Time to end the selection merry go round

It is commendable that England are considering their players’ wellbeing, both mental and physical during this arduous year of international cricket. Covid restrictions have been greatly difficult for all of us but particularly for those who are virtually confined to hotel rooms for months on end.

Allowing players to rotate home, almost like the military, is an excellent idea. However, as they tend to do, the England management have taken a good scheme and somehow turned it upside down. 

Take the case of Jos Buttler for instance. Having played a full part in England’s tour of Sri Lanka, the Lancashire man has been sent home to rest after one Test Match in Chennai. This meant that Buttler had to endure 10 days of quarantine in India for the sake of 5 days of cricket. Assuming he has to quarantine again on his return to the UK, the wicketkeeper will have a brief rest at home before being asked to return to India for the one day leg of the tour that begins on 4th March, doubtless having to quarantine again before it starts.

Only Sir Humphrey Appleby, the infamous civil servant from Yes Minister, could have dreamt up such a convoluted and confusing schedule. 

Far better to have allowed Buttler to simply rest at home for the entire Test series in India before returning refreshed to tackle the one dayers and the following English summer.

The clumsy handling of Moeen Ali also raises questions. Firstly, if he has chosen to  go home because he does not want to stay in the England bio bubble then why has he just secured a £700,000 IPL contract that will require 8 more weeks of bubble life before the international summer even begins. 

Secondly, if, as Chris Silverwood and Joe Root claim, it was always part of the plan that he would go home after the second Test, then why did captain and coach make a public show of dropping Dom Bess to bring Ali back for one match?

As a result of this, England are now faced with the prospect of playing one spinner in Indian conditions or recalling a young player whose confidence they may well have publicly destroyed. None of this is intended as a criticism of Moeen, who is the only member of England’s winter touring party to have actually suffered with Covid 19.

It is worth remembering as well, that those of us who have not experienced bubble life cannot possibly know the strain it can put on young men, especially those far from home. Anyone who is struggling should be treated with the utmost care and consideration.

It is more the manner in which the situation is being handled that raises more questions than answers, in particular who is making the calls? Chief selector Ed Smith has been a prominent figure on the tour of India, regularly being seen on TV sitting next to Silverwood in the England dressing room.

In previous eras it was uncommon for the Chairman of Selectors to travel with the winter touring party. Once the squad had been selected it was common practice to leave the day to day picking of the team to the captain and coach. With Smith seemingly keen to be seen as a visible part of the dressing room on this tour, one wonders how much influence he is having over selection.

It has also been frustrating to see players complaining about bubble life when they are playing for their country while at the same time being perfectly happy to put themselves forward for the glamour of lucrative IPL contracts, which require more time spent in the bio bubbles than many England tours. 

In that context, it is so refreshing to see Mark Wood pull out of the IPL auction to spend more time with his family before the English season. One can only wish him a happy and successful summer. Hopefully by that time bio bubbles will no longer be necessary. Even if that is the case though, England cannot expect the same players to play every fixture that faces them in this, their busiest year. 

Smith, Silverwood and Root will have to devise otherwise the wheels may well fall off the England merry go round.

Billy Crawford


  • I think that Ed Smith and co are guilty of being too clever for their own good, and also in a couple of cases (Bess and Ali) of insensitivity in they way they have handled them. They should indeed have had Buttler miss the whole test leg of the India tour (I am, as you are probably aware, far from being convinced that Buttler is an automatic choice for England’s test XI anyway). After making a statement that can only be interpreted as a public dropping of him you are right that they can hardly now recall Bess to the XI.

    • My perception is almost the opposite–that far from being too clever, some of this has been simply failing to spot the obvious (notably that if you bring someone in for one match just before they’re going to be rested, you might wish that they were they for longer if they do well in that one match).

      For me, the one big mistake they made was failing to rest players (notably Bairstow, Buttler, Stokes, Archer, Ali and Sam Curran–that is, all the players who’d been part of the English summer and the IPL) from the whole SA tour.

      But overall, I don’t have any complaints about how they’ve handled the resting situation. I think realistically they had to rest all the multi-format players (which is the key marker, not the role in the team they perform), and they can’t rest them all at once.

      As for Bess–I wouldn’t have made that change then, but I don’t see that it’s unreasonable to drop a player who has underperformed solely because you might only be doing it for one match. No-one complained when it happened to Broad, Bairstow or Root in past years.

    • Why didn’t they play three spinners in the last test, they must have known the pitch would have been doctored?

      • It’s nice to rest players in the bio-bubble environment. And for Chennai 2nd test they need not have dropped Bess in the first instance inspite of his taking 6 wickets in the first test. I don’t why on earth English people grumble about sub continent pitches as “doctored” pitches when they can’t play quality spinners ? If your English wicket seams and the opponent teams bundled out for 60 runs etc., you never complained. And only blamed the visiting teams inept batting etc., So, pls accept your defeat and try to improve your performance in sub-continent pitches instead of crying.

  • You would think if you were going to put your arm around anyone during a series to India it would be your spinners, particularly with the individual challenges they have all faced. We’ll see, but if they have discarded Moeen, fair enough, why end things in a mess with him and drag Bess into it as well? Same old problems sadly.

  • There is a simple solution to all this. Play your best players whenever possible. Stop giving cheap caps to players who have yet to prove anything at first class level. Promise is meaningless without results. Players should be expected to show their metal at county level before being promoted. Otherwise what’s the incentive in county cricket for players to progress. Only when the cupboard is relatively bare of results should we lower the bar. This way we will not be getting promising young bowlers who can’t stay fit for 10 minutes. They will have to prove their physical fitness at county level as well. Giving the Currans central contracts is one of the more ludicrous examples of the present system, as is Bess.
    White and red ball selection should be made by different management teams, one size doesn’t fit all under these circumstances. Ed’s fine for white ball, a total mismatch for red.

    • If players are expected to show metal, then we can presumably expect imminent call-ups for Scott and Cam Steel…:-) Wood and Stone very lucky that they’ve already proved what they have to offer…or are they “young bowlers who can’t stay fit for ten minutes”?

  • They’re getting us used to downgraded Test cricket with less than full-strength teams and top players rested for franchise competitions.

    BTW I thought it interesting that CA are offering a five-year broadcasting package (which effectively rules out C4 bidding for the Ashes). To me it suggests they i) are nervous of their longer term value and ii) need money now (the latter is hardly a great secret).

    Any CC who haven’t seen it might look up the DM article on where the negotiations for the forthcoming season have got to. The amount of CC cricket and the timing of the VB both look in dispute.

  • Well actually Butler should not have even gone to Sri Lanka. He should have played in the whole India series. Look if you want your best team for the Ashes in November, all those in contention, and Butler is one of the main ones, should be playing India at home. With respect to Sri Lanka, it’s second eleven cricket compared to India and we should have played a virtual 2nd Team, and saved the key players for India. I’m sorry but I don’t go with this rotation rubbish. You need to have a Test squad that stays together. If you must rotate then do it in white ball. These guys are payed a heck of a lot of money and if they have to put up with bubbles inconvenience then so be it. If I were 25 odd and good enough nothing would stop me. Either they want to play for England against the best or they don’t. Ok Moen did well, but 1 Test? Why? he’s not the future of Test cricket. Bess may be a lucky wicket taker, but Jesus talk about knocking a young guy sideways.
    You know, a question who is your best 1,2&3 for the Ashes? I haven’t a clue, and this ridiculous rotation policy will do nothing to help it.
    It will be interesting if certain teams make the IPL Final because, Stokes, Wood and Butler I think will miss the 1st Test at Lord’s against NZ, current Test Champions leaders. Or will the ECB put its foot down because they have England contracts? I doubt it. Test Match cricket, even the Ashes it seems is becoming secondary to T20. But I suppose if Moen can get £700,000 for the hit and giggle it’s somewhat not surprising. Sad.

  • We all love second guessing and playing selector. In the present circumstances, I think the management team of England has done a pretty good job. The standard of both our white and red ball teams has improved which to me is the only real measure we can use.

    On the IPL Eoin Morgan on a recent Wisden podcast made clear that he felt the exposure to the IPL made England players better. Difficult to argue with.

  • I am all for the rests and rotation, it is the how which is awful, echo thoughts on Joss Butler, also the diabolical man management and let’s be blunt that’s what it is of Dominic Bess, could easily have destroyed the confidence of a very promising young player and to what purpose did it serve? It kind of felt they were desperate to get Roots mate Moeen Ali in despite his vastly INFERIOR record with the ball in correlation to Bess and they felt compelled to justify it realising themselves that there was not an actual justification on form, age, ability etc so made this extraordinary statement.

    • Personally I wouldn’t have made that decision at that point, it seemed to me that the England management concentrated too much on the negatives in Bess’s game rather than the positives and I agree that making a borderline decision to drop a young player can be risky–but this sounds overly conspiratorial to me.

      Ali’s record is not “vastly inferior” to Bess’s. It’s somewhat inferior–and if you take out Bess’s 5-30 in Galle, which almost everyone seemed to agree was one of the luckiest five-fors they’d seen and which is only ten overs in 13 tests, it’s about the same (considerably worse strike rate, considerably better economy rate, average almost identical, batting average similar).

      He wasn’t “publicly humiliated”. The management were generally very positive about him, and said only that he needed to work on his consistency (which I’m sure he’ll have known: it was visible to everybody–although that’s one reason why Ali was a somewhat strange replacement!), and that he looked tired and might need a rest.

      Privately, I suspect they’ll have told him, as Tim Wigmore surmised, that the statistic showing that he’d been unusually lucky to take so many wickets this winter, was a factor–and while I’m a little sceptical of that statistic, I’m sure he’ll have been able to feel something of the sort too.

      The dropping of Ali after one poor match and an entire winter of good ones in 2019 was probably at least as confidence-eroding a decision, as was the dropping of Root in the 2013-4 Ashes when he was averaging 36 and wasn’t averaging significantly less in the series than anyone else.

  • Just to add sorry Bess, 17 wickets in 3 tests, scoring runs, good in the field, dropped and publicly humiliated to make way for a guy in his mid 30s with a moderate and inferior record and clearly in decline who was going home week after, how do they pick Bess now having made such a strong statement against him, incompetence at the highest level.

    • Once your captain loses confidence in you you’re a liability. Bess has never been consistent or a real threat, even on helpful wickets. He’s got more people out with poor deliveries than anyone I can remember since Phil Edmonds first came on the scene in the 70’s. That can’t go on. At least Leach can hold up an end for a while to give the seamers a break, something Bess has never been able to do and shows no sign of coming to terms with.

  • I suggest you read George Dobell’s article about Moeen on cricinfo – he’s generally pretty close to the mark.


copywriter copywriting