For Thorpe there is light at the end of the tunnel

Written by: Sajith Balakrishnan
Published: Friday, July 15, 2005, 16:18 [IST]
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England in their bid to regain the Ashes after 16 long years have decided to go to any extent including dumping experience for the sake of youth. Or else, how could one fathom the reasons behind Poms opting for rookie Pietersen at the expense of the experienced Thorpe?

It seems that England have started to imbibe Australian ruthlessness when it comes to picking players. Despite the fact that Thorpe's average against Australia - 45.74 - is better than his career Test average of 44.66, his decision to sign with New South Wales at the start of the season (which was supposed to be a cushy post-retirement job) seams to have sealed his fate.

As in the words of the English chief selector David Graveny: "Ultimately, we have opted for Kevin because of the form he showed against Australia in the NatWest Series and the NatWest Challenge, his excellent first-class career record and the energy and enthusiasm he brings to the England dressing room".

It is that bubbling enthusiasm and youth of the South African-born Kevin Pietersen that prevailed over the experience and tenacity of Graham Thorpe - the veteran of many a battle.

However, Graveny did candidly admit that it was the toughest decision ever he had to make, and kept a ray of hope for Thorpe alive by saying: "The selectors do not view this decision as marking the end of Graham Thorpe's international career. Subject to form and fitness he will continue to come under consideration for the remainder of the series."

Perhaps the above statement of Graveny is an acknowledgement of Thorpe's class. Thorpe has every right to bow out on a better note. When the likes of Graham Gooch, Mike Gatting, Mike Atherton, Alec Stewart and to a lesser extent Nasser Hussain have been allowed to bid adieu on their own terms, it looks a travesty of justice when Thorpe is denied that.

Pietersen, no doubt, is a wonderful talent. But, England selectors have made a big gamble by thrusting the middle-order berth on him that too at a time when the likes of McGrath and Co have found some chinks in his leg-side armoury.

Thorpe has always made runs when they count and that too against quality opposition on quality tracks. A pointer in the case being his hundred in Perth in the 94-95 against a rampaging McDermott & Co and the Edgbaston hundred which was possibly the last Test that England won, when an Ashes series was live since 1987. Adversity seems to have always brought the best out of him. Who can forget those runs that he made under the fading lights of Karachi or sweltering heat of Colombo that gave England their first series triumphs in Pakistan and Sri Lanka respectively. And he has made numerous comebacks too which have been made all the more memorable with match-winning knocks.

As Graveny said it may not be the end of the road for this aging warhorse. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Remember the avuncular rotund frame of Colin Cowdrey coming back from the retirement and smashing Dennis Lillee and Co to smithereens in Perth in 1976?

Yet, the fact is that Thorpe deserved a better deal. A reasonable farewell perhaps at his home ground Edgbaston. It's still not yet all over for the 100-Test stylish southpaw who scored a hundred on his debut and is only second to the legendary Ken Barrington as far as averages in post-war English Test wins are concerned.

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