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banner Sunday, 17 February, 2002, 09:18 GMT
Frustration from afar
Hick on his way to 46 in the heat of Colombo
Hick's innings in Colombo was a heroic effort
BBC cricket reporter Pat Murphy looks at whether Graeme Hick, dropped by England last year, is right in suggesting this week that he still has a role to play in the side.

Graeme Hick's reported frustration at being out of the England one-day frame have struck a chord with many of those out here who have been sorely disappointed at England's batting.

It's best to take the humiliation of Wellington in isolation - England won't often be dismissed for 89 - but there seems to be a consistent lack of thought and application in the side's one-day batting.

It's uncharacteristic of him to go public, but at least that shows how much he cares
At this juncture, Hick would definitely stiffen the batting. He would be a reassuring sight, striding in at number three.

With his power and range of stroke-play, Hick would bring solace. But has he now burned his bridges with his reported comments that he's a better player than some of those out here?

It's uncharacteristic of him to go public, but at least that shows how much he cares. He always has.

We are all products of our background and Hick, who grew up on a tobacco farm outside Harare, then boarded at school from the age of six, remaining shy and reserved as he matured.

But he desperately wanted to succeed consistently at the highest level.

When he was dropped from England's one-day squad last year, the chairman of selectors David Graveney received a phone call from Hick that astonished him in its savagely disappointed tone.

That was surely understandable when you recall his last one-day innings for England - an heroic effort in the heat of Colombo last March, when he had to use a runner in the last ten overs because he was so dehydrated.

Graeme Hick
Hick has always been private but passionate
That was a tremendous innings and Hick was justified in wondering how short were the memories of the selectors.

He may be slightly slower around the field than in his pristine youth, but Hick still has as safe a pair of hands as Andrew Flintoff and his team and work ethics have never been in doubt.

But he will be 36 in May, with the World Cup still a year away.

His reported comment that he's never been coached properly at England level won't please Duncan Fletcher and Nasser Hussain, who place great emphasis on public loyalty.

But Hussain is a passionate captain and he would surely relate to the frustrations that Hick feels, with the side not demonstrably stronger for his omission.

Fit at 40

And is the team stronger without Alec Stewart?

James Foster is undeniably chockfull of talent and bottle, but at the age of 21, he will experience peaks and troughs over the next couple of years as he gets to grips with international cricket.

Stewart would strengthen the team if he returned in the summer, with Foster a deserving understudy, but that's the selectors' call and the signs are that they are keen to stick with Foster.

Alec Stewart
Stewart underwent surgey at the end of the season
Stewart will be 40 just after the end of the World Cup - a superbly fit and dedicated 40, mind you - but the feeling is that Stewart took himself out of the mix by declaring his unavailability for India.

The fact that he had to have an operation for tennis elbow - which needed three months of rest and recuperation - seems to have been buried.

And certainly that news could have been disseminated more willingly by the ECB on Stewart's behalf.

Duncan Fletcher and Nasser Hussain are right to point to the experience of India and New Zealand in one-day cricket, intimating that accumulated nous and pride in performance count for a great deal.

Yet Hick and Stewart, with 266 one-day appearances behind them, seem to be sidelined.

Australia won the 1999 World Cup with a crop of experienced players and even though Steve Waugh now seems to have been ditched at the age of 37, the Aussies won't be banking on youth in the build-up to the World Cup.

For any international sportsman, the departure from the stage is painful, but spare a thought for Hick and Stewart as England still seek the right formula.

See also:

14 Feb 02 |  England
Hick hopes for another chance
09 Feb 02 |  England
England's pace rivals
04 Feb 02 |  England in India
Looking the world's best in the eye
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