Club or Country?

When the England team was announced for the second test against Bangladesh few would have begrudged James Tredwell a quiet moment of self reflection and celebration.  Having been called up to the One-Day squad in January 2008 and then to the test squad in 2009 without featuring, most thought Tredwell would make his debut in tandem with Graeme Swann in the first test of the Bangladesh tour. When England opted for an extra batsman some quarters thought JT’s day would never come. However, with the second test his moment in the sun finally arrived. 

With Tredwell’s successful debut behind him (6 wickets in the match plus 37 runs with the bat) and the new county cricket season upon us, what is in store for the man with the golden arm this summer?

England have a busy summer ahead of them with the World T20 tournament and a full one day and test schedule in the offing. With the involvement of one of Kent’s own I find myself drawn to England games more than usual. Previously, as a staunch, sometimes fanatical Kent supporter, England games were of little concern to me. Perhaps I should explain:

I love cricket. I want England to win every game they play and I want their players to perform well. However, I also want Kent to win every game they play. I also want Kent’s players to perform well.  I feel more compelled to watch England, as I’m sure fans of other teams do, when my own team is represented.

The days of Dean Headley steaming in to dismiss all the left handed Australian batsmen, whilst Mark Ealham, erm, ran in and bowled wicket to wicket deliveries were of huge excitement and interest to me. These were my heroes-my local team’s heroes. Men who I’d seen represent my beloved Kent on a weekly basis. Men who I’d actually met at the St Lawrence Ground. Further down the line, I was always glued to the TV when Geraint Jones was in the side, I was bitterly disappointed when Rob Key missed out on selection and when Joe Denly, Amjad Khan, even Min Patel were cast aside or overlooked by the England hierarchy. (I still don’t think Patel was given a fair crack of the whip but that’s another rant for another time.)

The thing is, whilst I feel this way, I also feel a sense of relief when Kent’s players are jettisoned by their country. Cricket, different to football, does not hold international matches separately to club matches. So if your team’s players are selected, you don’t see an awful lot of them in domestic competition.

When Geraint Jones was in the England squad, Kent were fortunate enough to have a very capable replacement in Niall O’Brien. Now, I am not so sure how well equipped the squad is to replace the players we might lose to England.  People may or may not know, but Kent is not an especially rich club. Consequently, they do not have a very big squad.

Last season, they enjoyed success by using relatively few players and relying on them for the most part staying fit. Kent were a tight-knit unit who performed fantastically well due to a combination of outstanding individual and collective performances, as well as a team spirit and togetherness that was second to none. In my opinion, every player contributes to that in their own way. James Tredwell is as key a member of this dynamic as any other. He bowls with great control, concedes relatively few runs, and gets a large number of wickets. He also provides a massive amount of very important runs lower down the order. Teams get through to what are perceived to be Kent’s tail-enders, only to see Tredwell, a man with 12 first class fifties and 2 first class hundreds (top score of 123 not out) to his name striding to the middle, by no means a walking wicket in anyone’s book. He was a key part of Kent’s resolute team as much with the bat as with the ball.

This season, Kent have lost Justin Kemp and Ryan McLaren. They have also had to cancel the signing of Stuart Clark and are still without Robbie Joseph due to injury. An already threadbare squad looks even more vulnerable without the undoubted quality of those players. They have brought in Malinga Bandara, (a leg break bowler and right hand batsman) but he and now Dewald Nel (relatively untried medium-pacer) apart, they have the same squad as last year. I believe Bandara has been signed to play with Tredwell as opposed to instead of. Kent’s next slow-bowling option appears to be Rob Ferley, who with the greatest of respect is not really anything like as good.

Consequently, as a Kent and England fan I am conflicted as to what I want to happen to JT. Obviously I desperately want him to be selected for England. If for nothing else I think he is an honest, hard working cricketer who has paid his dues and is long overdue his chance to shine on an international stage. He is widely regarded as one of the nice guys of cricket too- a fact that makes it hard to want to see him disappointed. It is, after all, every sportsman’s dream to represent their country and he is no different.

However, just when I have rationalised all of this and I’ve settled for losing him to England, the partisan Kent Spitfire in me appears and reminds me that his loss is a hell of a blow to our team. That part of me is reminded that 20 wickets in Division 1 are a huge ask on any day, never mind without one of your best bowlers. I am reminded of how valuable those extra 30-40 even 50 runs down the order can be. That part of me thinks “Sod England, let’s make sure Kent are alright.”

What is the solution? Which would I prefer? I suppose that in the end, the pure cricket fan in me wins out. The idealistic young supporter who hung on Dean Headley’s every away swinger against Australia sneaks ahead of today’s Kent Spitfires fanatic. I suppose when it comes down to it, I will always support Kent no matter who is in the side. The same is true of England; however I am likely to enjoy England games that bit more should “one of our own” be out there giving his all for his country. I suppose as a lover of the game, I want the scenario to play out where I can enjoy cricket the most. Of course, should they work out a system whereupon no county games take place during international week, a la our footballing cousins; I suppose I would be ok with that too!

So, even though I am a slightly obsessive Spitfires fan, in the end I want the pride and prestige that comes when Kent’s players represent our country. At least England can’t take Martin van Jaarsveld from us I suppose…….



  1. FAB post, Ross. Really enjoyed reading that. Feel the same when it comes to our players representing England – such a dilemma, though my loyalty will always be to Kent every time. Doesn’t mean I don’t want to see Joe & Tredders in the national side, though, or prevent me from being outraged on their behalf when I think they are being unfairly passed over!

  2. Could not have summed up my feelings on the matter more eloquently. As not just a Kent girl but a Folkestone girl born and bred, there is no-one in the world I wish luck more than JT. On the other hand, I want my beloved Kent to do well, and he’s going to leave one heck of a gap to fill. Maybe England could just have him in the off-season?

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