Apologies for the rather blunt headline, but today I’m grumpier than a piles sufferer who’s run out of Germoloids. Only the England cricket team, organised by a cosy little club with a penchant for ignoring all evidence, would send a team to a World Cup with a captain who doesn’t warrant a place in the side and a coach who has never won a single one-day trophy.
I doubt even the FA would be this daft. Can you imagine England appointing Alan Pardew as manager and then flying to Brazil with Tom Cleverley as captain?
Even more depressing is the fact we knew this was coming. The infatuation with Alastair Cook – a cricketer no better than Jonathan Trott, and worse than twenty two other batsmen according to the rankings – continues unabated. I am sick of it now.
Cook has not scored over 80 in an ODI for donkeys years, hasn’t made a test century since dinosaurs roamed the earth, yet remains captain for reasons totally unrelated to cricket. He is possibly the most overrated batsman in world cricket. If you don’t believe me perhaps you’ll be persuaded by this.
The truth is that Cook has always been a decent / good test opener with admirable mental strength but a limited range of shots and glaring technical weaknesses. He’s just about worth his place in the test team (until we can find someone able to withstand top quality seam bowling on a regular basis) but there is no rationale whatsoever for his continued selection in ODIs.
Cook doesn’t make big scores frequently, hasn’t made one for two years, and the runs he does actually score are made too slowly. He’s an anachronism, and a horrible batsman to watch when out of form – which is pretty much all the time these days.
It really is such a shame. I have nothing against Cook personally (he seems nice and polite as far as I can tell) and I have no agenda other than that I want England to win. However, the longer this farce continues, the more Cook will come to represent everything I dislike about English cricket: its aloofness, exclusivity and apparent favouritism.
Cook is living proof, in my eyes anyway, that the England cricket team is no longer selected purely on merit. Politics, insularity, intransigence and perhaps even class prejudice seem to get in the way. Almost weekly, the ECB reveals itself to be an anachronism just like Cook. Perhaps that’s why the two are so inseparable?
Meanwhile, other players come and go like a second hand boomerang. Ravi Bopara, who has played a much larger role in England’s rare recent ODI successes than Cook, was inexplicably dropped for the games against India. Now he’s back … which leaves a copious portion of omelette dripping down the selectors’ collective faces.
I’m glad Bopara is back, as his bowling will be handy in Sri Lanka, and I’m also interested to see what James Taylor, surely the estranged son of Barry Manilow, can do. However, the flipside is that Garry Ballance has been dropped. That’s Gary Ballance, the bloody find of the summer.
To put things in perspective for you, Ballance has a List A average of 52 and a strike rate of 89. Cook’s list A average is 38 at a strike rate of just 79. Yet we’re still meant to believe that the team is picked on merit? Do me a favour.
The other names in the squad are pretty predictable really. With Cook undeservedly occupying one of the coveted opening berths, there was never going to be room for the likes of Roy and Vince . Instead it will be up to Alex Hales to do all the scoring in the powerplays. Tough gig that: making up for your skipper’s failings when you’re a newbie.
Anyway, it’s time for me to leave the floor now. I’ve had my say and more. What do you think of the squad? In some ways the selectors are hamstrung by a lack of quality players to choose from (particularly in the bowling) but they’ve clearly ducked the decision that really mattered.
I’ve read today that some of the selectors had doubts about Cook but were swayed by the coach, who gave a robust defence of his beloved skipper. Once again words like ‘dignity’ and ‘fortitude’ were thrown around. What they didn’t mention, of course, was ‘talent’ or ‘run scoring’.
I’m also wondering why the selectors thought it wise to defer to a bloke who’s never actually won a limited overs trophy. Which brings us full circle. Cleverley for England, anyone?
The Squad: Alastair Cook (capt), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler, Steven Finn, Harry Gurney, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, James Taylor, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes