The Wright Stuff

Cow Corner

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Cowers is worried for Luke Wright.

The young Sussex all-rounder was the leading run-scorer and six hiter in the 2007 Twenty20 Cup. 

And this season he has already hit 120 for the England Lions against the touring New Zealanders in a four-day game.

Now he is likely to open for England in tomorrow's Twenty20 international against the Kiwis followed by five one-day internationals.

He is one half decent series away from being labelled the "next Ian Botham..."

It has become one of the most cursed nicknames in sport; as unwanted comparisons go, it is second only to being labelled "the new Bob Dylan".

As unfair as it was to expect Donovan to write a Blonde on Blonde (or even a Self Portrait...), it was perhaps unreasonable to expect poor Mark Ealham to single-handedly win the Ashes.

Botham's is an impossible name to live up to, an impossible shadow to step out of.

To reproduce his playing career would take a mix of rich talent, rare courage, a swaggering bravado and an impeccable sense of timing. Matching his off-field exploits would require a sense of adventure so fearless it would shame many.

Cowers takes a look at the succession of sacrificial lambs christened "the new Ian Botham".

David Capel:

44 Tests; batting average 14.82, bowling average 33.57

A 24-year-old Capel hit 53 in his first Test innings when he made his debut in 1987. However, his next 15 Tests subsequently proved he was little more than an honest trier, good enough with neither bat or ball to make an impression in international cricket. If his Test averages of 15.58 with the bat and 50.66 with the ball had been reversed, he'd have been the greatest all-rounder in the game's history. As it was, the only real comparison with Botham comes in the hair-stakes - and even then, Beefy's magnificent mane just edges out Capel's golden highlights.

Phil DeFreitas

44 Tests; batting average 14.82, bowling average 33.57

Daffy made an impressive start to his Test career; his first series was alongside Botham in the famous 1987 Ashes triumph in Australia. But his batting always flattered to deceive, and his seam bowling, though lively, lacked the aggression to trouble the best. Having said that, if the England selectors wanted the self-affacing, Dominican-born player to show the same swagger and bravado as Beefy, they had a funny way of showing it; Daffy ended his 44-Test career as England's most dropped - and recalled - player ever.

Derek Pringle

30 Tests; batting average 15.10, bowling average 35.97

Like Botham, Pringle went on to carve out a successful media career after his retirement from Test cricket - but without question, there ends any similarities between the two. At a pinch, you could say that they both broke furniture in the bedroom, but even that doesn't stand up to further scrutiny: while Pringle once injured his back when his chair collapsed as he sat at a desk, Miss Barbados Lindy Field once sold a story to the newspapers that she and Botham broke a bed in a 'marathon romp'.

Chris Lewis

32 Tests; batting average 23.0, bowling average 37.5

The stats over his six-year Test career stacked up rather well, but Lewis retired from first-class cricket in 2000 an unfulfilled talent. His physique was the absolute polar opposite of Botham's; lean, graceful and athletic. His run-up to the crease was elegant and rhythmic - but it was often a shame he had to let the ball go at the end of it. But, perhaps unfairly, ultimately all this matters little, for Lewis will end up being remembered by most cricket fans as the man who shaved his head two days before a Test match in the Caribbean and then immediately got sunstroke.

Dominic Cork

37 Tests; batting average 18.0, bowling average 29.8

Like Botham, the bigger the stage, the better Cork performed, as figures of 7-43 on his 1995 Test debut confirm. But although his swing and seam proved effective even at the highest level, his batting (three fifties in 56 Test innings) only rarely dazzled. And while Botham's in-yer-face aggression inspired team-mates and intimidated opponents, Cork's own brand of bombast was far from endearing. Certainly to Geoff Boycott, who labelled him a "prima donna". And former England coach David Lloyd: "He can be as unpopular with his team-mates as he is with the opposition." Or former England one-day all-rounder Graeme Swann: "He's not the most popular guy on the circuit". Or Allan Donald: "He is all talk but nowhere near as good as he thinks he is." Or Devon Malcom: "He needs to behave more like an adult than an over-tired kid." I could go on.

Mark Ealham

8 Tests; batting average 21.0, bowling average 28.7

"I know I'm good enough to do the job - but England have got to give me the chance. Of course, there will never be another Botham. But that doesn't mean England can afford to do without a genuine all-rounder any more. It's a vital role, and I'm confident I can fill the void." It turned out he couldn't. At least Ealham was a genuine all-rounder - in the sense that he was actually round. He should be grateful that cricket is a sport that so readily embraces plumpers.

Craig White

30 Tests; batting average 24.4, bowling average 37.6

Yorkshire-born, Australian-raised White was a key member of a relatively successful England side over 30 Tests between 1994 and 2002. In the latter stages of his Test career, he combined 90mph+ seam with match-winning batting performances from number seven, much like Botham. But unlike Beefy, White's apparent lack of self-confidence meant he never got to grips with the Aussies, who sledged him remorslessly.

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FEEDBACK OF THE DAY: westhammad03: "Why not compare cricket with the sugarbabes???" Because nothing in cricket is evil as Mutya.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "There will be no messing around, it will be the best team to win the game. You can never be sentimental when you're picking a team," Michael Vaughan can cancel the new yacht as Peter Moores gives his thoughts on the line-up for the Stanford cash bonanza game. 

TALKING POINT: Who was the greatest all-rounder? Beefy, Hadlee, Kapil, Imran, Wasim, Sobers, Dougie Brown?


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