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Brief profile of Martin Bicknell
by Matthew Reed


Player:MP Bicknell

DateLine: 12th December 2005

 

Picked over optimistically as a 21 year old for the Ashes Tour of 1990-1, and then at the less tender age of 34 for the climactic Tests against South Africa in 2003, the fact that this set a new record of Tests not played between appearances was a nice note for statisticians but a sad symptom of a decade or more of muddled selection policy. Although consistently mentioned and speculated about as a candidate for selection (especially prior to Headingley tests, or whenever the latest new look Test battery had spluttered out), his lack of express pace and then being in his fourth decade were the only things which could have counted against him. That he played a key role in the series levelling victory at The Oval in 2003 and was subsequently dropped for the winter tour was only just excusable on the grounds that his recall had always been a short-term measure. However, if the winter tour had been to a New Zealand of greenish wickets and changeable skies rather than Bangladesh and Sri Lanka then the excuses about his age would probably have been left unused.

 

In 20 First-class seasons of changing balls, changing laws and changing weather he has taken 50 wickets eleven times, and 40 wickets fifteen times. Only in four of those seasons has he averaged more than 30 with the ball (the highest being a still respectable 33.68). As if being the premier seam and swing bowler of his generation was not enough, in nine of those seasons his batting average has exceeded that of his bowling. In the amazing run of success Surrey have enjoyed in the last decade (3 Championships, 2 Sunday titles, 2 Benson and Hedges Cups and 1 Twenty20 title) it is impossible to think of a more essential player.

 

With phenomenal consistency, a foppish fringe (until recently anyway) and a career relatively untroubled by injury, in many ways Bicknell is a throwback to an earlier age. With central contracts reducing the amount of games the best players play, Bicknell (along with Philip Defreitas) is likely to be the last non-spinning English bowler to take 1000 First-class wickets. With 1000 wickets for Surrey also under his belt, the last numerical milestone is 1000 victims in the Championship (by the close of the 2005 season he was on 997). With half of that season taken by injury, and increasing appearances as a TV pundit, the end of Bicknell’s playing career is probably close. Whatever else Bicknell achieves in the rest of his cricketing time though, his name will be associated with his personal excellence and selectorial error for a long time to come.

 

December 2005

(Article: Copyright © 2005 Matthew Reed)

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