If In Doubt, Pick Everyone

My wise old mum once told me that you can’t have too much of a good thing. Or was it that you can have too much of a good thing? I really don’t remember. Anyway, Ed Smith and the ECB obviously subscribe to the former. Why? Because they haven’t named 45 players in their expanded squad after all. They’ve named 55! I think it’s safe to assume that all bases are covered.

Why the selectors feel it’s necessary to name five entire XIs’ worth of cricketers is anyone’s guess. They’ve basically picked 14% of all professional cricketers in the UK!

However, despite selecting cricketers as random as Mason Crane and Reece Topley, there still didn’t find a place for either Alex Hales or poor Liam Plunkett. How bizarre.

Overall, however, it’s hard to grumble too much about the squad. Selecting just about everyone naturally leaves very few dissatisfied souls. Although, come to think of it, had I known they were going to name 55 players then I might have half expected a call up myself. Ed Smith will never know what he’s missing – especially in the field, ahem.

Looking back at yesterday’s predicted 45 names I don’t think I did too badly really. The only players I included that got brutally rebuffed today were the aforementioned Hales and Plunkett, plus Joe Clarke and Sam Northeast.

I must admit that I find the continued absence of Hales frustrating. Yes he’s made his mistakes, and yes he’s got lots of ground to make up, but he’s been in exile for ages now. There’s lots to admire about Eoin Morgan, and he’s done a terrific job with our white ball sides, but talking about ‘trust’ at this point just seems a tad cliched. My guess is that it’s just personal.

When it comes to Plunkett I really don’t know what to say. He’s been treated abysmally. Yes he’s getting a little long in the tooth but there’s no need to think about the future when the T20 World Cup is just around the corner. Plunkett would’ve been the ideal squad man for such an important tournament. He’s seen it all in his career and wouldn’t have buckled under the pressure. Just look at the ODI World Cup final last year!

As for Clarke I’m not surprised. One wonders whether Alex Hepburn’s decision to appeal his rape conviction counted against him. After all, this will keep Clarke’s previous sins in the public eye. Having said that, however, they did find a place for Tom Kohler Cadmore so they’re obviously willing to move on in some cases.

And then there’s poor Sam Northeast. Again I’m not surprised to be honest. There seems to be an unwritten law that Northeast and James Hildreth must not, under any circumstances, ever play international cricket for England.

So who are the beneficiaries of the others’ misfortune. Here are the 14 names who didn’t make TFT’s big bold prediction:

Ben Duckett, David Willey, Reece Topley, Phil Salt, Ollie Robison (the one that bowls), Brydon Carse, Mason Crane, Laurie Evans, Richard Gleeson, Tom Helm, Will Jacks, Keaton Jennings, Liam Livingstone, Jamie Overton.

This lot represents something of a mixed bag in my opinion although I doubt many of them will see much action. I’m glad that Willey (who I overlooked yesterday), Jamie Overton, Livingstone, and Jacks are in England’s plans, and it’s good to see that Robinson’s fine form has been rewarded too.

Sadly, however, I’m not sure whether all of them will cut the mustard internationally – and that includes Keaton Jennings and Ben Duckett by the way. The selection of the latter is particularly curious considering their aversions to Clarke and Hales.

I’m also somewhat surprised that there wasn’t a place for Jamie Porter from Essex. It’s weird that Topley (who hasn’t played much cricket in recent years) gets a call up when Porter (who’s played loads and taken loads of wickets) gets ignored.

One also imagines that Gary Ballance’s loyal legion of fans are spitting feathers right now. However, in this instance at least, I think the selectors have made the right decision.

Let’s just hope they can get the actual games on after all this. I’m sure we’re all desperate to see some live cricket again. Although I half expect a player, coach, or member of the backroom staff to test positive for COVID-19 at some point – something which will throw everything into turmoil again – surely they can find a way to play some cricket when the bloody Premier League football is recommencing in June.

It’s just a shame that cricket doesn’t have the Premier League’s money. I’ve been casually monitoring the football world with some incredulity at the moment. How can a game involving so much physical contact and heavy breathing possibly be safe?

Bill Shankly once joked that football isn’t a matter of life and death – it’s far more important than that. Well, I think recent developments demonstrate that those running football think it’s definitely as important as life. Or a life. Or indeed multiple lives.

James Morgan


  • when you consider that all of the 55 players except the Lancs and Surrey players will have to be taken off furlough that is a hell of a wage bill for the cash strapped ECB to have to pay
    30 – 40 players would have been more than enough
    My county, Lancs, have 7 called up – if we do get county cricket and are unable to call on overseas players it doesnt leave Lancs with much of a squad should the domestic season resume on 1st August

    As for footy starting, the EPL will be safe – it doesn’t matter how close the physical contact as you can’t get it from someone who doesnt have it – these lads are being tested every couple of days

    I actually think not playing until at least 1st August is a money saving decision as all counties have furloughed staff including groundstaff – if they were starting 1st July the counties would have to take everyone off furlough immediately but not getting any money in the form of spectators etc

    • Same for all the top counties in terms of missing players. Warwickshire will be without all three of their strike bowlers (Woakes, Stone and Brookes) and will be left with a seam attack of the admirable Hannon-Dolby, Norwell and Henry Brookes little brother, Ethan.

      • Just like parts of last season then. Don’t worry, you can replace them with Ben Mike, Toby Lester and James Wainman again. You won’t notice the difference!

        • Don’t! It was bad enough when I saw Craig Miles playing against Surrey last year. Perhaps Sidebottom will be back.

          • Is Miles really that mediocre? The way people were talking about him a few years ago, he could easily have become one of the 55 now. Or do you think he was just flattered by playing in the second division?

            • I am not a speed addict. I preferred Woakes at 80mph and my favourite Warwickshire player of all was Tom Cartwright ……. but Miles is meant to be a quickie. He is, at best, a medium pace change seamer. He may do a good job in that role but he will never be a front line strike bowler. I would put his pace at little more than mid-70s.

  • I agree with you that Topley, who plays very little and never in a format that involves bowling more than four overs being selected and Porter ignored is bizarre.

  • The most bizarre selection must surely be Laurie Evans. I always thought he was a good squad man at Edgbaston, but he never convinced as anything more – and that was for county selection. What has he done to secure selection? It cannot be that he is one for the future; not at 32.

  • Isn’t Plunkett trying to qualify to play for the USA (who the ICC are desperate to get into their tournaments ASAP)?

  • Under the circumstances I can understand a big squad, as most of the players have not played a competitive match in almost 9 months, so stats and form are relatively meaningless. What it does do is give an edge to competitive preparation as almost every place is up for grabs 5 times over. Whether this produces the desired effect and raises people’s games remains to be seen, but I think it’s quite an interesting take on lockdown morale. I’m still pretty sure the usual suspects will play but there’s certainly incentive for the possibles.

  • With still 8000 cases of CV per day reported you’ll only need one or two cases for the whole thing to unravel, hence the idea of having covid ” replacements”. Jesus it just gets more stupid by the day. If there are cases when the football starts, if indeed it does, the whole silly thing will be off. Now you can be quarantined for 14 days if someone who tests positive tells the authorities that they have been near you for 15 minutes, whether you have symptoms or not. Consequently I am still highly sceptical there will be any football or cricket at all, and certainly not in July.

  • One of the fascinating things to watch in all forms of sport will be how players react to the post-COVID environment.
    Some will have kept their fitness levels up, or even improved them. Others may have let things slide.
    Some players may also have suffered personal loss through bereavement and illness and the treatment of mental health issues will become increasingly important in the future. For all of those reasons, I can see the logic in picking a 55 man squad. Like everyone else, I’m looking forward to the return of live cricket.
    Thanks as always James for this great blog.

  • I guess the huge squad is in case players decide not to play because of Covid. On a different note I am told we have had the sunniest meteorological spring on record. Clearly no coincidence that the cricket season hasn’t started. At least we know what to do if drought threatens. Organise a test match.

  • Don’t you mean “pick everyone in a huge squad which has 25 top-six batsmen except one of England’s best white-ball openers…?”

  • WI in such dire financial condition that players and staff are about to have a 50% pay cut (remembering their pay was already much lower than the Big Three). Their financial situation might have something to do with why they’ve suddenly overcome what had been apparently insurmountable reservations to this England tour.

  • Absolutely fuming about this. Why do England need more than 25 people in their squad to cover both red and white ball cricket. All it does is further devalue international recognition (oh for the days when the likes of Robin Jackman had to earn his call up through sheer weight of wickets year after year!).

    Far better to get county cricket organised sooner and give some of these guys some sorely-needed practice.

  • Well if this thing is going to have a second spike the sight of hundreds of people on top of each other at the beaches yesterday is likely to bring it. Looks like Jo Public is fed up with Govt “advice” and are now deciding for themselves. Looking at those scenes I don’t see why you can’t open grounds to County Cricket ASAP. i.e. 2000 is a good crowd at the Oval for the Championship and it’ll be a good deal “safer” than the beaches and the beauty spots. Who knows people might actually get some immunity to the virus.

    • There is some truth to this as even the government experts are saying a level of contagion is desirable for the country as a whole to build up some immunity in the absence of a vaccine.
      I do feel now so many are clearly paying only lip service to government advice that control has been lost and any semblence of strategy that existed is being nullified to the point of no return.


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