Cricket selection panels become more like governments every day. They oversee horrific failures, tacitly admit their cock-ups and promise to pull their socks up, but their solutions invariably involve repackaged ideas that have been tried (unsuccessfully) in the past. Therefore, should we really be surprised that England’s bold plan to reverse their fortunes in one-day cricket, and begin a new era, involves fourteen players who have all been picked in squads before? The only player yet to win a cap is Jade Dernbach, our latest South African import. Well, one’s better than none I suppose.
England aren’t exactly blessed with many options in ODI cricket, but we were hoping for a little bit more imagination. Matt Prior, a perennial under-achiever in limited overs cricket, has been dispensed with (why he was recalled in the first place beats us), and his replacement is Craig Kieswetter, who, unless he’s had a technique transplant, will continue to struggle against the moving ball – which is why he too was dropped just twelve months ago.
I won’t get into this, as it’s a can of worms bigger than the one Sir Ian takes on fishing holidays, but I suspect that Steve Davies will never play for England ever again – although I hope I’m wrong. Phil Mustard would have been my choice. He is in the form of his life, and his last appearance for England was so long ago that there’s a good chance he’s matured as a cricketer since.
The other notable casualty from our embarrassing World Cup campaign is James Tredwell – who was actually one of our better performers. He might be rather limited, so we’re not going to moan about his absence, but it’s worth remembering that without his performance against the West Indies, we might not have made it through to the knockout stages; whether you think that was a good thing is another matter.
The final absentee is Luke Wright, who has been dropped from the ODI squad but retains his place in the T20 equivalent. This isn’t exactly big news though. I doubt many people remember that Wright was actually in our World Cup squad. His performances made fewer headlines than Steve Davies, who wasn’t even there.
The man who has replaced Wright is Chris ‘the mighty’ Woakes, a seam bowler who splits opinion. I personally think he isn’t quick enough to be remotely successful in international cricket – although he may take wickets in England if it’s overcast. On the other hand, a number of well informed observers rate the guy highly.
Either way, however, Woakes has got to be a better bet than Wright. He might not be Malcolm Marshall, but Woakes bowling is far more polished than the Sussex man. Furthermore, he shows great promise as a lower-order batsman capable of ‘clearing the ropes’ (©Nick Knight). So he’s arguably better than Wright with the willow too.
The main problem with the squad is that the bowling looks worryingly thin. It’s so strange. In test cricket we’ve got quality seamers coming out of our ears, yet none of them inspire confidence in the shorter form of the game. It doesn’t help that Ajmal Shahzad has suddenly forgotten how to bowl – his recent performances for Yorkshire have made Mitchell Johnson’s Ashes showing look positively brilliant – but I’m surprised that Graham Onions hasn’t been recalled. An Onions and Mustard combination would have looked pretty tasty on paper.
Onions’ omission is all the more mysterious considering the inclusion of Steve Finn in both the T20 and ODI squads. This seems to be a very risky strategy. Finn might take wickets in first class cricket, but he sprays the ball around so much that he’d be well advised to leave the sprinkler dance alone – unless, of course, he’s a fan of irony. Furthermore, his record for Middlesex isn’t exactly great. His wickets have cost over 30, and his economy rate is over 5. Sri Lanka’s top order might take to him like Mike Gatting to a cream cake.
Talking of cakes (and burgers, and milkshakes, and pies) Samit Patel has also been picked in both squads – and he looks a dead cert to play. Having apparently lost weight since Christmas, where he worked as a Santa Claus impersonator in Nottingham shopping malls*, Patel is fit and ready to cement his place in England’s middle-order. He’s been in decent form with bat and ball, so he deserves his call up. However, has he really lost weight? If he has, I hate to think what he looked like beforehand.
Other than that, the squads have given us bloggers very little to talk about. In one sense that’s exactly the problem – it’s same old same old. Sure there’s the odd bizarre quirk – for example, Jimmy Anderson is considered good enough to bowl ‘at the death’ in ODIs but hasn’t been included in the T20 squad – but there are no big stories for us armchair experts to debate.
The one exception, of course, is the identity of England’s captains – something we’ve already talked about ad nauseum. We won’t bore you with this again, there will be plenty of time for that when England make 180-1 off 50 overs in the first ODI, with Cook 70no off 130 deliveries, and Trott 80 off 160. And what’s the betting that Broad’s debut as captain gets marred by a spat with the umpires – not that he ever looks at them.
Twenty20 squad Stuart Broad (capt), Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Jade Dernbach, Steven Finn, Craig Kieswetter, Michael Lumb, Eoin Morgan, Samit Patel, Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann, Chris Woakes, Luke Wright.
One-day squad Alastair Cook (capt), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Jade Dernbach, Steven Finn, Craig Kieswetter, Eoin Morgan, Samit Patel, Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann, Jonanathan Trott, Chris Woakes.
*Well, he might have done.
I agree, James. After the World Cup it was obvious that we needed a rather sizeable re-shuffle with players like Jimmy Anderson and Luke Wright giving way to players who have proven on the county circuit that they have some pedigree in the one-day format. I like the inclusion of Jade Dernbach who I believe is a very positive inclusion but Steven Finn’s selection in both squads is more puzzling than Dimi Mascarenhas’ hair. He was dropped in The Ashes for being too expensive, yet he deserves a place in the T20 and ODI squads? Am I missing something here?
As for Chris Woakes, I’m a big fan of his ability. I think it’s a little naive to say that he doesn’t have the pace to be troubling in international cricket but look at the likes of Shaun Pollock and Glenn McGrath, two players who have drawn comparisons with Woakes in the last couple of years. Granted, Pollock and McGrath were probably a few MPH sharper than Woakes at this stage of their careers, but they made a living out of line and length at 80MPH for the majority of their careers. Plus, Woakes is still very young and we know that the England management are keen to bulk up the quicker bowlers as we’ve seen with Broad and Finn in the last 18 months or so. Given time in the team and work on his upper body strength I’m sure he’ll add a few yards to his pace. And, as you said, his batting has a lot of potential, as Shaun Tait discovered at the MCG in the winter.
Overall, I’m disappointed that the selectors haven’t been slightly more radical. It’s sad that Ben Stokes broke his finger when he did because I would have liked to have seen him get a chance, and then there’s James Taylor who I keep boring people about and Adil Rashid who deserves another chance.
If Cook, Trott, Wright, Anderson all fire and we win the ODI series 4-1 we’ll be eating our words, but for the time being we need to look at where this set of players could take England in the one-day game.
I forgot to mention Alex Hales who is another young talent who has been in great form for Notts and deserves a shout on the international scene. These guys are the future of English cricket. Get them in now.
Not sure i agree – Geoff Miller has made the point that he wants players to come through the Lions system and prove themselves at a level higher than county cricket. Players like Hales, Vince, Stokes, Taylor, Topley, Fletcher all look promising but should not be thrown into international cricket with only a good 12 months behind them.
Taylor, Hales and Fletcher haven’t had just 12 months. Taylor has been on the County scene for the best part of 3 years now and has scored nearly 4,000 runs in 55 matches in the Championship. How many games had Alastair Cook played when he made it into England’s Test side? I’d suggest about the same amount, although I’m not 100% sure. Taylor has also scored runs for the Lions, both opening the batting and in the middle order. As for Hales and Fletcher, they’ve been regulars in the Notts side for the past two seasons and have shown good promise, although I don’t believe Fletcher is good enough to play for England. Yet.
And anyway, what’s wrong with throwing youngsters into the side if they’re in good form and show a lot of promise? As long as they show mental strength and good character, there’s not much risk at all.
Totally agree George. Taylor would be worth a punt. Bopara hasn’t got many runs this year. Sometimes I suspect that his bowling is keeping him in the squad. The selection of Finn actually seems to follow a pattern – we did the same with Saj Mahmood i.e. pick a guy who is a wicket taker in first class cricket, but a bit wayward, and play him in ODIs instead – a form of the game they’re not suited to. If they can’t keep the runs down in first-class matches, how are they supposed to do it when the slog is on? I hope his confidence isn’t destroyed. Re: McGrath and Pollock, they were actually quite brisk at the start of their careers. They relied on accuracy later on. Generally though, they are exceptions to the rule – they were, after all, incredibly accurate. I’m yet so see any evidence that Woakes is in the same class. I’m not sure, but I bet Pollock/McGrath are taller too. Most 80-83mph bowlers get targeted in international cricket … esp the likes of Albie Morkel. But yes, at least Woakes has time on his side, and he should fill out a bit. I hope he does. Can’t have too many bowlers who can bat!
Every player and his dog gets compared with McGrath and Pollock these days. Just a cheap unimaginative label. Thank god Matt Prior’s gone, that’s a start anyway. He got an awful lot of matches for doing stuff all. I think the bowling will be ok, though Finn is a risk. And the batting is sturdy enough surely?
Woakes is very similar to Pollock and McGrath. His action strikes a canny resemblence.
The batting is solid but how we play spin in the middle overs is crucial. Dilshan opened the bowling against us in the WC and Strauss made him look like Shane Warne. Thank the heavens that Murali is no longer around.