The three finest cricketing minds in the land (ahem), will meet this evening* to finalise which 15 cricketers will no doubt receive World Cup winners medals in just over a month’s time (big ahem). Most players are assured a place. But three or four of them will be waiting anxiously for a call.
The big question mark seems to be David Willey, who has been a real stalwart over the last two or three years. If Willey misses out he can consider himself extremely unlucky indeed.
His problem is that England have many bowlers of a similar caliber. Therefore someone is going to be left out so that someone who isn’t any better can stay in the squad. I’m glad I don’t have to make this decision to be honest. It’s a real toughie.
After Chris Woakes’s 5-fer in yesterday’s 5th ODI, the Warwickshire man is probably safe. It’s only right he should stay in the squad too. Ben Stokes often seems to pick up niggles, and Woakes is the only bowler who could move up the order and play as a genuine all-rounder should the worst happen. It’s not that others can’t bat; it’s just that they’re not as experienced or talented as Woakes with the willow.
The other man who’s vulnerable is Tom Curran. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes down to a straight choice between Curran and Willey. This one is so difficult to call.
Although I’ve never been Willey’s greatest fan as a bowler, I think he’s done pretty well in recent matches. I’m also a big fan of his batting. He’d probably bat 8 in some international sides. Plus there’s the variation he brings with this left-arm angle. And as we all know variation is really important in modern white ball cricket.
Curran is obviously a different kind of cricketer. He’s young, full of enthusiasm, and makes things happen. I doubt he’ll ever be a good bowler at test level, but he’s got some skills and seems to relish high-pressure situations. It suits him when batsmen are trying to bash boundaries. He’s not one to get flustered.
What’s more, Curran’s batting is improving all the time, and he’s shown he can play sensibly and support an established player at the other end. Basically, Curran is a cricketer with both brains and balls. And I like brains and balls.
Because I’d be extremely reluctant to leave out either Willey or Curran, the man I’d actually leave out is Liam Plunkett. However, I’m not sure how likely this is. The management seem very fond of the lovable man-bear, and he’s something of an imposing presence on a cricket field. He’s also highly experienced.
Although Plunkett does a good job in the middle-overs, and his height is still a useful attribute even if his pace has diminished somewhat, I expect that Jofra Archer will bowl some of his allocation mid-innings. And with Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali bound to bowl plenty of overs outside of the powerplays too, I’m not sure there’s much need for a mid-innings specialist.
Plunkett’s other problem is that his batting and fielding aren’t quite up to the same standard as Willey and Curran. He’s no slouch, and can hit a long ball, but he’s not quite as accomplished as the other two.
Although batting and fielding shouldn’t really be a factor when deciding which bowlers to choose – normally I’d just say “pick the best bowler” – I think they’re all very similar in terms of bowling skill; therefore I’ve reluctantly gone for batting and fielding as a tiebreaker. It’s better than picking names out of a hat, which is how England used to do it for so many years.
At this point you’re probably wondering who else England should leave out. It’s the man-bear and …. who?
I think it’s pretty obvious who this should be. Joe Denly was something of a controversial pick anyway, and he simply hasn’t done enough to keep his place. It’s a tough decision, as he hasn’t really had much opportunity, but as I explained above 17 just doesn’t go into 15. Someone’s got to miss out.
It’s a shame for Denly but personally I think he’s a better red ball cricketer. His batting is elegant and orthodox, and his leg-spin comes into the ‘occasionally to buy a wicket’ rather than the ‘dead cert to bowl his full allocation’ category. Consequently I’m not sure what he offers in the current ODI squad. Personally, I think Liam Dawson should be higher in the pecking order. But there’s probably no room for him either!
So those are my thoughts on England’s selection conundrum. In my humble opinion they should drop Plunkett but I expect they’ll drop Willey. However, it’s so close that I won’t have an issue whoever they pick – unless it’s a last minute call up for Jade Dernbach of course. Denly should and will be the other man to miss out.
I may not have time to react to the final squad selected tomorrow, so please feel free to use this thread to express your anger / disillusionment / apathy. Maybe Morgan will surprise us all by doing a Dermott Reeve i.e. he’ll unexpectedly drop himself? Stranger things have happened.
* Why on earth are the selectors meeting this evening? Don’t they know that the Game Of Thrones finale is on? One can only assume that Ed Smith actually stayed up until 2am last night to catch the premier instead – no doubt reciting Dothraki poetry as he wiled away the early hours. Anyone posting spoilers in the comments below will receive a lifetime ban from TFT by the way.