Cow Corner

Cook with Carbs in Bangladesh

Cow Corner

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Michael Carberry was ready to quit cricket for good in 2005, but now the prolific left-hander who, along with Dimi Mascarenhas keeps Argos' Elizabeth Duke in business, stands on the brink of a first Test cap for the tour to Bangladesh.

The Hampshire batsman is widely expected to open the batting with Alastair Cook at Chittagong in March, but the two batsmen's progression could not have been more polarised: one utterly serene and leading to the captaincy, and one the culmination of years of frustration and mental turmoil.

At 29, the Hampshire player stands to become the oldest specialist batsmen to make his debut for England this century, in what is a direct reversal of 'the kids are alright' approach adopted in Duncan Fletcher's tenure.

Carberry would also be England's first new cap of West Indian heritage since 1998 when Alex 'Bambi' Tudor played against Australia at Perth. (The same AJ Tudor who plundered a breezy 99 against New Zealand at England's nadir back in 1999 - the highest ever score by an English nightwatchman - and only mustered an additional 130 in his 15 other innings.)

But unlike Tudor, Carberry's selection reflects his hard graft and consistency on the county circuit, not raw talent and perennial promise (Graeme Swann, not Chris Schofield, if you will).

A little over four years ago, Carberry was close to confining his coffin to the garage and selling his strides on ebay after having his opportunities stifled by Graham Ford's indiscriminate exploitation of the loose oversees player regulations.

Despite averaging 105 for the Kent second XI, Carberry  was denied even a solitary Championship appearance by Ford, who recruited Michael Bevan, Martin van Jaarsveld, Andrew Hall and Justin Kemp, plus Darren Stevens from Leicestershire.

Carberry says the final straw, having just scored yet another ton for the seconds, was seeing South African Neil Dexter swiftly flown over to cover for Kemp and Hall in the perceived crisis of having a county side minus two Proteas players.

After publicly declaring 'I need a South African passport to play in this team', Carberry's request for a release was ruthlessly dragged out until November 2005, accompanied by threats of court action. But then came the move to the Rose Bowl, which provided fickle pitches and the company of Shane Warne and Kevin Pietersen in the dressing room.

Carberry has effectively ousted former Kent team-mates Robert Key and Joe 'no pants' Denly in the pecking order, and this is in part due to his exceptional fielding (he is Trevor Penny to Key's Jimmy Ormond to make a rather contrived comparison).

The left-handed opener was called up into the England Lions for the tour of India in 2008, then averaged 69.50 and plundered 1251 runs in last season's Championship, and was an ice pack away from replacing Paul Collingwood in South Africa when 'the nurdler' sustained a finger injury.

Carberry's emergence could play a vital part in arresting a decline in Afro-Caribbean cricket in England that reflects the sport's fragile footing in inner-city areas - call that idealism, but a fully-fledged role model beats half-baked ECB strategies every time.

The ebullient Carbs could also provide some much needed energy for the tourists in Bangladesh, while other frontline stars refuel ahead of the meatier challenges which lie ahead.

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