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.