Same Old Crap: A Look at England’s ODI Squad


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?

James Morgan

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


  • I thnk we have to see the next ODI as a watershed like the football Worldcup was. Plus I agree with dropping Cook but who makes way for Vince / Roy only solution a bigger squad.

  • “Alistair is England’s best batsman”…yea right! Gary Ballance must be really crap then?….This is just a steaming pile of horse shit….completely beyond parody!!

  • Don’t read Newman’s latest James. He argues that poor little Cooky would be devastated if he did not go.

    Since when does the national team get picked on the feelings of certain players? Newman has just decided that Cooks selfishness should trump the best interest of English cricket. Which is a bit rich coming from one of the ECB hacks who has written pages and pages about the selfishness of KP.

    We know Agnew and Selvey and Swann have gone on the record to say Cook should not be ODI captain. (He does not get in the team if he is not Captain) it will be fascinating to watch them now do back peddling on an Olympic scale.

    • The back peddling will be very funny. Good point. Have to find some positives in this. If only they would stop with the lauding of Cook. It’s unedifying at best and highly embarrassing and insular at worst.

      But you never know, the team might turn around. Morgan and Buttler can certainly give firepower and Hales might just go for broke when he realises that he’s got no choice.

    • Haven’t exactly seen a plethora of opinion pieces or proper analysis about the squad in the media so far, apart from Agnew’s ‘like me everyone, please’ fence-sitting compromise stance. BTL must be a daunting prospect right now for those hacks that are required to tow the line.

  • Top article…I along with you and many others are sick and tired of the ECB clowns. Will Carling some years ago accused the RFU of being run by 57 old farts (not sure about the exact number) and how right he was. Since then our rugby team has been fairly successful but it took some years for it to change and the RFU still try their best to mess things up (Rob Andrew is prime example. I know I digress but for RFU read current ECB set up. The selectors and selection process is a joke and the shit they come out with defies belief. My mum could have won the last three tests and still think India did a great job in losing so as we keep Capt Calamity and in the process eliminated us as serious contenders. Cricket is a big draw now and you need big character to front up as captain both on/off pitch aka Dhoni, Clarke, Brendan M etc. SA will no doubt suffer now smith has gone but love him or hate him he was a great Cpt and we are stuck with a captain who has no character, no spine, no guts, no captains instinct but my god is he good at saying yes to his employers and asking how high he had to jump when told to jump…

  • Cook (and Bell, whose presence in the squad has slipped under the radar due to the horror of Cook’s continuing presence) aside, there is the makings of a decent england team there… if Moores is brave enough to pick it (he is not).

    1. Root
    2. Hales
    3. Taylor
    4. Morgan
    5. Bopara
    6. Ali
    7. Buttler
    8. Stokes
    9. Woakes
    10. Anderson
    11. Finn

    • I agree, there is the makings of a very good team in there, they just need to not clog up their vital arteries so to speak.

    • If not, it wont be long before he upf*cks!!! (Have I just invented a new gobbet of managementspeak there?)

  • I can only think that Cook has something on them regarding KP debacle. Surely it must be to keep him quiet as I can think of no other reason for letting this farce go on. Someone made the remark about Giles Clarke looking like a “clammy ham”. No wonder he is sweating a lot, with the book coming out and the matches coming up which they must know they are going to lose. I can see them getting rid of moores

    • I don’t think there is any great conspiracy Vanessa. I just think this is the way they want to run English cricket. Giles Clark has said that Cook comes from the right kind of family. He went to the right kind of school. Cook represents the image English cricket wants to project.

      Merit does not come in to it. The English cricket team is now run by elites for the benefit of elites. Their corporate sponsors are more important than the supporters. That is why Flower has been brought back to run the youth team. They want a system of obedient players who know who their boss is. Quality of cricket is a secondary concern.

      Elite mediocrity is the ECB way now.

      • Agree with your post entirely but surely the “non elites” can show their displeasure by not paying Money to see the team lose continuously. It is like the CEO of a company deliberately making the wrong decisions in an effort to only have the people they deem fit to use their product. No business can last indefinitely under those conditions. The tv money will stop if only a few watch it. The cricket grounds will not be able to stage matches if very few turn up to watch. Why would the ECB risk the game like this. It’s total madness!!!

  • I meant to say I can see them getting rid of Moore’s to save the “special choir boy”.

  • The weird thing about the way the ECB operate is that they seem to think that what they do is fine, and therefore sure to inspire unquestioning support from us, the fans. I suppose there are some people out there who don’t object. However, I object wholeheartedly and prodigiously. The Cook saga has virtually ruined my enjoyment of England cricket ever since the end of the Ashes debacle.

    James, your take on this coincides precisely with my feelings. I find it farcical that James Whitaker can say “we are 100% committed behind Alastair Cook to captain not only in Sri Lanka but also the World Cup,” But it couldn’t be clearer, could it – Cook is nailed on for the job for the World Cup. Disastrous failure, on a team or personal level, in the Sri Lanka ODIs could make no difference. Imagine it now. “Conditions in Sri Lanka are of course difficult and rather alien, especially for a young side. In Australia conditions will be much closer to those experienced in England, so we see no need to alter the team selection, or its leadership. Alastair Cook has a great track record down under……etc [zzzzzzzz].

    And then of course there will be a similar statement after England’s inevitable early exit from the World Cup. “ODIs are very different from Test Cricket and we believe Alastair is the right man to lead the England team in the Ashes….”


  • Is anybody surprised? I’m guessing the ECB is just waiting until it bores us to death, and then it can carry on ruining the game and the England team while being supported by the remaining Stepford husbands and wives in the shires who no doubt have all got the right sort of family and went to the right school. Bedford, wasn’t it?
    When the Sky money runs out, they’ll turn around and wonder where everybody else went. But until then, we’re irrelevant I’m afraid.

  • Great article – couldn’t agree more. To quote TheOtherDave – they’ve upf*cked us all.

    The ECB’s total disregard for the basic concept of picking your best team so that you can have a decent pop at winning matches is repulsive. As many have said before me, the relentless Cookification of English cricket is pushing me away from the game I love. Sad bad times.

  • I tried to deal in stats, but now it’s oh so bloody vital the number of centuries Cook has made, when. of course, his lack of recent hundreds in test cricket is not so important.

    You try to deal in reason, and his strike rate is then compared to a bloke four years older than him, with a chronic back injury, who will only care about ODIs because the World Cup is in his country (and ironically has a more recent ODI hundred to his name).

    You try to deal in logic, and then someone says he has a great record in Australia. Oh, 28.80 batting average in ODIs in Australia is a great record?

    This is a board bereft of a clue. A “hope it goes OK on the day” strategy. They cleared the decks for this. We are being told as soon as it is over, Cook is packing in the ODI captaincy. It’s being treated as if Cook deserves this as some sort of long-service award.

    It’s mad. Cancelling my Sky subscription has been made just that little bit easier after the Ryder Cup.

    Thanks ECB.

    • As you will recall, the “long-service award” is exactly how Brenkley’s argument came across in the TMS podcast earlier this month. There was certainly no other logic, reason or statistical weight behind it. Cook’s historic contribution and apparent entitlement to a reward are to be regarded as more important than everything the ECB tore up to prepare for THIS tournament.

      We all know what the “great record in Australia” refers to: 766 and all that. Tests from four years ago. Exactly the stat which still convinces the terminally incurious or clueless that Cook is some sort of modern Ashes great.

      Cancelling Sky is less of a wrench than you might think. Though I must admit this coming weekend will be the first time I’ll truly miss having it. Without a shadow of a doubt, the 2012 Ryder Cup was the greatest sporting event I’ve seen on TV since the 2005 Ashes.

      • I wouldn’t worry Arron. I have a feeling that Europe won’t be able to do it again. I think the USA team is in much better form in depth than the European team. Certainly more so than the bookies have it.

        I might be completely wrong but some of Europe’s players; Westwood, Poulter, have not had a great year. Hope I’m wrong, but I think it could be a bit one sided. A lot rests on Rory.

  • This is the kind of drivel Whitaker is coming out with about Boy wonder.

    ” “The highs and lows he’s have over the last 12 months: it takes a unique sense of will to come through that. To keep getting up when you’re knocked constantly and to show a degree of humbleness when you’re doing well is unique in any leadership. We believe we have a unique leader and a unique person and that should not be underestimated.”

    3 Uniques in one paragraph. Just in case you didn’t get it, he’s really, really, really unique.

    “We need a base and Alastair, batting at No.1, can create that base.”

    Yea, because going for a slow start and keeping wickets in hand for a big slog in the last 15 overs has been so successful for the last 20 years. (NOT) We are truly ruled by morons.

    • My mistake. It’s actually 4 uniques in 1 paragraph. It’s like a kind of madness. Alastair Cook is England’s answer to Louis XIV

      • So he has clearly upunique’d himself. Whitaker is right – he truly is a one-off leader, the likes of which we have never seen before. And possibly will never see again, due to his uniqueness.

        How privileged I am to be witness to such a unique era of new dynamic English cricket, I am overcome with a unique sense of humbleness.

      • He goes on to say:

        “We feel that James [Taylor] might give us something unique in the lower middle order.”

        Vocabulary evidently wasn’t a strong suit at Uppingham (cf. Jonathan Agnew turning “I have an inner steel” into “He has a steely core”).

        Stephen Fry was expelled from Uppingham in 1972. The case rests ;)

        • This upsets me for other reasons, namely that Taylor has scored all his runs domestically at 3 (sometimes 4), a position that England have struggled with, so I had assumed he would bat at 3. Now they are going to put him at 6 and be dissapointed when he doesn’t replicate his county form in an entirely different role. Probably drop him after one match and draft Trott back into the side.

          • Now, now. You can’t have the top four ‘scoring runs’. That’s not what they’re there for. If you’d read the plan you’d know that they’re suppose to take the shine off the ball for the first 49.5 overs before, with wickets in hand, Jos Buttler ‘accelerates’ and scores 232 off the final delivery.

      • There was a still weirder ‘unique’ in the preceding paragraph:
        “Leadership is unique and it takes time to develop”…

        ‘Leadership is unique’ ???
        About as meaningful as ‘leadership is very’, or ‘leadership is purple’.
        Seriously, W.T.F.

    • Dave Tickner ‏@tickerscricket · 9 hrs
      Alastair Cook *is* unique: he’s the only opener to play 30 ODIs in the last two years without scoring a hundred

    • He’s the uniquiest of all them all.

      “It takes a unique sense of will to come through that”.

      But it helps if you work for a board who, for political reasons, are unable to sack you.

      • Business proposition.

        An Evening with Uppers and Downers

        (Uppers – Uppingham is James Whitaker’s old school and Downers is Paul Downton).

        They can share hilarious selection anecdotes, like the one where they told the press that Alastair Cook was unique, and some scribes lapped it up. How they never leaked, despite newman naming the exact squad hours in advance (that’s journalism for you) in a coincidental manner. We could hear those unique stories about phones going off, breaking confidentiality agreements, getting Sky and the Independent to do hilarious puff pieces akin to North Korean journalistic standards, and still, remarkably, pull down a great salary.

        There will be no Q&A.

    • Thank God he is “unique”. We don’t want another leader like Alastair Cook.

      If his name was Alastair Captain, people would be saying he can’t cook.

  • It also isn’t very unique. It is, afterall, the Arnold model of an English public school man. I know that no education system is constantly sucessful, but, surely, even the English public schools must have managed one or two chaps who battle through adversity and are gracious in victory. Also here are some non-English examples: Darren Sammy, MS Dohni, Graham Smith, Brendon McCullum, Angelo Matthews, Misbah Ul-Haq, heck, probably even Michael Clarke. (I’d include AB but he hasn’t experienced much adversity, and Ramdin, but he hasn’t had much success). So, there you have it our captain, a bit like all the other cricket captains in the world.

  • I blame Geoff Miller for all this.: “On 18 January 2008, Geoff Miller took over from David Graveney as the national selector, heading up a four-man panel which included Peter Moores, Whitaker and Ashley Giles.[2] On 16 October 2013 Whitaker was named chairman of selectors.”.

  • There have always been times when supporters, vocally, wish a player to be dropped for the good of the team overall. Such a sentiment is not, in itself, poison, bile, or vindictiveness, but common sense and pragmatism. It’s because supporters want to see the best side on the field.

    Yet, many Cook sceptics are portrayed as hate-fuelled bigots and yobs baying for blood.

    When in reality – in terms of the ODI side and the World Cup squad – it’s about the cricket.

    The colourful language expressed against Cook is an inevitable reaction to the ludicrous and deluded attempts to defend him by his support network. If Moores and Whitaker genuinely think Cook is the best opening ODI batsman available for England selection, in the face of vast evidence to the contrary, they are living in a fantasy world.

    There is acrimony because we know we are being swindled and either the top brass don’t realise we know, or know we know, and don’t care.

    Cook is still in the ODI job because to lose it would fatally undermine his test captaincy, and the ECB cannot risk that. They have staked everything – everything – on Cook, from their egos, to their reputations, and maybe even their own jobs.

    • I agree, but what baffles me most is the apparent lack of clear thought regarding the Test/ODI separation. To my mind you could back Cook as test captain and ‘rest’ (retire) him from ODI’s, that to me would be the rational thinking.

      The endless barking about Cook as test captain/player/person was largely underpinned by dissatisfaction at KP’s dropping. But I’m dumfounded by this one, I would of course love to be proven wrong but I have serious doubts.

  • Jonathan Trott averages slightly more than Cook in test cricket, and considerably (massively) more in ODIs, yet he has never been called an all time great or mollycoddled to anywhere near the same extent as the media and ECB’s darling.

    Other than the odd article sympathising with Trott’s anxiety issues (and the odd one strangely having a go at him) there has been no grief expressed at Trott’s absence from either the test or ODI team. Everyone has simply got on with things and looked forward to seeing new players blooded.

    The truth is that England would not miss Cook one bit if he was dropped from the ODI team, and if we can find another opener who looks test quality within the next year or so, I don’t think we’d particularly miss Cook from the test team either. He’s no Ponting, Tendulkar, Jayawardene, Dravid etc. He’s a player of similar ability to Trott and Bell (the averages prove it) and a slightly worse one than Pietersen, so if he was dropped the team would feel his absence no more than if any other experienced pro was dropped i.e. not very if you look at the success enjoyed by Ballance and Root this summer.

    The people who would miss him more are the ECB, for obvious reasons. And these having nothing to do with cricket.

    • Excellent article, excellent comments. The situation is ludicrous and one just thinks “How many more times does this have to be said?”

      The England side is being damaged, almost beyond repair, by the terrible obstinacy of weak men who are afraid of being seen to be weak.

  • The only thing that is unique about Cook is the protection he is given by the ECB and The Lord Haw Haw cricket media. “ECB CALLING,,ECB CALLING” Paul Newman is The Lord Haw Haw of cricket writers. He should be tried for cricket treason. Newman should immediately resign his job, because he is incapable of writing honest work. He should now dress as a butler, and go and live in Cooks house where he serves his master.

    I have never seen such cringing sycophancy towards any player before. Even Sir Ian Botham had his critics. But Cook is mollycoddled, eulogised, his record inflated, his failures air brushed out of existence. His family , his school, even his poor, put upon wife are brought in as character witness’s do justify his place. It is one of the most revolting things I have ever seen in English sport.

    Captain Cook is a joke. Propped up by a joke governing body, a joke David Brent like coach, with joke selectors, and a joke media. A sport, and a team I once loved, I have now come to loathe. Thanks Giles Clarke.

  • The Bopara situation is also interesting. Did he become a better player while he wasn’t in the side? What was the rationale behind his being dropped, and then being brought back?

    Bearing in mind how much the ECB have sacrificed for this World Cup, you have to wonder whether their strategic planning has been as logical and coherent as one might wish. At the moment they seem to be flicking through a copy of Playfair, sticking in pins blindfold.

    • Maxie I have no idea about Bopara, and why he was dropped. Perhaps he did not show enough grovelling to his captain? There does seem to be a system where players can be marked down for not being sufficiently sycophantic to the the great one.

      I am not convinced all the players are as on board and loyal to Captain calamity as the Cook/media would have you believe. After all, any tiny errors players make in private are passed on to Lord Haw Haw for full humiliation. The cricket media acts like the captains own Stasi.

  • I strongly suspect that there are two reasons why Cook’s unique leadership has so uniquely developed among the players and why they appear happy to back him in a way that’s, well, unique, considering his current record.

    One, they’ve mostly accepted what we can’t bear to accept, which is that the management and the marketing department want him and that’s who the captain is going to be. So they’ll just work round him – Broad and Anderson watchers will be well aware of this.

    Two, none of them wants the job – they know what the current management are like and they’d rather not have to deal with them. So if Cooky wants to spend his time with the bosses and the sponsors, let him do it. I mean, which would you rather do, listen to Peter Moores for three hours and then go and do a photo opp at Waitrose with Giles Clarke, or go home and play with your kids?

  • at least we won’t be going into this world cup with any sense of hope. It will be like the football world cup; we’ll be as rubbish as everyone thinks we will be, so lets just sit back and enjoy watching the decent teams

    • Thing is, the way the World Cup has been organised, England can lose to the other 3 major teams in their group and still qualify. It’s almost more difficult to get knocked out than to progress to the quarter finals.

      So captain Cook will almost certainly be a World Cup quarter finalist. Something for Lord Haw Haw Newman to eulogise about for the next 20 years.

      Agnew,who to his credit had said Cook should not be captain was on 5live yesterday. He said very sheepishly that he thought Cook should not be captain, but he then praised his commitment and fortitude for wanting to go. Agnew has cloaked his opposition in concerns about burn out. He won’t come out and say directly Cook is a poor ODI captain. Instead he hides behind his worry that without Cook England can’t win the Ashes. Seeing as Cook has only averaged over 30 once in 5 ashes series,that seems a bit of a stretch.

  • On behalf of Australian cricket supporters I would like to extend my thanks to the ECB and el Sheepo for their sterling efforts in helping us to retain the Ashes next year.

    Their efforts have not gone un-noticed and we are humbled by their continuing undermining of English cricket on our behalf.

    We of course have to now capitalise on these selfless and surely noble efforts and we will do our best to to make sure this selflessness does not go unrewarded.

    An Australian cricket supporter.

    I tried to shoe horn unique or variations thereof into this but the opportunity did not present itself.

  • Sussex cricket manager Mark Robinson reveals why he would be a fish out of water in the ECB setup:

    So far this summer I have managed to keep everything in-house and nice and private because you value everybody’s welfare within the squad.

    What, no leaking against players if they want to renegotiate their contracts or step out of line? Shame on you, Mr. Robinson.


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