Kick the can down the road. That’s the theme of the year. And now it looks like everyone’s least favourite philosophy has infiltrated Ed Smith towers too.
The omission of Jofra Archer from England’s preliminary World Cup squad of 15, alongside his inclusion in the larger 17 man squad to take on Pakistan, merely delays the decision as to whether England’s ‘great new hope’ will be fast tracked into the XI.
Is this approach the right one? I think it probably is. Archer has only played 14 professional 50-over games in his entire career, so it seems entirely reasonable to ‘have a look’ at him against Pakistan before making a final decision.
It could be the right decision for the wrong reasons, however, if Ed Smith and the selectors are taking a cautious approach because they’re worried about harming team spirit.
A number of players have questioned whether it would be right to select Archer (at the last minute) above other cricketers who have played an important role in the build up to the tournament. First it was David Willey, then Mark Wood, and yesterday Chris Woakes had his say.
Although Woakes’s comments were actually misquoted or misrepresented by certain sections of the media – when he suggested that selecting Archer would be “morally” wrong you could tell he used the word uncertainly and was clearly searching for a better one – it still raised the issue of squad harmony.
I hope Ed Smith has seen this for what it is: a big fat and extremely red herring. Whilst squad harmony is important I don’t see how a whole group of players could feel so disenchanted about the omission of one teammate that they’d let it undermine everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve since 2015.
What’s more, this is professional sport for heaven sake. Players come and go all the time. They get injured; they lose form; older players lose ‘it’; younger players improve and take their place. There’s bound to be some churn. And it’s the same whatever the sport.
Imagine, for example, if Sir Alex Ferguson had decided against buying Eric Cantona in 1992 because he was worried that Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce, Dennis Irwin and Co might feel bad if Brian McClair was relegated to the bench. It would’ve been ridiculous.
Basically if someone better comes along, and it means someone else is replaced on the eve of a World Cup, then that’s life. The player left out and his mates in the squad can suck it up. Personally (if I was a player), I’d feel a lot more peeved if Ed Smith left out a player who might help us win the tournament for misplaced political reasons. But that’s just me.
By kicking the can down the road, however, the selectors are probably hoping that an injury to one of the bowlers (and let’s face it, the likes of Wood and Plunkett do tend to get injured a lot) will make the all-important decision for them. This would enable them to select Archer without offending anyone.
In some ways this is a fudge. It’s hard to argue that either Plunkett, Willey, or indeed Tom Curran are better cricketers at this point than Jofra Archer. What’s more, Archer provides something the team clearly lacks and needs: genuine pace.
However, playing the waiting game is probably sensible at this point. It also quite smart psychologically. When the likes of Graeme Hick and Kevin Pietersen became England qualified we couldn’t wait to rush them into the team. It’s because we were desperate and the world basically knew it.
By making Jofra wait, the selectors are sending out a signal to other teams that England don’t necessarily need one of the world’s most exciting talents. And that speaks volumes about our strength in depth and the confidence within the existing squad. I imagine they’ve taken note down under, for example.
Overall, however, I think it’s inconceivable that Archer won’t make England’s final squad for the World Cup. All one has to do is look at the preliminary squad of 15 to know that his eventual inclusion makes too much sense:
England have so many world class white ball batsmen who average close to (or over) the 40 benchmark: Root (51), Bairstow (46), Buttler (41), Roy (39), Morgan himself (39). Alex Hales has an excellent ODI record (38 with a strike rate of 97) and he can’t make the side!
But then look at the averages of our seam bowlers: Wood (45), Willey (35), Plunkett (31), Curran (32), Woakes (32). None of these are world class and their records over a large number of games proves it.
Leaving out Jofra Archer, who averages 23 with the ball in first class cricket, just 22 in T20 cricket, and who also wields the willow more effectively than many of England’s other bowlers, would therefore be ridiculous.
England’s selectors have often bungled selections and strategies for World Cups. It’s one of the big reasons we’ve generally been so poor in them. I suspect, however, that not even England are daft enough to leave out of the most exciting talents in the white ball universe – especially one who fills an obvious need.
Please don’t overthink this one, Ed.
I tend to agree. Effectively, Archer (and Jordan) is in England’s extended 17 man squad, which will be trimmed to 15 over the next few months. That they’re out of the actual 15 right now is pure optics – it says they have to perform against Pakistan to force their way in. Or, indeed, hope for an injury.
For me the bigger talking point is Denly’s inclusion. He’s a good cricketer, but as a top order batsman he has no chance of playing before Hales. And if there’s an injury, Billings, Malan or Vince can be added to the squad and all would play ahead of Denly too. Presumably he comes in as a replacement spinner if Moeen or Rashid picks up a niggle, but why not Dawson, who’s a better bowler, and more used to batting in the middle order? Any spin replacement will bat no higher than 7, which doesn’t really play to Denly’s strengths.
I could see an argument for Billings (covering the middle order, plus his fielding), or for the extra quick.
Denly seems to be in because he coud either be a batsman or a spinner. But he’s redundant as the first, and not good enough as the second.
Also I note that the ‘not been in the squad over the last 4 years’ argument somehow doesn’t apply to him.
Very good point. Malan, for example, is a better white ball batsman than Denly by some distance. Dawson is also left arm so adds some variety. We already have a right arm leggie in Rashid, so why the need for Denly?
I do like Denly as a cricketer, but I tend to prefer him as an orthodox and somewhat elegant red ball batsman as opposed to a white ball hitter.
Archer should be in, period. Anyone who feels threatened by him should have a good look in the mirror and button it.
I know Archer is flavour of the month at the moment, especially with his recent exploits in the IPL, but he is one for the future. I can’t see the point in disrupting a squad that with or without him will still be favourites. We have plenty of canny experience on the bowling front in this 15 and if he were to get a tonking against someone like Pakistan, what do we do with him for the next match? His inclusion for me presents more problems than it solves. Bring him in for the Ashes one dayers, but the World Cup is too important to experiment, however promising the talent.
There’s canny experience and then there’s wicket taking potential. All England’s seamers are average at best, as their records show. Archer might just bring a little edge. I’m not sure if he’ll tear up trees but he should bring some pace and variety. And that’s sorely needed if the pitches are all roads prepared for our batsmen.
I still say he’s too untried at this level. Youngsters in all sports are notoriously inconsistent. Give me a Jordan any day of the week to ‘potential’. Look at Rashford for Utd, enormous potential but effectively lost them a winning chance in Barcelona with his less than clinical finishing. In cricket when pace goes wrong it can be spectacular with even edges leaking boundaries. We don’t k ow hoe hell react to home expectation. He’s no Malinga yet. Our success is based on batting. We don’t seem phased by chasing decent totals, so why change a winning line up. Also it makes life more difficult for Morgan, who is familiar with handling the established line up. How does he incorporate Archer into this?
But then look at the impact of some very young cricketers on world cups. Ricky Ponting first came to attention at a WC as did Inzamam Ul Haq. A young Shoaib Akhtar was also electric. I’m not a great fan of any of England’s seamers, and I’m not really a Chris Jordan fan either. He’s neither particularly quick, accurate, nor does he move the ball much. Not really sure what he adds.
Thought Jordan was excellent in the T20s in the Caribbean and he still pings it through at a reasonable rate. Think he and Plunkett are very close and Jordan’s fielding / death bowling sneaks him in for me.
Think I feel the way about Plunkett that you feel about Jordan – solid performer, not as quick as everybody makes out, doesn’t bowl first up or at the death, hits a long ball but pretty hit or miss with the bat.
Generally the problem with England’s seam bowling as a whole, Willey, Woakes, Plunkett, Jordan all a bit the same. Don’t feel that any of them going to be the massive difference to England’s world cup chances. Put it this way, you wouldn’t get the same feeling of dread if they were injured as youu would if Jimmy’s injured for a test match.
Agreed Hamish. I guess I’ll put it this way. You’re Virat Kohli. It’s a key moment of the World Cup final or semi final. Who would you prefer to bowl at you? Tom Curran, Liam Plunkett, or the bloke who has impressed everyone at the IPL and emerged as one of the real stars of the tournament. Experience does count for something but if you’re good enough you’re old enough. What’s more, Archer’s experience of bowling in front of big crowds in big stadiums must count for something.
To me Jordan’s the best finisher we have. Wouldn’t trust any of our other bowlers more to keep their head at the death. He’s had a succession of decent finishing spells.
My point is the World Cup is too important this time to mess with a winning team. I don’t see how introducing an unknown factor into the equation at this late stage improves the odds. At international level Archer has no pedigree. As I say let him find his feet against the Aussies, where individual games are not so important. Bowling 2-3 over spells in the IPL is a completely different ball game from a sustained spell in front of his home crowd in a tournament where expectations are high. Let the bowlers who’ve produced the results to make us favourites carry the responsibility. Trust what’s been proven.
I totally agree we lack match winning bowling, but we still seem to win most encounters.
I’m not sure what bowlers are doing going to the media and trying to influence who is and isn’t selected. Sacred team unity starts to look more like a cosy cartel.Plunkett (who at least has kept mum so far) is probably most at jeopardy and got carted today.
This deadline of the 15th for squad announcements is pretty meaningless anyway. It’s only to allow the production of WC advertising guff and The Hundred has shown us how much cricket authorities care about advertising based on players that will actually be playing in a competition.
Well I don’t agree that England are favourites unless we produce all flat tracks. Lot of publicity and hype over Archer, let’s see if he’s good enough first against Pakistan. Wood, Plunket and even Woakes are injury prone, and if this guy is accurate with real pace get him in, not only for the WC but the Ashes too. Wouldn’t worry about upsetting the team, you want your best players. And I wouldn’t have Denly or Dawson anywhere near the team.
You want your best players, while at the same time ensuring that you make the best players of other nations unavailable, due to financial doping. I would not be surprised that a Kolpak XI is actually stronger than South Africa at the moment.
Yeah, that is fair.
He can outbowl, outbat and outfield all of them. Them being the precious little snowflake darlings who are concerned about “squad harmony”.
Frankly they need to reach into their whites and search for a pair rather than talking to the media. If they had talked on the pitch then they wouldn’t feel threatened in the first place.
Archer is a once in a generation player and should be first name on the teamsheet.
It’s worth reading Woakes’ comments in full rather than just the headline. Here’s what he actually said:
“We’ve been a tight-knit group for the last two to three years, played some really strong cricket, won a lot of series
“Apart from a personal level, I wouldn’t want to see any of my mates and team-mates miss out.
“But it’s the nature of international cricket that there is always someone knocking on the door.
“I don’t think it would disrupt the team because everyone would find a way to move on and we’re trying to win a World Cup for England – that’s the bigger picture.”
Which seems entirely unexceptionable to me.
(Note to editor – I clicked on the ‘report this comment’ link quite unintentionally, as it’s placed a little too close to ‘reply’…)
It is just word salad that is meant to convey “we don’t want him, cos we is speshul”. Though without the balls to actually say it.
The interesting think about it is that he doesn’t think his own place might be under threat.. Though he clearly does, else he wouldn’t have said it.
As for it being unfair or immoral… Lol… He’s a better player and spitting one’s dummy out or chucking a few toys out of the pram gives the impression that it is Mr Woakes who can’t handle pressure. But we kinda knew that anyway.
I mean he appears to be suggesting that Archer’s best usage would be to keep the current pedestrian bowling lineup on their toes… Which given that he failed to sell for £200,000 in the IPL whereas Archer went for £800,000 is a bit like keeping the Ferrari in the garage to keep the Lada from being jealous.
No worries Nigel. A lot of people do that! Some of the most innocuous posts get reported. It’s a necessary thing to have though as I don’t have time to moderate all comments.
I also think that Woakes was misquoted. He was actually quite diplomatic about someone who could well take his place. Woakes is one of the good guys and there’s certainly no way he’d deliberately rock the boat. Some cricketers can appear a bit entitled sometimes but I really don’t think Woakes is one of them.
Flat pitches have been mentioned and yet not considered or regarded in the equation of bowling and batting figures. It is a strength and a weakness that our team has trained specifically on flat pitches that favour big hitting. Hence the good averages of batsmen. This is a crossover from T20 and has been a deliberate policy since the last World Cup. It has flattered England batsman but it had to be addressed but not over addressed. Other skills as well are needed for a tournament. Hence the worrying collapses. T20 ironically has been going the other way with pitches that give something to bowlers who have become a real factor. The length of the franchise tournaments have changed how a squad is built. Bowlers on our 50 over pitches have been flogged to all parts. Hence their apparent failures compared to the batsmen. If the pitch is true and a batting paradise then fast bowling will be sent packing too. Real bowling skill and speed needs something to work with.
There is a reason therefore to test bowlers because nothing is a given. We’ve got only ourselves to blame or the world game is to blame by trying to unbalance cricket in favour of batsmen. It’s because businessmen believe that sixes are exciting but wickets flying are not. For them it’s a speculation not a game.
Archer is another wild card to speculate with. Not sure why the team should be mute if they believe that earning a place has a value. Team spirit can win you a game that is going against you. The idea that one player is going to win a tournament is beguiling but tournaments are won by strong sides. Cricket is different from football but it is still a team game because the morale of a side is so important. That is why collapses happen in cricket – morale is on a knife edge in a game of fine margins.
England’s fatal flaw in World Cups has been that last minute panic of altering the side, never more so than in the last World Cup.
Denly must be the Gary Ballance of that squad – a shocking selection because of a selector’s whim. And in Smith’s case an overriding arrogance. In the end media pressure on home side England might be our worst enemy – hence the importance of morale.
Best thing for morale is winning games.
Which means putting your strongest team out. Putting a weaker team out to retain morale is clearly nonsense.
Simple fact is that non of our bowlers deserve their place ahead of Archer.
This is more of an ICC regulations issue than the usual ECB nonsense I think.
They’re forced to name a preliminary squad of 15 by 23rd April and I do understand why they are not naming him before he’s actually played a game.
Seems a bit pointless to force countries to name this preliminary squad but then allow them to make whatever changes they want for another month….is it a marketing thing?
Is it a marketing thing? Absolutely. They just want the competition to stay in the public consciousness and to give people something to talk about in the buildup.
It’s a marketting opportunity wasted…
After Wood cranked it up in the West Indies the ECB had a great opportunity as fast bowlers put bums on seats. Blood on the wicket sells tickets at the end of the day.
Potentially watching two quicks capable of 94mph at either end.. Doesn’t get much better than that.
Pity that England selection still has more than a hint of the clique about it. Archer is clearly not one of the “in” crowd.
It will remain a clique until Anderson and Broad are gone
I think it’s disgraceful that Mark Wood, David Willey and Chris Woakes have voiced their concerns publicly in such a way that it threatens to alienate Jofra Archer before he’s even made a squad. It’s incredibly thin-skinned of all three of them and smacks of a bowling unit that knows they aren’t quite good enough as it stands and thus feel threatened.
On another note, Archer is THE best white ball bowler England have by quite some distance. His performances in the BBL, IPL and PSL have been absolutely outstanding and miles superior to anything Willey, Wood, Woakes, Liam Plunkett, Moeen Ali or either Curran brother have done, particularly in the IPL. His ability is unmatched by any of them and he provides attributes that England desperately need, namely genuine pace and an outstanding/consistent yorker. At this stage, Ed Smith is merely delaying the inevitable. 6 ODIs against Ireland, a sub-standard team, and Pakistan, a very average one, will tell us nothing about Archer that we don’t already know.
Wood.. ‘express pace’..well for one glorious innings anywya has never looked good enough
Curran (either) aren’t
plunkett has lost whatever he had
Even if archer isn’t as good as he’s more now being made out to be, this bowling unit isn’t very good anywya so anyone new should be given a shot.
It’s all mute anyway, it’s just media hype designed to drum up attention as no one seems bothered about the WC and that frightens the ECB.
Englsnd are a flat deck bullies team, they’ll win unless/until they come unstuck on a non road. That’s sadly why the 50 over format has become boring, it’s being played like a 2020
I haven’t heard the other two, but the Woakes headline from the BBC was a massive stitch-up; pure clickbait. Nothing he said was unreasonable.
Have been watching Archer for the last two seasons playing for my local Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash. First season he was a sensation, second season not so, was a useful bowler but not the breakthrough bowler of his first season. Still very much a developing player. Would be a risk for the WC but probably one worth taking… I am always bemused at England’s approach to recruiting players from the olde empire. England (along with other nations) expressed concern at the state of West Indies test cricket. Archer could have been the a player to help turn all that around, but England apparently had felt they needed him more. I guess that is one less spot for an English youngster.
I doubt that Wood or Woakes will be fit enough to play any way, so Woakes comments are probably irrelevant. Plunkett can’t bat or bowl at present for Surrey and is likely past his best. Wood is hittable unless he bowls 90+, and how often does he do that. Willly just isn’t good enough. Tom Curran is better than all three of them in one day cricket, but really good spinners get you the wickets. Oh yes, but we haven’t got any. World Cup favourites? Doubt it.
Packed crowds yesterday at places like Hove and Taunton – yet the ECB schedule no matches for the Bank Holiday and have to attract a new sponsor next year to a competition they say themselves is downgraded and will lack England and overseas’ players.
If this doesn’t look like trying to kill a format, what exactly would it look like?
Agreed. 4 games on Tuesday though including the Oval. Can’t see why these were not scheduled for Monday when most people are not working. Obviously the nutters at the ECB want it out the way asap.
They’ve not even bothered to show a live game on some of the days (today and at least one of the recent weekend days, possibly both). Presumably, they don’t get enough viewers for domestic cricket in April/May whilst the football season is still running?
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IPL 2020 Schedule Team Players Venue