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.
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.