There has been a lot of discussion with regard to the selection of Daryn Smit over Harvey Hosein for today’s RLODC game against Yorkshire, at Headingley.
The people who are in charge of team selection have looked at the two options available to them and decided that for this match, Smit is the better option. Were we about to embark on a four-day game, perhaps the decision may have been different, but none of us, outside the club, see the players in the nets and in every match they play.
Of course Hosein is a precocious talent. Without doubt he is one of the best prospects that we have had in years. Yet he will be well aware that there can only be one wicket-keeper in any cricket team. He is very competent with the gloves, capable of brilliance, as well as being a solid batsman, if not yet one who you would back to play a match-winning innings when the runs v balls equation was against you. That will come in time, I’m sure.
Yet his rival is a man who was considered by many good judges to be the next in line for South Africa when Mark Boucher retired. We have already seen that Daryn Smit has an excellent pair of hands and two or three of his catches thus far have been unbelievable. He is on record as saying that he plays his best cricket when he is more involved and keeping wicket, which is another consideration.
There is no ‘risk’ in fielding a man with over 300 first-class victims behind the stumps. Crucially he is experienced in keeping to leg spin and has done so to Imran Tahir on a number of occasions. Perhaps, in watching both Smit and Hosein keep to Jeevan Mendis, the decision has been made on those grounds.
Given that Smit will probably not bowl again until his shoulder is fully healed – and this has to have an impact on his throwing arm – giving him the gloves also enables an ‘extra’ player to be selected. Rather than field them both, there is the option of including an extra batsman or bowler, depending on the perceived greater need.
Those of you of a certain vintage will recall when Peter Bowler kept wicket for most of our successful Sunday League season. He did a competent job, standing back for a seam-based attack, which enabled the team to be better balanced than had we chosen a specialist. There is no comparison between Bowler and Smit as a wicket-keeper and we have simply chosen one specialist over another. It is an enviable position in which to find ourselves.
Once the decision is made that for THIS game Smit is the better option with the gloves, the choice is simple. Is Harvey Hosein a better one-day batsman, at this stage, than his rivals for a place and does he give another option, other than batting? Well, both Luis Reece and Charlie Macdonell offer bowling options and are likely to be equally good in the field, which means that Hosein misses out for now. Those last two words are important, because that same discussion will take place before every game this season.
If Daryn Smit drops a catch or misses a stumping today, someone will doubtless be quick to say ‘Hosein wouldn’t have done that’. But he might, and Harvey is no less immune to error than anyone else. I have seen him put down a catch or two, just as I saw Bob Taylor miss a few and there were no better keepers than Bob in the fifty years I have watched the game. Daryn, as an experienced pro who has in his younger days been on the other end of the decision in South Africa, will know that Hosein is awaiting opportunity at any major sign of error or sloppiness.
We must be very clear on this: we cannot say that we have to play Harvey, or he will leave to join ‘X’. The club cannot and must not be held to ransom by any player and there are good keepers around the circuit who he would need to displace anyway. Everyone knows Chris Read is retiring at Nottinghamshire, but in Tom Moores they have a talented and able replacement. They also have Brendan Taylor, who has kept many times for Zimbabwe and other counties are equally well-off in that department.
The bottom line is that we could field Harvey in every game this season, but he could still walk away if a bigger county offered him daft money. Such is the way of the world and that frustration has been felt by every county in the country.
All we can do is watch the players in matches. Those selecting the team will see them in the nets, be aware of health and fitness and consider everything going on around a player when making a selection.
That is the way that it has to be and we, irrespective of our friendships, loyalties, family ties and preferences, must abide by that.
They have the full picture, we don’t.
Simple as that, really.