I guess incredulity is part and parcel of being an England fan. Just when you think our management might be sane and rational people after all they do something daft again. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or so the overused cliche goes.
First of all, let me say that I’m all in favour of Zafar Ansari making his test debut. He might only be half the bowler Jack Leach is – only England could exclude the best spinner in the country on the basis that he’s emotionally immature yet at the same time pick a teenaged opener – but we desperately need a left-armer and Ansari is the only one available.
England need to blood a left-armer because, in case you didn’t catch the India v New Zealand test series, the Indian team is packed full of right-handers. Oh, and did I mention that they eat part-time off spinners and erratic leg spinners for breakfast? You get the picture.
Unfortunately however the management have decided, according to cricinfo, that the best way to shoehorn Ansari into the side is to drop the only spinner who actually showed a semblance of consistency at Chittagong. Despite match figures of 4 for 110 (not bad considering his nervous start) Gareth Batty, the only true specialist spinner in the group, has been dropped.
I admit I wasn’t in favour of picking Batty for this tour, but after watching the first test I came to accept that we needed him – or at least someone who can land it on the strip occasionally. Instead we’re going into the second test with three spinning all-rounders – none of whom average under 34 with the ball in first class cricket. After relying on Moeen for the last two or three years, why are we still enamoured with batsmen who bowl a bit?
Although this shouldn’t come as a surprise, the strip in Dhaka is apparently very dry. You’d think that England would want a specialist finger spinner in the side. If someone had to make way for Ansari (and the management want to persist with Duckett at the top of the order) the man who should’ve made way is Gary Ballance. It’s not like Ballance has looked better at the crease than our plethora of all-rounders anyway. Dropping him wouldn’t have weakened the batting. Not really.
The one small mercy, although many will disagree, is that Buttler hasn’t been squeezed into the side. There were rumours that Jonny Bairstow might be rested or that Jos would play as a specialist batsman.
Although I’m not ready to give up on Buttler as a test player just yet, I don’t think he warrants a place in the current squad. He hasn’t scored a first class fifty for over a year and needs to prove he can dominate county attacks at first class level before he gets another shot at test cricket. Unfortunately that’s not something he’s managed in his career to date.