James Franklin (or How I learned to Love the Medium Pacer)

James Franklin is famous (well, as famous as a New Zealander could be) for all the wrong reasons. First off he plays for New Zealand, which in cricketing terms is the equivalent of being the resident IT nerd: smart, thin looking and with the air of  one who is perpetually contemplating which course he’ll sign up for next at the Open University.

[For the record: I love the Open University, it is a fantastic institution which gives a thoroughly decent education for those who have neither the time nor cash to study full time.]

So far, so basic. He fits into my view of most contemporary Kiwi players: they all have the look of 1980s US uni students. To me, they just look like vinyl freaks that get all giggly about girls’ underwear. This is all fine, as I can’t quite exempt myself from that category.

So why am I putting down these words beneath my Kubrick referencing title?

I guess it’s because I quite like him as a cricketer.

I’m fully aware that his international record doesn’t quite stand the A grade test (Jacques Kallis), or even the B grade one (Andrew Flintoff). I just think that Franklin is happy with being a C grade cricketer. This is a man who has played 163 times for his country, stands on the eve of his 100th ODI cap, has taken 173 international wickets and scored 1,407 runs. For a guy who swings the ball at around 75-80 mph and has what is most kindly described as a ‘home-spun’ technique with bat in hand, that isn’t awful going.

I remember watching a few years ago now (2006), Franklin scoring what will likely be his solitary Test match ton. It wasn’t a stunning innings; it wasn’t on a tricky pitch. He scored these runs in a big partnership with Stephen ‘Reefer Man’ Fleming. I’m not sure why I remember this innings with such fondness; it was probably just the timing. Franklin caught my eye as my love for the game blossomed, and as such, he, alongside many others whose career has largely occupied the last eight years, has left a mark on me indelibly in some way.

I like his grin and his hair. I like the fact he is one of only two New Zealanders to have taken a Test hat-trick, or that he is the only man to have taken a wicket with his first legitimate ball in a debut World Cup match. I like his bottle; the man has courage and never looks flustered or fazed.

Of course his match winning 47* today against the Saffers is the reason I’m writing this. I was reminded of his cool temperament and usefulness. I was reminded of what it is exactly I like about him.

He IS the kind of cricketer you want coming in at 7/8 in an ODI. The Test whites have never looked good on him. He is just that few miles too tame in the era of wide bats and short boundaries. For a man who averages nearly 35 in first-class cricket, one would expect far more than 3 scores of 50 in 46 knocks as well.

Nonetheless, he has never been horrible. He has always done O.K. He battled very well against Dale Steyn in the second innings of the Cape Town massacre. He took the blows and the heat of a Steyn murder-spell, which is far more than many can lay claim to. He was out for 22 in what I imagine could be his last Test match.

His ODI spot should remain unchallenged until the next World Cup at least. He is a very worthy cricketer, who I can imagine tearing into county teams over here (for Worcestershire I pray). James Franklin still has plenty to live for in the cricketing world: his IPL contract, his international career in the short formats and plenty more first-class commitments.

I just wanted to say kudos to a tough competitor who knows his limitations, who plays hard with dignity and grit.

James Franklin thanks for all the good knocks and canny spells. Today you are a match-winner and you did it for all us hard tryers.

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