England Selectors Lose the Plot

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.


James Morgan


  • I don’t think the decision to leave Rashid out is a bad one. I imagine the selectors don’t want to drag him around the world just to carry drinks when he could be getting some exposure and experience playing in different conditions. They made that mistake in the West Indies and credit to them for not repeating it.

    I agree that Carberry would have been the better stop-gap choice, but I don’t buy this “the openers are too one-paced” nonsense. I don’t care how slow the openers bat, there’s plenty of fire-power down the order. Let’s face it, if we could clone Cook we’d pick two of him and no-one would be moaning about the pace.

    • So Patel makes a better drinks carrier ? I think James’ logic is sound on the particular choice; we might not want a leg spinner on this tour, but the one they picked was the wrong one.
      OTOH, at least he’ll get some games in the Big Bash.

      (And the mistake the selectors made in the WI was not playing Rashid.)

      I too would have picked Carberry, but should Hales open, then it might pay to have a dependable plodder at three…

      • Given some of the stories about Patel’s relationship with food, I’m sure he’s a better drinks carrier. His mum also makes the best samosas in the Midlands and has promised to keep her son well stocked on tour. Alastair loves them…

        Well there has to be some explanation…

  • Actually I think the selectors have got the big calls mostly right. Bell has been in decline for the last 2 years – he was lucky not to have been dropped for the UAE tour, and the selectors have just run out of patience. Ballance deserves another go having made such a good start to his Test career – but the SA quicks will certainly test out whether he’s ironed out the technical faults that Australia exposed this summer. Given the SA pitches, spin is unlikely to play a big role, and Moeen would fit the bill as a spinning all-rounder, so it makes sense for Rashid to improve his game in the Big Bash rather than sit on the sidelines in SA – though I entirely agree it’s pointless picking Patel to do the same.

    The opening partner for Cook is the toughest call – we’re not exactly blessed with quality opening batsmen at the moment. I share your concerns about Compton and Hales, but difficult to know what other options they had – Carberry is older than both and is also a journeyman whose principal recent success has been in T20.

  • Unfair on Chris Lewis mark one! He made an overseas’ Test century, took three 5wm and was a crucial cog in a team that got to a WC Final. As a bowler in particular, he was chronically misused and didn’t have two bowlers with 300+ wickets to bowl with him (his support was more like Paul Jarvis and Paul Taylor). I wouldn’t put a farthing on Chris Jordan equaling any of those achievements.

    Otherwise, pretty much in agreement (except about Buttler).

  • Article is pretty much spot on.

    I doubt very much lyth would do any worse than carberry or Compton. Difference is he is a lot younger and has room for improvment.

    As for the rest of the batting I am happy enough. I think bell is great but a break may add 2 years to his career if he can find his mojo again .

    Bowling wise (or rather all rounder obsession) just exposes how poor our bowling options are. No pace or spin options. I fear a return to the 90s of bits and pieces cricketers who are not quite good enough at anything. Jordan, woakes read ealham and Lewis. where are England’s generation of pace bowlers that oz are currently churning out

  • Delighted Bell is out at last. He’s been given way to many chances. Compton deserves another opportunity especially given the performance of those who replaced him in the team showing there is hardly a huge supply of others for the 2 or 3 position. Overall given the injury situation re the bowlers it looks pretty sensible. Better than I feared for sure.

  • My problem with Bell is that he’s amassed 118 caps and is still only 8th on the all time Eng run scorers, almost 1,200 runs behind the 118 cap Gooch. A great talent yes, but played more good looking cameos than match winning knocks and often at the epic centre of many a collapse. Taylor/Root should bat at 3/4.

    I see the Rashid / Samit logic, they’re going for left arm over economy over leg spin wicket threat, he ties down an end for Notts.

    Agree on all of the other shouts… Compton does seem somewhat leftfield

    • Bell’s nowhere near as good as Gooch and the quality of the bowling Gooch faced was, I think it’s fair to say, higher, otherwise the gap would be even greater. A better benchmark is to consider Bell’s record against Kevin Pietersen’s, as their careers ran side by side. Pietersen scored 400 more runs in 24 fewer innings. Says it all.

      • True, but we shouldn’t be comparing Bell to KP. We should be comparing him to the other blokes picked in the squad ahead of him.

        Compton has 479 runs in 9 tests at an average of 32
        Bairstow has 845 runs in 20 tests at an average of 26.
        Taylor has 126 runs in 3 tests at an average of 25
        Hales has 557 runs in 23 ODIs at an average of 25

        And we all know what happened to Ballance the last time he faced quality fast bowling.

        Bell’s record is head and shoulders above all these guys. His recent record isn’t great, but he’s demonstrated the ability to score heavily in South Africa against top class bowling before. The other guys are unknown quantities.

  • Pretty much agree with all of it James apart from perhaps Rashid. Although I’d have taken him, maybe this does represent a little bit of learning from the selectors. Anderson’s career was set back by a couple of years where he hardly played (partly injury, partly because he was a perennial 12th man), and the same happened with Bairstow a few years later. Rashid’s already done one tour this year without a game and, given he’s unlikely to play in SA, playing some T20 might not be such a bad thing. Quite what the hell Patel did to get selected in his place is a mystery to me though.

    As for the batting, I have a sneaky feeling they’re going to go with Cook-Hales-Compton as the top 3. So look forward to Joe Root coming in at 10-2 more often than not…I’d have stuck with Bell, too. We always seem to be trying to blood players in the tough series, then seem baffled when they fail.

    Kevin Pietersen’s available and is quite good, apparently.

  • Issue with Compton, is that apparently he was dropped because he fell out with people, which if it is the case, is pretty pathetic that it happened at all.

    They haven’t had an opener worth the name since Strauss, if Compton can get in and put on a couple of 100 partnerships with Cook he will have done his job. As for Rashid, this is utter nonsense.

  • I largely think there are some bold but quite well thought out choices, particularly on the batting side.

    I think a lot rests of who they intend to play at 3; the way I see it it’s one of three options:

    1) Compton, in which case Hales opens and Compton is an “insurance policy” of a defensive player to balance Hales’ attacking instincts if he’s out early.

    2) Ballance, in which case it’s a straight swap back into the team at his previous position. Hales presumably opens with Compton available to replace either if they have a torrid time (although that wouldn’t do much for their confidence being replaced mid-series)

    3) Taylor, my preferred option. I would see him as the long term number 3 as he has the game to accumulate and accelerate. I would like to see Ballance back in lower down the order at 5 as I think he’s too good a player to be out for long but I think being less exposed to the new ball would do him a world of good, plus that’s where he bats for his county I think.

    No idea what they have in mind but I wonder if they’re trying to quite simply keep their options open and make a decision closer to the time. Not a bad idea in my book.

  • On the bowling I would like to see Rashid play, but if he’s not going to I think it’s the next best call to let him get some game time.

    I actually quite rate Woakes and think he’s capable of more than he’s shown so far so would be interested to see if he’s given game time, but I wonder if he’s seen as a like for like replacement for Stokes.

    Jordan I don’t think offers that much so not entirely sure what he’s there for. Certainly feel Plunkett deserved a place ahead of him.

    I guess Footit is most likely in line as the third seamer. Probably not a bad call as a left armer – as he provides more variation and it’s as good a place as any to test him! Sounds like maybe he’ll be getting a fair bit of game time.

  • James, I have only read the first paragraph and I’m in fits of laughter. You have made my day! I’ll go back and read the rest with a nice glass of Chablis. Speak later. :)

  • I’d probably bang on about how much of a mistake it is to rely on so many bits and pieces players except England won the last Ashes doing just that.

  • Oh dear James. I have now read your entire piece and realise that I was not supposed to be laughing. Serves you right for being so funny!

    Compton has had a good season, his averages stand up and he is reasonably solid. We have such a flaky top order that he seems to be the best choice. Carberry has been very average this year. Ideally we should have a reliable striker alongside Cook but unfortunately we don’t have one. We should have stuck with Lyth but that was obviously not going to happen. Compton is only ever going to be Compton but when Hales comes off he can make a big difference. He has a better chance of doing so at 3 but In reality I don’t see that happening.

    It could well be a big mistake to have left out Bell. He should have been in the squad at least. I don’t see Ballance for Bell as the defining choice. We also have Taylor and of course Compo but he is hardly the way forward.

    I would have simply brought Plunkett in for Patel. We relied heavily on spin in the UAE and it was the seamers, the better bowlers, who made the difference. Not that we have the strongest seam attack sans Wood and Finn.

    Can’t agree with you about Rashid. He is better off getting international mileage on the clock and I don’t see that the Big Bash means that he is pigeonholed for life.

    Woakes is obviously well liked and is being ‘groomed’. I don’t hold that against him. He has always had spirit and I hope it works out for both him and us.

    Great post as always and thanks for the laugh!

    • “Compton has had a good season…. Carberry has been very average this year”.

      One scored 1129 runs at 38.9 and the other scored 1123 runs at 38.7!

      • Thanks Simon. You saved me the effort by quoting those stats. My thoughts exactly.

        Jenny. I’m not advocating Rashid carrying drinks all tour. He should have a real chance of playing. The 5th bowler should be a wicket taker not a stock bowler. It’s very close between Moeen & Rashid, and let’s not forget that Mo’s economy rate is poor anyway. If it was up to me, Rashid would probably start. Higher ceiling and more likely to mop up the tail.

        • Thanks for the stats. I’m not a stats person. They have a relevance but it’s the game situation that counts. Can’t pretend to be an expert but Compton simply seemed to be more positive this season. Carberry is a good player. Career sadly interrupted and damaged by illness. And of course the Guardian interview. :-(

  • I kind of wonder whether the selectors view this as a phase in England’s rebuilding (do take your time chaps), then much of it makes sense, although some doesn’t at all. If Hales, Taylor and Footit fufil their potential, I shall be rather cheered.

    Sorry but Bell seems to get given extraordinary latitude, including in this article. Yes, he was 3rd best bat in UAE – with a top score of 63! His record against SA is goodish, no more. You need to rely on your senior batsmen to score a big innings now and then. For all his undoubted qualities, reliability is not one.

    I’ve seen complaints elsewhere that this squad lacks SA experience. Since SA series come round once in a blue moon, I don’t see this as much of a measure.

  • Hales is next cab off the rank. He hasn’t opened in test cricket but undoubtably has lots of potential. Good luck to him.

    If not, then Compton has the best record of playing with Cook so it’s a logical decision.

    • I can see the logic but if Hales is the next cab off the rank, he should have opened in the UAE. The selectors / management are all over the place on this one. They obviously have doubts about him.

      I’ve always found ‘the next cab’ argument a strange one. In my opinion Hales shouldn’t even be on the rank. He’s been miscast. The selectors need to identify someone with the technique to succeed at the top level, not just systematically churn through options until they get lucky.

      When Hales opened against the Aussies in last year’s ODIs he really struggled against genuine pace. His reactions were slow and his technique shaky. He’s also struggled with Irfan’s bounce in the UAE. I’m not sure how the selectors can watch all this but still believe he has the necessary attributes. But then again, if they think Moeen is an opener ….

      Overall there is no joined up thinking. Compton had an average season & has a low ceiling. Fraser was on the radio yesterday saying that Compton’s stats are average, but Middlesex played on some dodgy wickets last year – so that’s ok then! It’s odd logic. Many batsmen were in a similar position.

      It was a small sample but Bell averaged 59 in the championship (compared to Compton’s 38). Bell also averages 42 against SA. I doubt Hales / Compton / Bairstow etc will get anywhere near that. Cook had a longer lean spell than Bell, but came through it and is now having a purple patch.

      We have the wrong selectors (they shouldn’t be connected to specific counties) and a chairman of selectors with no international experience and very little standing in the game. I doubt the broader public have any faith in him. I certainly don’t.


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