Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome to the latest edition of English Cricketing Misery. We have a brand new feature for you this morning. The selection panel that brought you Moeen Is An Opener have just announced their new production. It’s called Back To The Future. In case you’re wondering, it’s another farce. Shame nobody’s laughing.
Basically the selectors completely fluffed their lines this morning. I disagree with just about every single decision they’ve made. I’m not a happy bunny. In fact I’m hopping mad. Let’s dissect the big calls one by one.
Ian Bell. We all know that Bell hasn’t been in good form for a while, but he was still our third best batsman in the UAE. South Africa is not the place to be blooding novices – unless you’re deliberately trying to shoot yourself in the foot. England’s batting lacks both experience and class.
Dropping Bell, who has a good record against South Africa, seems like suicide to me. Who on earth is going to bat three? Garry Ballance? Yeah right! The Saffers will be doing cartwheels.
Nick Compton. Recalling Compo is not the right move. The star of Last of the Summer Wine wasn’t good enough three years ago so why is he suddenly considered good enough now? He’s still exactly the same player. What’s more he’s just a year younger than Ian Bell. Compton is not the future. He’s a county journeyman.
This is a classic case of ‘you’re a better player when you’re out of the team’ syndrome. The best that can be said of Compton is that he’s ‘steady’. Excuse me if I’m wrong, but we already have a steady opener. He’s called Alastair Cook!
Compton & Cook were too one-paced as an opening pair three years ago. It will be the same now. Because Compton scored so slowly, it put Alastair under undue pressure. And guess what? Cook began his long and painful drought at that time. Coincidence? Michael Carberry would have been a better stop-gap in my opinion.
Adil Rashid. So it looks like the big investment has already been cashed in for a loss. Apparently Adil’s off to play some Big Bash instead. Brilliant. Talk about pigeonholing a guy as a limited overs specialist.
Yes, I know Rashid wasn’t brilliant in the UAE, but there was something there for England to work with. He has a higher ceiling than both Moeen Ali and Samit Patel. England will be fielding five bowlers, so it’s perfectly acceptable to have a leg-spinner as the fifth option. Rashid wouldn’t need to keep the runs down. He should be there to take wickets and mop up the tail.
Samit Patel. Why god why? The selection of Patel over Rashid makes no sense whatsoever. If the selectors are worried about Amla and DeVilliers hitting Rashid into the middle of the Kruger National Park, what on earth are they going to do to Patel’s lollipops?! At least Rashid spins the bloody ball. Rashid also showed just as much fight with the bat as Patel, so don’t give me any of that ‘Patel can bat’ rubbish.
Chris Jordan. I’m sorry but he’s just not good enough. His bowling is neither quick enough, accurate enough, nor does he do anything with the ball. Liam Plunkett would have been a better choice. Plunkett is stronger and more aggressive. He gets in the batsman’s face. Jordan runs in apologetically as if he’s begging the batsman not to murder him.
Would Jordan be anywhere near the squad if he wasn’t such a good fielder? I severely doubt it. He’s Chris Lewis mark two. Let’s hope he doesn’t shave his head on the morning of the match and get ruled out with sunstroke.
The Others. I imagine the selections of Woakes and Footitt will get some column inches too, but I don’t mind these selections so much. The former has added half a yard of pace, so he’s not quite as impotent as he once was.
Woakes’ selection also makes sense as a possible replacement for Stokes should the ginger demon’s shoulder break down. Woakes won’t tear up trees, but he’s a perfectly adequate 4th seamer and bowling all-rounder. He’s a better cricketer than Jordan anyway.
Mark Footitt is an interesting selection and one I applaud. He should have been given a chance sooner. He’s pretty quick and left-arm (which should help Moeen Ali). If the selectors want to reward players who play well in county cricket, then I have no problem with Footitt getting a gig.
Conclusion. My overall feeling is that England’s squad is really short on depth. The injuries to Wood and Finn are going to hurt us. The squad selected only has five test class players – Cook, Root, Anderson, Broad and Stokes – plus one other player who looks like he may have a future at the top level (Taylor).
Ballance also has some ability, but I hear on the grapevine that he’s done nothing to improve his technique since Australia exposed him so brutally. Apparently he didn’t think he had a problem. Duh!
Unfortunately the rest of the squad are either bits and pieces players, miscast cricketers (Hales could have a future in the middle order but he’s no test opener) or guys I have severe doubts about. Buttler and Bairstow, for example, look more suited to one-day cricket. They don’t have the technique to prosper consistently at test level against the very best bowlers.
Not all of this is the selectors’ fault, of course. They haven’t been dealt a particularly strong hand. However, I feel the squad selected is going to exacerbate England’s difficulties rather than improve them. It’s going to be a tough tour. Thank heavens South Africa have a few problems of their own.