Selectors To Blame For Lack Of Progress

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When England were whitewashed in the 2013/14 Ashes, it was the end of a flowery and sweet smelling chapter in English cricket. It had a lovely beginning, a joyous middle, but when the ending eventually went sour it stank to high heaven. Out went Trott (mentally shot), Swann (gave up), Pietersen (sacked), Prior (injured) and Carberry (too mouthy). The selectors therefore had a very simple, if not entirely easy, brief: find three new batsmen (one of which must be an opener), a new spinner and a new batsman-keeper.

So how has it gone? Badly. That’s how. After our ten wicket thrashing at the hands of Pakistan, a side that looked decent but nothing special until Younus and Wahab stormed back into form, we’re still asking exactly the same questions as we were three summers ago. It’s more than a tad frustrating.

Since the 5ht test at Sydney in 2014, the selectors (with a little help from an interfering board) have done the following: dropped Pietersen and Carberry, even though the side had already lost too many experienced players, and replaced them with a combination of Sam Robson, Adam Lyth, Jonathan Trott (the reborn version), Nick Compton, Alex Hales and Gary Ballance. Not a single one of these decisions has worked out. Hales has actually looked the worst of all the openers we’ve tried yet has been given twice as many tests to prove himself. Go figure.

What’s more, the selectors have compound their errors by dropping Ian Bell – a player who has passed fifty 68 times in test cricket (including 5 times in his last 13 tests) – and put their faith in another elegant, but blatantly inferior batsman, who couldn’t manage fifty once in 11 attempts this summer. I’ll be surprised if James Vince ever plays for England again.

I’ve gone on (and on!) about this many times before, but it’s possible that Bell simply needed a rest after playing cricket for England non-stop for a whole decade. Other players have been given this luxury so why not Bell? The selectors always forget the golden rule of selection in any sport: if you’re going to drop a good player, make sure you’ve got someone better to replace them. Anyone who thinks Vince and Ballance are better than Pietersen and Bell needs their head examined. I this respect, England have gone backwards.

From my opening paragraphs, you might have noticed that there’s a theme to this article. I, James Morgan, am calling out the England selectors for doing a wretched job since January 2014. Nothing they’ve done has made any sense – from persevering with Moeen as a bowler who bats as low as 8 (everyone knows he’s a batting all-rounder and not vice versa) to recalling and then persevering with Nick Compton. I could go on about the absolutely absurd decision to open with Moeen Ali in the UAE, which was even more ridiculous than recalling Jonathan Trott to partner Cook in the West Indies, but my tears would probably short-circuit my keyboard.

To borrow baseball parlance, our selectors seem to swing and miss every single time. Their only moderate successes have been Chris Woakes, who has bolstered an already stacked seam bowling unit (and he was on the scene before Fraser and Newell were around anyway), and Jonny Bairstow, who has learned how to bat at the highest level but still doesn’t look particularly secure as a keeper. Ben Stokes, who is another one of our promising players, was also around before the current selectors forged their axis of awfulness.

The result of all this, I’m afraid, is that England haven’t made much progress since 2014. It would be harsh to suggest that no progress whatsoever has been made because our all-rounders are developing nicely, but we’re still two or three batsmen short of suite, and we still don’t have a decent spinner or keeper. Is it surprising, therefore, that results have been mixed? Here’s a quick reminder …

Sri Lanka (home) lost 0-1

India (home) won 3-1

West Indies (away) drawn 1-1

New Zealand (home) drawn 1-1

Australia (home) won 3-2

Pakistan (away) lost 0-2

South Africa (away) won 2-1

Sri Lanka (home) won 2-0

Pakistan (home) drawn 2-2

Our overall record is won 4, drawn 3, lost 2. One might argue that this is a winning record overall, but six of those series were at home and just three were away. Most test teams win at home. The truth is that England are a decent side with some exciting players but still very much a work in progress. That’s why we’ll still no better than 4th in the rankings.

Of course, those who have followed the England team for years know that poor selection is nothing new. Jimmy, Gus and Mike are just the lastest examples– although I tend to give the latter two less rope because, as full time employees of Middlesex and Notts respectively, there’s a conflict of interest that makes them unsuitable for their role. However, the lexicon of gobbledegook has reached unprecedented levels this summer with the stated aim ‘to give players one game too many rather than one too few’. I would’ve thought that using one’s judgement, and giving players exactly the right amount of chances, would be the best strategy. But that’s just me.

Opportunity after opportunity has been wasted due to short-term thinking. With the winter tours to India and Bangladesh coming up, Adil Rashid could and should have played ahead of Vince this week. Instead, the selectors seem to give their failed experiments chance after chance in the desperate hope they’ll eventually come good – thus making their original judgments look slightly less inept.

For example, it was as clear as day to me after South Africa that Hales had neither the temperament nor technique to survive against top class pace bowling. Exactly the same could be said of Nick Compton. Yet the selectors persevered. They don’t just give players one game too many; they give them whole series too many.

What’s more, after the early season hype that places were up for grabs – remember all those ‘county watch’ summaries we did – runs in county cricket ended up meaning sod all. Hales was retained, despite taking a break at the beginning of the season and hardly playing for Notts; Compton was retained despite hardly reaching double figures for Middlesex; and when Gary Ballance was called up for the Pakistan series he averaged just over 30 for Yorkshire.

All the runs scored by the likes of Scott Borthwick, James Hildreth, Nick Gubbins, Ben Duckett, Sam North-East, Tom Westley and even Daniel Bell-Drummond (all of whom average 50 or more in the championship this summer) counted for dilly squat. Instead the selectors backed Ballance (average 34) and Vince (39). Explain that one?

I’m not saying that county runs mean everything by the way. In the past, England got by thanks to wise old sages like Duncan Fletcher identifying something special in the likes of Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan. The problem we’ve got now is that our new guru, Trevor Bayliss, is too busy to watch county cricket; therefore judgements are left in the hands of guys like Whitaker and Fraser – both good, solid men, but I’ve never been convinced that either of them has a particularly high cricket IQ.

I don’t like bashing Gus, as he was one of my heroes back in the 90s, but he was a pretty dreary pundit before getting back into cricket. He rarely said or wrote anything that made you think – not in the way that someone like Mike Atherton or even Nasser Hussain do. What a shame that the best analytical minds are currently working in the media and are therefore precluded from being selectors.

What’s more, because Gus and Newell are attached to counties, they can’t get around the country as much as selectors should (although I hear that they try their best). Instead they’re often reliant on second hand information: talking to other coaches and senior players whispering into their ears. Is it any surprise they seem to have a preference for Notts and Middlesex players? These are the players they watch more than any others. They probably feel like ‘safe’ choices. When in doubt, I’m guessing they go back to what they know. What are the odds on Dawid Malan being the next middle-order batsman to be handed a test debut?

What I’m saying is that the current selection system – whether it’s the methodologies, the practicalities, or perhaps even the specific personalities involved – simply isn’t working. The selectors simply aren’t unearthing good international players (or even ones that show some promise). They’re either backing new batsmen that clearly aren’t up to it, or going back to players that never had ‘it’ in the first place.

I appreciate that selection isn’t an exact science. It’s difficult and not every decision is going to work out. However, as England fans all we ask is that some of them work out.

This summer all four of the big decisions – Hales, Compton, Vince and Ballance – have backfired. If you asked a monkey to pick four of the players mentioned above (the guys averaging over 50 in the championship) at random, it couldn’t have done any worse. One or two of them might even have panned out.

Look out James, Gus and Mick, Bubbles will be after your job.

James Morgan

74 Comments

  1. A lot of truth in what’s been said here, it’s really quite damning when you see it all laid bare! What a shame and what a waste. Do you think poor James Taylor’s unexpected retirement stopped the selectors making more (unforced) changes to the batting line at the start of this summer? And if yes, should it have done?!

    I too think Carbs could have been given more than the five consecutive Tests, especially given the extended chances offered to Hales. I always got the impression that it was his age as much as anything that counted against him, didn’t his outspokenness only happen after he was already dropped? And while it’s disappointing that Rash didn’t get a home Test, I’m not sure it’s right to cap someone with an eye to the next tour, especially with a series victory on the line. Don’t get me wrong, he would have strengthened the team more than Vince but surely that should be the only reason for inclusion, not preparing for the winter?

  2. If I was to take the emotion of being an England fan out of the equation, I actually enjoyed this series as a whole because there was some high quality cricket played by both sides during the series even if the weaknesses of a number of players on both sides were glaring. It had real ebb and flow how a good series does go. I am also trying to take away the emotion of the post 2013/14 series as it is now nearly 3 years ago and some of those players would have naturally been moved on even if their faces didn’t fit (not just talking HIM!).

    I agree with you over the weird-to bats*** mental selections at opener at various times and I also agree with you over Ian Bell and I was always lukewarm to him!

    Where I slightly differ is the spinner issue. Yes Ali was just demanding to be pushed into the true middle order, but replacing him (if he had taken Vince’s spot) with a spinner in the lower reaches was asking for trouble. I think Pakistan would have launched the charge of the light brigade any time any place and been successful too. I don’t think it is so easy with regards to that.

    Several batting selections and retention in the team have been pretty crazy. I wasn’t taken in at all by Hales relatively successful series v Sri Lanka. The big problem like you identify is that a new blood for India may be a tough assignment.

  3. Careful James, we’ll end up with Strauss, Bayliss and Cook picking the team!

    How many days D1 cricket would those three have seen between them in the last five years?

  4. The selectors aren’t really to blame, there simply aren’t 11 English cricketers good enough to beat Pakistan.

    TBH I think England should feel mighty lucky to have got away with a draw. They would not be favourites for a deciding test at this point.

    • Not sure it’s this cut and dried, but this is where I would probably come from.

      It’s easy in retrospect to challenge selections but without the advantage of hindsight I would say Ali and Trott were the worst two picks, and even these had some logic behind it (the former being a short term measure to accommodate a second spinner and the latter having significant test experience). I think it’s telling that as far as I’m aware there isn’t, and hasn’t been, any consensus as to who should come in. The reason? There hasn’t been an blindingly obvious pick. Test level batsmen it seems are rare commodities… is that the selectors’ fault?

    • “…there simply aren’t 11 English cricketers good enough to beat Pakistan…”

      Hmmm… a somewhat provocative statement! Of those English players who were selected this summer, enough of them were good enough for long enough to win two tests and draw the series against Pakistan. As for those who clearly were not good enough, how do we know about potential replacements’ capabilities since the selectors didn’t give any a try and instead chose to persevere with failure and walking wickets? Might not James Hildreth or a rested and rejuvenated Ian Bell have been a better bet in the middle order than Vince and Ballance?

  5. Rashid could only have come in for a batsman if Stokes had been fit – perhaps the two of them could have played instead of Vince and Ballance. (Openers, Root, Bairstow, Stokes, Ali etc.)

    Is this the same Alex Hales who was the number one rated 20/20 batsman not long ago? He seems overburdened with advice on “how to be a Test opener”, and has become virtually strokeless, regularly outscored by Cook, of all people. If he has been picked to be our version of David Warner, there is even less justification for keeping him on.

  6. I think it’s actually 6 home series and 3 away (the 2-2 Pakistan series was at home, in case you forgot your trip to the Oval!), but that makes your point even more valid. Your points on the batting selections are well made (though I don’t rate the Sledgehammer as highly as you do – all style, with too often little substance). I think you’re right that we need a top class spinner. Where is there one in county cricket? If there isn’t one, you can’t select him (this is to some extent the ECB’s fault for messing around with the County Championship), It’s fair (to the selectors) to point out that Woakes didn’t “gel” until he got a decent run in the side (and added some pace), and that YJB had an indifferent start to test cricket, but both had promise. Vince looks good, but appears to have less substance than Ian Bell. Ballance doesn’t look good, but appears to have the occasional decent innings in him.

    Going forward, if the selectors can’t find 3 more top class batsmen, there must be a case for playing YJB at 5, with Stokes, Ali, Woakes and Rash all in the side (I realise Cook doesn’t trust Rash, but ….)

    Whoever the new opener is (Bell-Drummond would appear the most logical choice) should be blooded in India, where opening is easier than in (say) Australia.

    • Hi James. I’m going mad and obviously can’t remember that happened on Saturday. Duh! Yes I’ve changed my ‘recent results’ to reflect the geographical reality that The Oval is indeed in London and not Dubai.

  7. “Of course, those who have followed the England team for years know that poor selection is nothing new.”

    They make mistakes. It happens. But since the turn of the millennium, the hits have been greater than the misses. You casually mention Woakes, Stokes and Bairstow in the piece as if the selectors deserve little praise for sticking by them when the vast majority of knee-jerk cricket commentators and fans were telling us how they’d never be good enough for Test cricket (much as they were when Broad was 10 tests into his career, ditto Prior, and to a lesser extent Anderson). The selectors have stuck with three players who were written off by most and have been rewarded. Good on them.

    You mention Scott Borthwick, James Hildreth, Nick Gubbins, Ben Duckett, Sam North-East, Tom Westley and Daniel Bell-Drummond as players who should have come in, to replace Hales, Vince and Ballance (the former two were widely called for by press and keyboard warriors at the back end of the last Ashes, and the latter was still sitting on a ridiculously high Test average).

    Well Borthwick was still making his way as a converted number three at the beginning of the season after a good but not stellar 2015. Gubbins averaged a whopping 27 last year and is still only 20-something games into his first-class career. Duckett is still only 21 and, while hugely promising, has never played long-form cricket outside the second division. Northeast is much older and his career batting average of less than 38 largely in the second tier hardly suggests he’s tailor made for Test cricket. You can say the same about Westley, and to an extent about Bell-Drummond, who’d largely shown none of the potential of his teenage years until this season. Hildreth, granted, I’ll never understand why he’s not been given a chance.

    But you are essentially advocating what the worst cricket ‘fans’ in the Guardian comments section do every time we lose an Ashes test (that being the only time they prise themselves away from the football) in wanting a quick fix and hastily scanning the county averages for the solution. There is plenty of promise in the players you mention and some – Duckett in particular – may well go on to have very good international careers, but none of them are no-brainer selections. Bayliss said that no one is really making a case for themselves that the selectors can’t ignore, and he’s right. Vince will probably be dispensed with, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that there was a huge demand to blood ‘the next Michael Vaughan’ in test cricket at the beginning of the year. Of course, those making those demands have now conveniently forgotten that and moved onto their next great white hope who they’ll slag off to all and sundry once he has a couple of bad tests.

    As for Rashid, well, England rightly picked a team they thought would win the test. They didn’t pick a team with the winter tours in mind. That would be lunacy, smack of arrogance and insult/motivate the Pakistani team. Rashid isn’t the saviour of English spin. I’m a Yorkshire fan, I see a lot of him. He’s just recorded figures of 1-149 on the largely spin-friendly Old Trafford. I don’t like that England have persisted with Moeen as the number one spinner but I understand why they have. The situation looks a bit better than it did 12 months ago, but there’s still no obvious solution. It will be fascinating to see who England go for to tour this winter given that we now have viable options such as Rayner, Dawson, Leach, Ansari and maybe even Batty. None of them are Graeme Swann however. You speak of replacing Swann as if he isn’t the best England spinner to play for us since 1982.

    The selectors have got things wrong as far as test cricket goes (you don’t really mention the job they’re doing in one-day or T20 cricket, which is very good). But that doesn’t mean they are doing a bad job. Knee-jerk demands for in-form players sounds worrying close to 1980s/1990s thinking to me. You rightly mention that we’ve probably swayed too far in the opposite direction to that chopping and changing, but it’s still on the right side of things. We’ve got a good team in the making. Winning in South Africa is no mean feat. And this was a very good Pakistan team, wonderfully led by probably my favourite international cricketer on the scene at the moment.

    • I wasn’t advocating that selectors should pick entirely on form. However, we were led to believe that places were up for grabs this summer. Players (particularly openers) were asked to score heavily and put their hands up. Several of them did but were ignored in favour of a player who many had already given up on (Hales).

      Because there’s a big leap from county to test cricket, we’ve always relied upon ‘wise old sages’ to see something special in players, and pluck them from obscurity to a certain extent. What I’m saying is that this particular selection panel hasn’t been able to do this thus far. It could be that nobody, absolutely nobody, would have worked out. But I think that’s somewhat unlikely. If you throw enough s**t at the wall then some of it will eventually stick. We managed to discover players like Robin Smith & Alec Stewart even when selection was an absolute mess in the 90s.

      Overall I just feel we’ve had 3 summers to find an opener, 1 or 2 middle order batsmen, plus a good spinner, yet NONE of the candidates tried has worked out. I don’t expect them to quickly replace a player as good as Swann, but I did expect them to find somebody adequate who can do a job for the team like Ashley Giles used to. I don’t think that’s asking a lot. Instead we’ve persisted with known quantities who never looked up to the job in the first place like Moeen (the bowler), Compton and Ballance.

      • “A job for the team like Ashley Giles used to.”

        Well, that’s Moeen then. Giles record wasn’t anything to write home about and Moeen is a far better batsman, especially coming in at 7.

        Is there anyone who can do a whole lot better? I’m sure the selectors would have tried them if so.

        Replacing very good spin bowlers is very difficult for non-SC teams. Pakistan are weird outliers who seem to pull good seamers AND good spin bowlers out of their behinds whenever they need them.

        • Hi Lolly. There’s actually a big difference between Giles and Mo. Giles was always able to keep things tight and give the captain control. Mo does occasionally take wickets but he’s far too expensive. It’s vital that the spinner keeps a lid on things so the other bowlers can rotate at the other end.

          • The point about control (Giles had an ER under 3) is the main one – but I’d also add that Giles’s career average of 40 is somewhat misleading. His average was ruined by the selectors clinging to him too long at the end when he had lost effectiveness because of injury. In his last ten Test, his wickets cost about 70 each. At his best, he was a much better bowler than that final career average suggests.

            • I can’t agree that he was much better bowler than his final average suggests. A bit better maybe.

              His econ rate may have been based on extremely defensive fields from what I remember of Vaughan’s captaincy of him.

              Who do you think could do a better job than Moeen, considering that the selectors obviously want someone who can bat too?

              I’ll say again, it’s very hard to replace a very good spin bowler once you’ve had one if you are a non-sc team. I’ve lived in England a long time, I watched more of the English team than the Aussie team and Swann is the best spin bowler I’ve seen for England by some way. Anyone who comes after a bowler like that has a not-easily shaken off monkey on their back.

      • “Players (particularly openers) were asked to score heavily and put their hands up. Several of them did but were ignored in favour of a player who many had already given up on (Hales).”

        Those that did hadn’t done as much as Hales had at county level in the run up to his call-up though. Robson had a great start to the season and had he been fit might have been an option but no one made an unanswerable case. Those making runs in Division 2 (who you seem to be largely calling for) should have to do something extra special – say, a couple of season averaging 50-plus – to be considered for the team. Remember when Daryl Mitchell was the best thing since sliced bread when he had that amazing season to get Worcestershire promoted from Division 2 a few years ago? Remember how he did in Division 1 the season after?

        You talk elsewhere about how we should be looking to unearth a Vaughan or Trescothick (i.e. a batsman who doesn’t perform that well in county cricket but has a certain class about him). Well, a) it’s not exactly easy, and b) isn’t that essentially what we’d tried to do in Vince. He was an outstanding teenage cricketer (like Vaughan and Tres), looked elegant on the eye (like Vaughan and Tres) but his numbers in county cricket weren’t great (again…). The selectors seem to be damed if they do and damned if they don’t. Maybe, just maybe, those players don’t exist anymore. It’s been 16/17 years since those two were called up. Since then, going on county stats has almost always been the best way to go.

        No one would claim that the selectors have been faultless, but to blame them for a series draw for their failure to unearth players that quite probably aren’t there has an element of knee-jerkism to it to me. I do think there’s a dearth of quality in the 23-28/29 age group in county cricket, something we get away with by the fact that we have a handful of world class players. I also think that we have a very promising-looking number of players in the 18-23 age group. Maybe it’s time to turn to them now.

        • Hales had only played half a season as an opener before he was called up. It might have even been just a couple of games. It was simply a punt that didn’t work out. And it had no evidence to back it up.

          I completely agree that being a selector is hard. And yes, maybe every single player in county cricket might have done as badly, but I think that’s unlikely. All I’m saying is that they’ve had 3 summers to identify new promising players and haven’t found a single one.

          Selectors have to be judged on something. I think it’s perfectly fair to call them out on their swings and misses because 3 of those decisions (Hales, Compton and Ballance) seemed so illogical. Many, many people argued that Hales didn’t have the technique to be a test opener before they rolled the dice. This isn’t hindsight. What’s more, I can’t think of many (any?) who thought recalling Compton and Ballance, two guys who hadn’t changed their techniques since they last failed at international level (and weren’t in particularly good form either), was a good idea.

          I have less of an issue with Vince because they hadn’t seen him before. Maybe he might have been successful. However, even then there were many Hants fans who said he was flakey and flattered to deceive. Normally fans of a particular county really champion their players’ inclusion. It was never really like that with Vince.

          • Both Hales and Vince had plenty of backers based on various factors. When Lyth was struggling last summer you couldn’t move for people saying how Hales should replace him, some of them fans, some of them pundits. His selection wasn’t without some logic, either, given his most recent stats and the fact that he seemed to have the temperament for international cricket. Many, many people said he should take his limited overs approach to test cricket and be ‘our David Warner’ (cretinous thinking, I agree, but it was a train of thought that had considerable backing).

            Vince had been the stand-out on a Lions tour – albeit a limited over one – and had won fans in his T20 travel in the winter passed. That’s enough for a call-up given the last-minute bit of thinking required with the retirement of James Taylor.

            As for Compton and Ballance, both were understandably seen as players with unfinished business at Test level. Compton had been dropped three tests after hitting back-to-back centuries against a quality attack. Ballance was sitting in a ridiculously high test average. You write elsewhere about players who don’t quite consistently do it at county level but are strangely cut out for test cricket. Surely, given what had come before in their test careers, that could be seen as applying to both Ballance and Compton?

            You write: ” I think it’s perfectly fair to call them out on their swings and misses”. But you don’t offer up the praise where it is warranted either. Who wanted Woakes back in the side this summer? The selectors were a lone voice in the wilderness there. Many had written Bairstow off too. We’re just over a year into Bayliss’s tenure and so far I think we’re somewhere near the right track. There have been mistakes, and there are still pieces of the jigsaw to find, but that they haven’t been found yet is not cause for over-reaction.

            • We’ll just have to agree to disagree. You mention ODI performances above but the selectors should know that limited overs cricket is completely different to test cricket.

              Re: Compton and Ballance I don’t think you’re quite framing the context correctly imho. Ballance scored heavily against weak attacks at home (much like Hales did against SL this summer) but was found wanting against the big boys. Australia exposed his technique ruthlessly. He responded to this by deciding that he didn’t want to / or couldn’t change his game. Considering he was in pretty poor form this summer, there was therefore no basis to recall him.

              As for Woakes and Bairstow, they were cricketers identified by previous regimes who had holes in their game. Once they sorted their problems out, they’ve become more successful. I don’t see why Fraser / Newell should take the bulk of the credit for this. They were never out of the system or plucked from obscurity.

              I’m not saying that everything the selectors have done is completely wrong. However, I do think they could have done a lot better. They also make more than their fair share of absolute head-scratchers. Moeen opening in the UAE? Recalling Trott to open? These moves were laughable – when I heard they were going to happen I genuinely thought it was a wind up. Once selectors start doing absurd things I’m afraid they lose all credibility.

              • Were the selectors responsible for Trott opening in the West Indies? They provided the coach with an opener – Lyth – who he chose not to use. Plenty of players – Trescothick among them – have been picked for tests because they’ve done well in limited overs stuff. And it’s not completely at-fault thinking. Selectors want to know if a player has the temperament to play in international cricket, if they can cope under the glare of the spotlight. There are several boxes a potential test player has to tick, but performing well in one-dayers ticks a few of them.

                As for the rest, yes, we’ll agree to disagree. Have a good evening.

              • Madaboutcricket on

                No one should ever be picked on white ball form. White ball doesn’t demand technique or mental strength like a test batsmen should possess.

              • We’ve been sort of picking people on white ball form for many years.
                The natural progression has been given them a go in the 50 over stuff and then promote them.

  8. Poor article littered with inaccuracies…

    Ian Bell’s county average this season is 37.08. (J.Trott is 62.48)

    Woakes was selected after a great bowling average in county champ (17.78)

    Compton was also outspoken after being dropped, he was recalled.

    Andrew Strauss retired in 2012, the no.2 issue proceeded 2013/14 Ashes debacle.

    Swann (Gave Up) – Lazy journalism bordering libelist.

    Hales, much in the same way as Buttler before was selected on the strength of his 20/20 ODI form not any county bias on the part of the selectors. The Buttler and Hales experiment have failed equally.

    • Hi John. Thanks for your input. I’m a little confused by your reaction though.

      Where did I mention Ian Bell’s average in the championship? I only referred to his test record. And just for the record, at the point where the team versus Sri Lanka was announced, Bell’s average was in the mid-40s (more than Vince and Ballance). Also, Trott was selected over a year ago, long before this series, so I’m not sure what comparison you’re trying to make. I also said country runs aren’t everything.

      Where did I mention Woakes’ form in the championship? Woakes was already in team from South Africa anyway, and made his debut several years ago, so I’m not sure he’s been picked on county form (or plucked from obscurity) either. He was asked to put on some pace and did so. Good on him.

      Compton was dropped, and yes he was outspoken, but he’s also close to Angus Fraser and it’s a new regime in place now. Do you really think there’s no bad feeling when players criticise the management? Do you not think that Carberry was one of our betting looking batsmen in Australia, was harshly treated, and didn’t help himself by his comments afterwards (let alone his support for Pietersen)?

      I’m not sure what relevance Andrew Strauss has to my article. All I’ve said is that the selectors have had 3 summers since the Ashes whitewash to find an opener and they’re no closer to finding one. If you want to bring Strauss into this, they’ve had even longer.

      Swann ‘gave up’. He was struggling mid-series and gave up the ghost. Yes he was suffering from an injury that he said affected his performance (nobody doubts that) but many cricket fans and journos criticised the timing of his decision. I’m not sure it’s libellous to do this.

      As for Hales, I didn’t say he was selected because he plays for Notts. You’re putting up straw men and then burning them down. And just because not every single member of the test team (or every player ever selected) isn’t from Notts or Middlesex doesn’t disprove that there could be (with ‘could’ being the operative word) some kind of subconscious predisposition to select players the selectors know well and have seen at close quarters many times.

      Oh, and I’m not a journalist (although I’m chuffed you think this article qualifies). I do this for fun / love. I’m just a fan trying to get a good debate about cricket going.

    • Poor comment littered with poor English.

      What does libelist mean?

      “The Buttler and Hales experiment HAS failed (NB no need for the “equally”).

      Ps – one more tip: learn some manners or start your own blog.

  9. Its hard to argue with much of this because hindsight is a great thing.
    I suppose the only thing to ask is, what would you have done differently and a what stage?

    Just looking at this summer, I’d have promoted Bairstow in to the top 4 and picked a different ‘keeper.
    I’m not sure I’d have done anything different with the attack apart from I’d have dropped Vince for the Oval and played Rashid.

    Going back further, we won in South Africa and also the ashes so its seems a bit churlish to suggest they got it wrong.

    • Hi Neil (this is an answer to everyone not just yourself actually),

      It’s perfectly valid to say ‘ok then smart arse, what would you have done? who would you have picked?’. Selection is a difficult job.

      Rather than immediately saying who I would’ve picked, I’ll quickly say this first: although we won in SA, and it was a great win, it was obvious (as it has been for some time) that certain aspects of the team weren’t functioning. I guess what I’m saying is that the selectors used the victory as an excuse for inertia.

      The best teams, on the other hand, are always looking for ways improve. That’s why, even though we won, I would’ve moved on from both Hales and Compton before the series against Sri Lanka. I also would have done my utmost to find a promising spinner – or at least try to (if even that means trying people who don’t work out) – before this winter’s trip to India.

      As for who, specifically, I would have chosen, I’d argue that anyone was worth trying over players who clearly (in my view) weren’t up to it. Had the selectors moved on from Hales and Compton, and tried someone other than Ballance (another player they knew hadn’t changed his technique), I wouldn’t be so harsh on them. Instead they persisted with known ‘failures’. Although I wish I could think of a more succinct and less brutal word.

      Just for the record, I would’ve tried Nick Browne (many speculated he was in the running early summer) or gone back to Carberry instead of persisting with Hales. And I would’ve recalled Bell as soon as he’d been rested. A tour off did Strauss the world of good during his career.

      As for the spinner, I would rather England had found out whether Rashid is up to it. I’m not saying he is the answer but I believe the selectors should have done more to find out. It was obvious that Moeen’s bowling wasn’t getting any better, so why didn’t they try to find someone who might be the answer. Once again they persisted with a known inadequate rather than trying to find a longterm answer. The fact that Mo is now scoring runs is a happy accident really. He’s been playing primarily as a bowler. Let’s hope he can prosper in a new, more appropriate, role.

      • You’ve been pretty scathing of the selectors here but Neil’s is the key question, and when we get to the nitty gritty of what you would have done differently (without the benefit of hindsight), and you’ve only really given three changes – Carberry / Browne for Hales, dropping Compton earlier (for who?) and presumably playing Rashid earlier, instead of Ali? This isn’t groundbreaking.

        Two of these are largely temporal (Compton was dropped, just one series later) and Rashid will almost certainly get his chance in India. Could have been argued either way, but probably the right move not to play him this series. Let’s not forget he has a test average of nearly 70!

        The key for me is that you say “anyone” is worth a shot but this absolutely the problem – there are no standout options and therein lies the risk; that we replace mediocre with mediocre and chop and change. There is always someone who lacks experience / is an unknown quantity, or is in the twilight of their careers, or gets their runs in division 2, or has gotten “found out” at test level (whatever that means). I think this very much applies to the options you’ve suggested and others. Some might come good but you can guarantee that ten different people would have ten different opinions. Test level players simply don’t grow on trees.

        They obviously haven’t gotten everything right but generally I think they’ve a good job in the selections they have made and the amount of time they’ve given people to perform. Key to avoid hindsight bias though.

        • James – good post and quite true. If the selectors/ECB/Strauss weren’t so focussed on serving their own (or their immediate masters’) ends we would not have wasted three years.

          Also, I respect your politeness to trolls like Honest John.

        • Hi Jamie. Because there’s such a gap between county and test cricket, we’ve always needed people with really good judgement to spot diamonds in the rough. To identify real talent and run with it. It has always been thus. The previous incumbents found the likes of Strauss and Trott, even though they weren’t necessarily the best or most prolific players in county cricket. The same could be said of Swann who had a first class average of 32 but did better in tests than he did for Notts. What I’m saying is that Whitaker, Fraser and Newell have had 3 summers to find 4 or 5 players and they haven’t found a single one. I’ll give them some credit for sticking for recalling some guys who has specific weaknesses they’ve addressed (like Bairstow and Woakes) but these were identified by previous regimes. The current selectors haven’t found one new player. And I think that’s less than we might have expected.

  10. I think we’re seeing loyalty from these selectors (many previous ones have been accused of lacking some)
    I keep hearing the quote “1 game too many, rather than too few” . not sure who’s responsible for it.

    I think many of us were pleased with the recall for Compo for SA and he did a decent job. They then showed him a little loyalty.
    Hales was always gonna be given the next go as opening and looked to have developed v Sri Lanka. So he was given the 4 v Pakistan.
    Ballance toured SA , so clearly in their thoughts.

    There would have been a time when we would have criticised them for chopping and changing and picking randoms from county cricket. Now they stick to their guns and choose from a pool of players providing consistent selection we’re knocking that too.

    The impossible job?

    • Mark Eldridge on

      It is indeed. The only things is we/they need to see enough over the first matches to know the new batsman has enough talent and the temperament to succeed. Gooch was perhaps the best opener I have seen in 40 years for England (sadly I go back much further than that!) but after 20 innings he had only scored 451 @25 (a couple of not outs) and it was 21 tests before he got a 100 – albeit with a 91* and a 99 in there.

      It can take time but the selectors have to be good at spotting the talent and the temperament not just the former.

      BTW Fletcher had the advantage of spotting Tres and Vaughan and picking them without outstanding figures – he recognised merit precisely because he was a county coach before the England job – unlike Bayliss but effectively as Fraser and Newell are.

  11. And allow me to remind you of a great interview our chief selector gave….wait for it…I’m no body language expert but it’s pretty clear to me, add the words and I give up. The chaps lying. Would be to be sued for libel or slander on those grounds so feel free to make him, ECB or Strauss aware of this post. Thanks

    http://m.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/31905804

      • Forgive me James but you struck a cord and HJ came up with the word “libelist”, I think as you pointed out in your reply meaning libellous … This story is still widely available on the internet so I’m guessing it’s neither libelist nor libellous:

        Picking the teams during that period has been Uppingham-educated chocolate heir James Whitaker, who joined the panel after three years outside cricket running the family business. Before that, he’d been Director of Cricket at the county side where he’d spent his entire playing career, Leicestershire. There, he’d been fast-tracked through the ECB system, doing his Level 1 and 2 coaching badges in a single weekend. The same process takes Average Joes three or four years of experience-gathering.

        Maybe that’s why he needed colleagues to explain what a “mixed bowling action” was when he sat his Level 3 in 2003 – the minimum requirement for running a professional team – at which his group was set an overnight task of delivering a hypothetical teatime team-talk to a side on the ropes. Rather than consult the assortment of well-qualified no-name fellow coaches, he told them: “I’ve done this sort of thing thousands of times, chaps. You go and have a drink. I’ll take care of it”.

        By all accounts, his presentation was an embarrassing mélange of banal, pride-and-passion, up-and-at-em clichés. That sounds reminiscent of his cringeworthy first press conference as National Selector when, through the constraints of a gagging order, he hinted obliquely at why the best player, Kevin Pietersen, had been sacked: “There’s a group of players there looking forward to re-energising this team, going forward with different values, re-evaluating the culture of the team…” etc, etc.

        Perhaps Whitaker is from the right sort of family to pick the England team, in much the same way that outgoing ECB Chairman, Giles Clarke (a man who looks as though he was born in a blazer), claimed last summer that under-fire skipper Alastair Cook was “very much the sort of people we want the England captain and his family to be”. As PR goes, this wasn’t exactly Max Clifford. On second thoughts…

        Along with the recently fired Paul Downton (legacy to the English game: sacking Pietersen for whistling after he got out and looking “disengaged”) Clarke and Whitaker are part of what Lawrence Booth, editor of cricket’s bible, Wisden, witheringly referred to as the ECB’s “nexus of self-preservation”. The organisation had “repeatedly lost touch with the basic idea that the national team belongs to us all”.

        So, I’m with you, the selectors are at fault for many, many things.

        • Your story may also give the answer to why Bell has been consigned to the bin. After all, it’s just not on to have a senior player with a wife called Chantal…..

        • That’s a very passionate post Jomesy. Whitaker does seem a little old school! Booth is often spot on in his analysis. The ECB have always been a pretty conservative lot who prefer insiders they know and can rely on not to rock the boat. They’re not alone in this, of course. It will be interesting to see how much responsibility Strauss takes for selection in the future. I think he’ll try to modernise things as much as he can.

  12. Selectors will always make mistakes – and the old maxim applies that you have to take some risks to succeed. In the context of selecting a test side this means backing your judgement in introducing new players. The problem with this (and other recent) selectors is that their mistake rate is too high. This leads to the question of why they make so many mistakes? The article identifies many good reasons such as lack of exposure to championship games and ascribing too much credit to white ball performance. However, I think there is another more important reason; they take too little notice of whether a player has the necessary technique and temperament for test cricket as opposed to championship or white ball.

    Of the current problem kids Hales has a white ball technique and Ballance just has an odd technique. Buttler was a classic case of promoting a white ball specialist to test cricket. The one player where I have some sympathy for the selectors is Vince. His technique looks generally sound. Unfortunately he seems to lack the shot selection needed at test level. Unfortunately the selectors attempts to choose bats based on their suitability for the test arena led them back to players who had already shown they had other issues (Trott and Compton), exacerbated by playing them in roles to which they were not suited (Trott opening?!).

    I am afraid I cannot agree with the (lukewarm) credit for the all rounders. The selectors have mishandled Woakes appallingly. A player who has been the top seamer in the county championship since 2008 has had to wait until 2016 to get a run in the side – and has been treated as a white ball specialist until this year when everyone at Edgbaston knew his forte to be red ball cricket. And Stokes has been treated as the second coming when his record shows all the risks of a white ball specialist in the test arena – lack of consistency interspersed with occasional brilliance.

    There is no simple answer. I would start by asking not who is currently producing the best numbers but who looks best suited to red ball cricket. This will mean overlooking some exciting players and risking the wrath of the press. But an investment in serious cricketers rather than baseballers will pay long term benefit in tests.

    And I will finish on one contentious note. For me the best test prospect we have outside the team at present is Sam Billings. Despite his white ball reputation he has a proper batting technique. It is a bonus that he can also keep well. He needs to be promoted asap.

    • If Billings’ technique is so good, why is his career average only 30 and why has he only scored two f/c centuries (when he plays in D2 as well)? How is he selectable when he has only had two CC innings all summer?

      Nothing against him, and nobody’s arguing that you should just pick players who top the CC averages, but he surely has to do more than he has? There’s also the issue of how you’d fit him in the team given that the current keeper-batsman was one of the big successes?

      • As I said, look for technique rather than statistics. I rather think Billings suffers in red ball from playing too much white ball and would benefit from being able to concentrate on the latter. As James pointed out there have been good examples of players with modest championship records succeeding in tests. The other great example he missed was Thorpe. Of course, there is also the example of the calls for Stokes to come in as a specialist bat at no5 when he averages 34 in FC over a longer career than Billings. So if you rule out Billings on his FC numbers then Stokes should similarly be dismissed unless picked as an all rounder batting at 7 or 8.

        As for the keeper issue; Bairstow keeps his place as a bat but no one would consider him a good keeper (even if he is several notches better than Buttler. Billings would fit in easily as a replacement for one of the dodgy bats whilst also taking the gloves and improving the keeping.

        • As I said, I wasn’t arguing for picking batsmen on CC stats alone. Scoring lots of CC runs proves a player can score lots of CC runs, nothing more nor less. It proves they can score runs week in, week out, against attacks lacking real pace or top spinners, on often turgid pitches, in front of a few hundred spectators. There have been plenty of players who’ve responded to the big occasion (not just the oft-cited Tres and Vaughan but Collingwood, Swann, Gower, Willis, Greig, Snow etc).

          One good, really tough CC innings may say more than several episodes of flat-track bullying. Tres scored a 160-odd against Glamorgan with Waqar when Fletcher was their coach. Thorpe scored a hundred (possibly on debut) against Hampshire with Malcolm Marshall. Strauss scored a hundred against Hampshire with Shane Warne just before he was selected. It doesn’t always work though – Joe Denly carried his bat for an unbeaten century against Hampshire when they had Stuart Clark and Shane Warne and that was why he was called up but it didn’t work out of course. (Apologies for lots of examples using Hampshire – I support them and centuries against us tend to lodge in the memory banks!).

          Has Billings played such an innings? I’ve got no axe to grind on him either way – but I’ve not been aware that he has. I’m not sure anyone can given the current state of the CC. Stokes scored a stack of runs for the Lions in SA which was what turned him from a down-the-order all-rounder under Moores into a No.6. He also had a Test century at No.6 when he got his chance largely through being last man standing on the ’13/14 tour. Now Stokes has a Test match double-ton, arguments about him are largely academic anyway.

          If Bairstow loses the gauntlets, that throws away the improvements he’s made in his keeping this year. If Rashid plays, has Billings ever kept to a leggie (although to be fair, Bairstow has struggled to read Rashid’s googly)? Keeping in India is a tough gig and one missed chance can be extremely costly.

          I’ve seen one national newspaper mention Billings so he is on the radar. His IPL experience was what they were highlighting though! I’ve seen more mentions of them playing Buttler as a specialist batsman however. I’m not sure they’re going to do it – but I think it is under serious consideration.

  13. To take a step back, yes, the selectors are to blame for the lack of progress. We are all still sitting here waiting for the “new era” we were promised at the beginning of 2014. Swiping at James with a “so who would you pick then?” is a sidestep. James hasn’t been picked from a great number of possibilities and paid lots of money to do the job.

    I’m a simple soul. There are millions of people on our sceptered isle. Can we really not find one spin bowler? Of course, when I say we, I mean the people whose purpose in life it is.

    • We will find another spinner but the problem is it will take time. The lack of spin options in the championship sides can be seen from the statistical dominance of Jeetan Patel in recent years, despite his test record for NZ being modest. So the reality is that we are looking at least 2-3 years down the line before we are likely to see a quality English test spinner. In the meantime we have an Indian tour and need to decide how to make the best of limited options for that series. Accepting that Ali and Rashid will go I would consider 2 other options for a third spin slot (needed if, as I expect, the Indian batsmen take a liking to Rashid). The long term choice would be young Critchley, but I accept it is too early and he should go with the Lions. So I would go back to Tredwell. He may be 34, with little turn and be unlikely to take many wickets but he is able to bowl flat and control an end, and that makes him the best choice for providing something different to the current spinners.

      • I am Mo’s biggest fan as a cricketer but I agree that Tredwell is a better bowler. Dawson is probably a better spinner too.

    • English captains and English pitches make it pretty tough for a spinner to learn his craft in the longer form of the game. Limited overs are easier for a spinner since batsmen have to take risks unnecessary in the longer form.
      It’s notable for example that Rashid has 30 caps in ODIs and three in tests – and his main role at Yorkshire seems to be to clean up the tail enders. In the shorter from he’s competitive internationally, but in tests a novice. Learning to bowl long tight spells takes a lot of practice, and English spinners simply don’t get it. Moeen has only got the opportunity because of his batting – and doesn’t look as though he has quite what it takes as a front line spinner.

  14. I just love how I’ve finally convinced you that England should never have dropped Carberry, Moeen is a poor example of a placeholder and that Swann was a quitter.

    Just need you to realise that Stokes is a one hit wonder and you and I will be ok.

    • Hi Dennis! Do you mean that Stokes is a four or five hit wonder? You haven’t forgotten about his ton against your horrible lot in Perth have you? 😉

  15. At least your lot didn’t pick a team for a sub-continental test with only 4 batsmen in it. But yes, they haven’t had a great run with what they’ve tried this year, Woakes excepted. The other questions for England, from my Australian perspective, are will Finn ever really come good, how much longer can Broad and Anderson last, and who comes after them?

    • I give Anderson a year. Broad two. Finn will always be up and down imho. But Woakes, Wood and Ball will be around for a while. As will Stokes, who is getting quicker and will improve.

      • Genuine question, James – if you give Anderson a year, what do you do about him with the away Ashes in mind? Would you take him? If not, would you want the attack to get used to playing without him before going?

        In other words, would you play him in the 2017 home Tests (against SA and WI)?

        • I think it all depends on how he’s bowling and how he’s feeling. I suspect what might happen is that he picks up an injury at some point, and then his replacement comes in and does very well. That might make the decision easier for everyone.

          Overall I’m just guessing he’s got a year left. He might end up playing well, and being effective, for another 2 or possibly 3 years. I really don’ t know.

          Re: Australia. Jimmy’s record there is a little mixed. He was good in 2010/11 but not so good during the two whitewashes. The Kookaburra ball doesn’t swing for long either. It could well be that someone like Ball ends up being more effective on those wickets with his extra pace and bounce anyway

          Having said that, it would probably still be good to have Jimmy in the squad for experience (even if it’s more of a mentor role). Plus he could always come in specifically for the Melbourne test.

          Perhaps it’s just a case of keeping Jimmy in the squad, rather than jettisoning him completely, and just seeing how it goes. If he’s feeling good, his workload is managed well, and his pace hasn’t gone down too dramatically, he can still play a role. I guess there has to be some kind of succession planning, but that might involve a gradual winding down of his commitments rather than a black & white cut off point.

  16. Madaboutcricket on

    Not one single perks is blaming the structure and the ECB for the lack of test cricketers. The system is geared up from jnr lvl to produce white ball players who then masquerade as red ball (counties aren’t going to pay specialist 4 day players after all)..

    Stokes = white ball
    Ali = white ball
    Buttler = white ball
    Vince = one day mentality (got to hit everything) with a good technique
    Hales = white ball
    Roy = white ball

    People say ‘oh but gilly’.. Gilly was a freak and knew how to bat properly as well as tonk it.

    It won’t improve until the system promotes test values from the ground up, and this starts at the jnr lvl and in amateur cricket.

    • Most junior and amateur level cricket is a lot closer to a one innings test match in its dynamics than it is to an ODI. Different formats play out differently at different levels. Trying to bat through 40 overs as a 15 year old is like a professional cricketer batting through an entire day’s play.

  17. A very interesting discussion. Good points made by most but we are still no nearer to a solution.

    George Dobell has made mention that in his opinion we will never defeat India with our spin attack. His belief is that our seamers are going to have to find away of doing it. Up till now he seems to be a lone voice on this but the thought resonates with me. It might be best to look outside of our spinners and to think of a different approach. If there are any alternative thinkers out there maybe they have some ideas. It’s a tall order but it could be our only hope. I cannot see our spinners having any positive impact in India.

    • Jenny,
      I’ve been saying that for a while on Twitter.
      I think we should pick our best 5 (or 6) bowlers – albeit with some regard for conditions. If only one of those happens to be a spinner then so be it. If your spinners aren’t good enough, then pick seamers who can reverse the ball and go that way.
      As it is, if Mo bats 5, then his bowling is still available if required, and Rashid probably gets into the team on merit. I certainly wouldn’t be picking a third spinner “just because it’s India” though. They’ve still got to be good enough.

      • That’s the way to go!

        Mo’s versitality is worth having. England should look at him in the right way. A batsman who can turn the ball if needed. We simply do not have a spinner who is likely to make a lot of difference. We need to go down a different road and hope for the best.

        I’m not totally opposed to seeing Hales in the squad, he does have a lick of experience, but I would be inclined to take along a rookie opener as well. If Hales is to play I would rather see him at 4.

  18. Giles Falconer on

    As a Kent member I have seen a lot of Sam Billings over the years, and I agree that, at the moment, he’s not a Test batsman, especially against top class fast bowling. In the Sub-Continent, of course, this might not matter, but I wouldn’t, personally, select him even there as a batsman. (As a wicketkeeper batsman though, he would certainly be worth a place).

    A better choice would be Daniel Bell-Drummond, who can play long innings and also score quickly, and as an opener he might well be worth selection. Mind you ahead of either I think I’d go with Sam Northeast whose batting in both the CC and 50 over/T20 cricket since he took over the Captaincy has been exceptional. His name should be in the selection debates.

    Mind you in the longer term, as an outside choice, I’d look at Kent’s South African with a GB passport Sean Dickson. If he chooses to qualify for England, he might be the answer to our current opener problem – he is a ‘real’ batsman (in the Geoffrey Boycott sense) who can bat all day without losing his concentration. One to watch for the future.

    As a matter of interest I saw Ben Duckett’s astonishing innings vs SL ‘A’ – and whilst he is a formidable hitter, it should be noted that the SL bowling was pretty poor (& their fielding worse). Sam Billings’ 175 vs Pak ‘A’ the previous day was a far better innings because the bowling/fielding was of a much higher standard. I’d certainly look at Duckett for the England T20 team, though.

  19. Bottom line is that Hales, Vince, Ballance etc have been persevered with because there isn’t anyone better. Same applies in the spin department. In all likelihood we’re going to get destroyed in India because we don’t play spin well and whoever bowls it for us is going to get carted.

    Couple of other thoughts. Why doesn’t Sam Robson ever seem to get a mention? He looked better than Hales when he played for England and averages 60 this season. Surely he’s worth another go? Secondly, surely it’s time Alastair Cook resigned the captaincy? He remains largely wooden in the field and doesn’t score nearly as many runs as his reputation would suggest. He’s made 2 hundreds in the last 3 English summers (21 Tests) and 6 in total since the start of 2013 (46 Tests). I think a new injection of energy in the side might inspire some of the current underperformers, and leave Cook best positioned to score a sackful of runs in India, where he often excels.

    • There is a much better middle order bat than Vince and Ballance…..but it appears that Bell’s test record counts for nothing. There has to be something more than cricket behind this shameful treatment especially as he has a good record against India. However, it continues a trend which started when he was dropped for Owais Shah (whose demented idea was that?) and was followed by him being dropped down the order to accommodate the return of an ageing, crocked and over the hill Michael Vaughan. No wonder questions arose about his confidence.

      • Since the end of the 2013 Ashes (when we all agree he was magnificent) Ian Bell played 25 tests, scoring 1,239 runs at an average of 29.50. In that time he scored 2 hundreds.
        25 tests isn’t a small sample size – it’s a quarter of his career.
        How anyone can argue that it was “shameful” to drop someone after that run of form over 25 tests is beyond me, frankly.
        And his record in India (as opposed to versus India) is not great at all – average 27.07.
        The facts are that Bell hasn’t played consistently well for England for the last two and a half years of his career, and he hasn’t scored the weight of championship runs this year to justify a recall. Bringing him back is, by any measure, at least as illogical as any of the selection decisions that James rails about in his piece above.

        • I was thinking in terms of new players really and would certainly take Bell to India (although his recent Test record was pretty awful, as BIGKEV notes below).

          Big Kev…knew there was someone else…

      • Totally agree, apart from swapping Bell and Root, and Bairstow and Stokes in the order.

        Easy, this selection lark…

      • Don’t think that’s right Andy… Bell got dropped in the West Indies in 2009 when he was playing poorly and was pretty lucky to start the First Test. Shah was in better form and worthy of selection. Clearly he wasn’t in the same overall class as Belly, but he did get 80 odd on debut so don’t think it was as demented as it may look now. And Vaughan never played again for England after he resigned the captaincy in 2008…

      • I don’t think Bell’s talent or record are in doubt, more his mental state and whether he wants it or not. Once a player starts making noises about retirement like he did after the Ashes, I’m not sure there’s any way back.

        I had hoped, like James, that a winter off would have refreshed him, but, despite his protests to the contrary, not sure that he really wants it enough.

  20. What a lot of hot air! My starting 11 for India assuming all fit is:
    Cook
    Robson
    Root
    Bell
    Moeen
    Stokes
    Bairstow
    Woakes
    Rashid
    Broad
    Anderson

    • Site playing up and putting replies in odd places…post above was meant to be here :

      “Totally agree, apart from swapping Bell and Root, and Bairstow and Stokes in the order.

      Easy, this selection lark…”

      • Sorry about that Hungerpang. Sometimes our server goes a little nuts when there’s long threads of comments. Not sure if it’s the wordpress theme or our host. It’s beyond my technical expertise I’m afraid although I’ll look into it.

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