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banner Thursday, 15 March, 2001, 14:05 GMT
Hick's case of deja vu
Graeme Hick is dropped by England for the 10th time
Hick: Once again watching from the dressing room
BBC Sport Online's Thrasy Petropoulos assesses the future prospects for England discard Graeme Hick.

On the day that he was axed from the England side for the 10th time in his career, Graeme Hick might not care for comparisons with the Mona Lisa.

But he and Leonardo da Vinci's Renaissance masterpiece have more in common than meets the eye.

Where smiles are concerned, none come more enigmatic.

At first glance, Hick's expression as he was sat next to Duncan Fletcher on the dressing-room balcony while England went about their business without him in Colombo was more of a grimace.

Then again, on closer inspection there was a nervous dimension to it. Could it be that Hick now fears that his time as a Test cricketer is up?

Hick has failed to find his form in Pakistan and Sri Lanka
Bowled during the second Test in Kandy

But what if it was a knowing smile?

After all, before the winter tours, he had been dropped as many times than as cat has lives and still he found favour with the England captain and coach.

He might for instance know that when one batsman breaks a finger and another ricks his back during the long summer to come, he will walk back into the dressing-room ready to resume his Test career.

It has been that sort of life for Hick.

But for those who believe that to be dropped for a 10th time really should spell the end for any batsman should consider Hick's track record.

After seven years spent qualifying to be eligible to play for England, Hick was all but carried into Headingley on the shoulders of his new team-mates, so much was expected of him.

And, as we all know now, he flopped.

  The 10 lives of Hick
1991 v West Indies Dropped after fourth Test (75 runs at 10.71)
1992 v Pakistan
Dropped after fourth Test (98 runs at 19.6)
1993 v Australia
Dropped after second Test (140 runs at 35)
1995 v West Indies
Dropped after third Test (131 runs at 21.83)
1996 v Pakistan
Dropped after first test (8 runs at 4.0)
1998 v South Africa and Sri Lanka
Dropped after three Tests (107 runs at 23.2)
1998/99 v Australia
Dropped after fifth Test (212 runs at 26.5)
1999 v New Zealand
Dropped after third Test (12 runs at 12.0)
2000 v West Indies
Dropped after second Test (40 runs at 10.0)
2001 v Pakistan and Sri Lanka
Dropped after five Tests (126 runs at 12.60)

Worse than his aggregate of 75 runs at 10.71, was the manner in which he was systematically targeted - and destroyed - by Curtly Ambrose who accounted for six out of his seven dismissals.

Clearly, questions had to be asked of both his technique and temperament.

Dropped for final Test, and the one-off encounter against Sri Lanka, Hick was nonetheless taken to New Zealand, but again he disappointed (134 runs at 26.8).

To lose faith so early would of course have been wrong and the selectors stood by their man for four of the Tests against Pakistan the following summer.

Ninety eight runs later (avge.19.1), he was again discarded.

But back he came for the winter tour. And so a pattern was established.

There have been some highlights.

In India and Sri Lanka that winter he scored 409 runs at 51.13, including 178 in Bombay, but all four Tests were lost by England.

And when the first two Tests of the Ashes summer that followed were lost by 179 runs and an innings respectively, Hick was dumped for the third time.

Despite an apparently respectable aggregate of 140 runs at 35 against the Aussies, the selectors clearly could not trust him against bowlers whose chief weaponry was intimidation.

Former Australian fast bowler Merv Hughes
Hughes won his mental battle with Hick

Just as he had been undone by Ambrose in 1991, it was Merv Hughes who set out to destroy Hick now and he succeeded with three dismissals out of four.

But, as before, the pardon was not long in coming.

Already 4-0 down by the final Test, and with nothing left to lose, England made wholesale changes for The Oval, including the recall of Hick to bat at No 3.

The result was scores of 80 and 36 and victory by 161 runs.

Over the next two years, Hick scored 1,077 runs at 43.08 against the West Indies, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia - proof that his troubles were more mental than technical.

But the moment he got into some difficulty - as he did against the West Indies in 1995, and then against Pakistan the following summer - he was discarded without a second thought.

Back he came against South Africa and Sri Lanka, and back out he went again. And so the story was repeated, against Australia, New Zealand and then the West Indies.

Why?

Partly it is because Hick continues to have a role to play in the one-day game and can draw attention to himself there, and partly it is because it has often proved impossible to ignore a player with over 100 first-class centuries to his name.

And there is also the case of the alternatives to consider.

Mark Ramprakash is (we assume) now out of the reckoning, Nick Knight has clear technical difficulties at the highest level, and John Crawley has first to convince himself that he is good enough before he can convince others of the same.

Graeme Hick awaits his turn in the nets
Will Hick be given a contract for the summer?

And of the young brigade, David Sales was injured before the A tour began and could miss the entire English season, Vikram Solanki has gone backwards recently, and Darren Maddy seems to have sunk without trace.

That leaves only Michael Vaughan who should before long become an England regular in his own right.

Hick might be coming up to 35, but he continues to be the fittest member of the side.

With Michael Atherton and Alec Stewart approaching the end of their playing days, to write Hick off now might be premature.

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15 Mar 01 |  Sports Talk
All over for Hick?
14 Mar 01 |  Cricket
Cricketers could be sent off
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