OK, cricket fans: We need to talk again about Jonathan Trott—and perhaps you baseball fans will have an equivalent player you can talk about who raises the same issues. Jonathan Trott plays cricket for England—both the longest form of the game (Test cricket) and one-day internationals (ODIs). In Test matches, Trott has accumulated 3451 runs in 43 games at an average of 50.01, which places him in the top ten batsmen playing today. In ODIs, Trott has accumulated 2791 runs in 65 games at an average of 52.66, which makes him the third best batsman playing today. Moreover, his strike rate (in other words, how quickly he scores his runs, which is an important factor in ODIs, which limit the number of balls a team receives) is 77.20: the number of putative runs he scores per hundred putative balls.
Trott’s strike rate and average are superior to the silken genius Kumar Sangakkara, better than the imperious battleship Jacques Kallis, and on a par with the majestic Michael Clarke. Yet Trott is the Rodney Dangerfield of cricket: not only does he not receive the love from fans for his dogged brilliance in Test cricket, but he can’t get no respect from commentators, pundits, and assorted know-it-alls in one-day cricket—even when the statistical evidence is plain to see. “Too slow,” they say. “Not explosive enough at the start of the innings. Drop him! Drop him now!”
Trott’s trouble is that he’s not a power-hitter, like Chris Gayle, or a swashbuckler like Kevin Pietersen. He doesn’t caress the ball around the park like Ian Bell. Balding and stolid, he lacks the impish charm of Michael Clarke. Yet, as baseball fans know all too well, if you had to pick a team based on impish charm, you’d be hard-pressed to get beyond a catcher (I’m thinking of you, Yogi Berra). In sum, you don’t have to look good, stand tall, or glide around the field to be good at hitting a ball: you can look like you just ran into the business end of an anvil and be pigeon-toed and beer-bellied (I’m thinking of you, Babe Ruth) and be all that a player should be.
The trouble with Trott is that, unlike the Bambino, he lacks personality: he’s not the lovable clown, the debonair lady-killer, even the maverick loner with a glint in the eye and a slow drawl. He’s just a bloke who’s good at hitting a ball around a field. Even his one major tic, an OCD-inclined routine of scratching a guard in front of his stumps, has a leaden quality that makes him, frankly, annoying. Of course, because he’s absolutely unflappable, the very image of professionalism, it’s the opposition (as well as the pundits) he drives crazy, and that might be the best aspect of his brilliance.