everybody grow. When I look around and see these youngsters who have been around for a lot of years now really starting to flourish as players, it’s really inspiring. He’s just brought the best out of everybody.”

As Alexis de Tocqueville reminds us, revolutions are not always sudden and violent: sometimes they are slow but sweeping; sometimes they take time to make their mark. In truth, most revolutions in British history have been slow burners (quite literally, in the case of the Industrial one); set in motion by one radical event, change then unfolds gradually over time, until you look back and realise that something fundamental has changed without you quite noticing how.

Robinson’s revolution is, thus far, very much in the British mould. Will it succeed? Time will tell. But in a week where Brexit has shown just how bad the English are at dealing with radical change, it’s surely worth a go.

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8 thoughts on “OPINION: Children of the Robinson Revolution

  1. 1. Yes these performances boost confidence and give MR and the team breathing space.

    2. But the academy players will it seem have to use the WSL to break into the new ring

    3. Until this team face their nemesis (Australia or even the Kiwi’s or WI) these players will have proven nothing

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    • Fair comment, Baz. But everything has to grow from somewhere. England have done pretty much all they could have done in this series, certainly with the bat, which is where most of the problems were feared to be likely given recent events.

      As Joey the Lips remarked in The Commitments, “It’s a start, and I believe in starts.”

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  2. “In this case revolution has not, really, been about a change in personnel, but a change in attitude and environment.”

    Which is exactly what happened with England’s men against New Zealand last year. A couple of new additions but you had a change of attitude. Seeing the guys actually smiling on the balcony of Lords with Farbrace during the Test was indicative of that. They looked like a team actually enjoying themselves compared to the tired niggle that characterised the Moores era by the end.

    It’s nice to see some runs being scored and wins achieved but it shouldn’t gloss over how dreadful Pakistan have been. They have been diabolical. I shall be there in Bristol and I am expecting hilarity, not least when I see the size of the boundary. I remember playing at Taunton some 20 years ago at U-19 level and thinking it was pretty small for a county surface: seeing that boundary on’t telly today really made the eyes boggle.

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  3. Great that KB is reinvigorated. What does this say about the previous coaching environment…these players have always had potential, many had opportunities, even with Lottie there, but seemed fearful to take them.

    Shouldn’t get carried away but definately need to use the confidence to take things forward.

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  4. Pakistan were the poorest fielding side I have ever seen in Womens International Cricket–their attempts at taking catches and missing quite a few run out situations were very poor.They seemed to be treading water when chasing the ball in the field.

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  5. I stand by my comments that a completely new batsman should play ahead of Danni Wyatt, who is hugely lucky to still be in the picture. The fact that the top 5 were so dominant any no 6 would not have had much of a go is a separate issue. I haven’t been involved with women’s county cricket since 2013 so can someone who watches it now suggest if my assessment is correct, i.e. that as a bowling and fielding unit Pakistan looked like a middling div 2 county? If not, where would they rank if they played as an English county? The record breaking stats are there in black and white, and the matches were great to watch when we were batting, but I still feel tough times are ahead as the new look team gets used to playing tougher opposition. Pakistan’s batting has certainly improved, but I still feel that if they can reliably make 160 against England then the Aussies could make 250 against our current attack. Now would you expect our current batting line up to chase that down? Remember that the fielding from Pakistan was so poor that at times it looked as if our girls could intentionally hit in the air without fear as there was such a low chance of the catch being taken. A competent fielding side would have sent Beaumont back for 2 by taking the chance she offered, not allow her to score 166 more!

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