Marcus Hook’s Surrey CCC column: Diligent Alec Stewart mooted as next England head coach

BY MARCUS HOOK

There were one or two rumours at Guildford that Alec Stewart could be off at the end of the season – to England, as successor to head coach Trevor Bayliss. A Bayliss boast (which I can’t believe the Australian even admits to) is he doesn’t bother to watch county cricket.

If that’s a stipulation in the job spec, England may as well look elsewhere because Stewart is nothing but diligent when it comes to doing his homework on players. A month after taking over as Surrey’s director of cricket, in 2013, I was reliably informed he had already attended more second XI matches than his predecessor had done in four years.

Stewart would be a popular choice, but having sung the praises of so many of his players the fear, from the perspective of the Surrey faithful, is that many of them will be fast-tracked into the England team.

But let’s not forget, Stewart’s own call-up, back in 1990, was criticised because the England manager at the time was his father, Micky. It’s for that reason Alec knew he had to prove himself – and he went on to become the most capped England Test player; until he was overtaken first by Alastair Cook and then by Jimmy Anderson.

Away from Edgbaston, Surrey’s next opponents Warwickshire are definitely beatable. Surrey will be hoping the clash comes a week too soon for the former England batsman Ian Bell’s return from a foot injury.

Warwickshire have really struggled with the bat in Bell’s absence. Mind you, when there’s been any turn on offer Jeetan Patel has compensated to such a degree I can’t see the Bears being relegated at the end of the season.

The ECB continue to insist that one of the aims of The Hundred is to encourage kids to get along to matches.

Let’s see what they make the ticket prices. Surrey have set the benchmark – £1 a day for U16s, no matter what competition Surrey are playing in.

Plus adults can win £1,000 if they catch a six in the crowd during T20 Blast games at the Oval.

The Oval has completed its stint as a World Cup 2019 venue, which means, this weekend, Surrey will be playing their first County Championship match in SE11 since April 14.

The World Cup moving on to pastures new coincided with the sense that the tournament had properly taken off.

It’s reckoned last Sunday’s clash between India and Pakistan at Old Trafford was watched by a billion people worldwide. Then, the following day, Bangladesh pulled off the second-highest successful run chase in World Cup history to beat the West Indies at Taunton with 51 balls to spare.

Cricket is a religion in Bangladesh, Pakistan and particularly in India, as is underlined by the sea of blue shirts in the crowd whenever and wherever India play.

But it’s still a surprise how few Asians are playing county cricket.

A few years ago, when Surrey were away to Leicester, I got talking to the staff in the curry house we went to in town. I mentioned I was up for the cricket and they all said they had absolutely no interest in the county stuff, due to the lack of British Asian representation.

If the ECB really wants to future proof the game in this country – which is another aim of The Hundred – there’s an untapped pool of talent out there that’s seemingly being ignored.


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