THERE is nothing quite like a rainy day and a couple of no-nonsense summarisers to make for compelling listening on Test Match Special.
So it was last week when Michael Vaughan and Graeme Swann helped fill airtime during the washed out one-day international between England and India at Bristol.
Vaughan and Swann were discussing England’s strategies at the start of a period of exclusively one-day cricket between now and the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year.
I happened to be listening and it was one of the most fascinating hour-long cricket chats I have heard. It was fascinating because Vaughan and Swann were simply magnificent: candid and constructive, incisive and insightful.
Although I sometimes find Swann’s jocularity overbearing, at least he is refreshingly honest, and, alongside the similarly straight-talking Vaughan, who I think is an increasingly impressive presence on the airwaves, they spoke a great deal of common sense.
Both felt that England possess a one-day captain in Alastair Cook, and a one-day team in general, which is out of kilter with modern white-ball cricket.
It was the basis for a riveting debate.
Cook, they concluded, was a smashing lad who had done a wonderful job of turning England’s Test fortunes around, with Vaughan admitting that he was wrong to have suggested only a few weeks ago that Cook should have taken a break from the Test arena, an admission that also reflected well on the former Yorkshire batsman.
Swann said he “loves Cookie dearly” but described him as “the most stubborn man in the world”, while Vaughan said Cook was a bit like himself, Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain and Andrew Strauss in that he, too, is first and foremost a Test batsman.
“We were all brought up playing the forward defensive and leaving it around the off stump,” said Vaughan. “Occupying the crease, playing for a bit of time, and we were all one-day captains!”
Swann thought Eoin Morgan should be one-day captain and that England should go for a team with more big-hitters. He said he didn’t think England have “a cat in hell’s chance” of winning the World Cup and called for Surrey swashbuckler Jason Roy and Hampshire haymaker James Vince to be given their chance.
Vaughan agreed and urged England not to miss this great opportunity to prepare for the World Cup with no Test cricket between now and April, advocating more with the power to clear the rope and saying England are lagging behind with their thinking.
Both summarisers were incredulous that Ravi Bopara had been overlooked for the current ODI series against India.
Commenting generally on England’s approach, Vaughan said: “You look at some of England’s strike-rates – Bell 76, Cook 78. With India, Kohli has 89, Dhoni 88, Raina 91, Dhawan 89. We’re 10 behind.
“It’s those middle overs where the field spreads, the spinners come on and England don’t have the knack of hitting boundaries.
“We need one-day players who have been brought up on white-ball cricket, like James Taylor and Roy and Vince, and who get a buzz from it.”
So take a bow, Messrs Vaughan and Swann.
One can only hope the England captain and selectors were listening.