Woakes’ recall puts Giles in the spotlight again

Ashley Giles Warwickshire CCC Photocall

When England named their squad for the ODI series in India yesterday, two names jumped off the page. The first was Stuart Meaker of Surrey, who was left out of Surrey’s CB40 final team. The second was Warwickshire seamer Chris Woakes, who seems to split opinion: some think he bowls too slowly to be effective in international cricket, while others think he bowls far too slowly.

The selection of Meaker was a brave and daring one. He’s got a bit of pace, reverse swings the ball, and like his county colleague Jade Dernbach, he’s adept at firing in yorkers at the death; in other words he’s got necessary tools to do well on subcontinent wickets. Whether he’s a bit too raw is another question. He’s hasn’t played many games for Surrey.

Woakes’ inclusion is more surprising. He bowls little above medium pace, relies on conventional swing, and his domestic one-day record couldn’t be more underwhelming: 56 wickets at an average of 34, with an economy rate of 5.4. His selection is therefore curious to say the least. Although his late-order batting is highly promising, Kohli and Co will be queuing up to face his bowling. It’s hard to see how he can be successful on flat and dry Indian wickets.

Lancashire fans are also entitled to have a good moan about Woakes’ inclusion. The conspiracy theorists will point out that Woakes was omitted from the recent NatWest Series – thus guaranteeing his availability for the county championship finale – yet suddenly he’s recalled to the England fold when the county season has ended. Well, I never.

The issue, of course, is that Ashley Giles, Woakes’ county coach, is also an England selector. It’s a blatant conflict of interest, but the ECB seem to care about it as much as we care about Ricky Ponting’s retirement plans i.e. not very.

We are not suggesting for a second that the conspiracy theorists are right – Ashley Giles is a good and honourable man – but you’ve got to admit that it doesn’t look good.

What’s more, Giles has a history of becoming embroiled in such controversies. After it became obvious that Warwickshire’s title hopes might flounder because of their lack of an experienced spinner, Giles tried to recruit Gary Keedy half way through the season (Keedy has since admitted that his ‘head was turned’ by Warwickshire’s ‘unbelievable’ offer). And who does Keedy play for? Lancashire, no less.

Cricket is not football – and thank heavens for that. It’s therefore surely just coincidence that Warwickshire tapped up a rival’s key player mid-summer. However, it all feels very Manchester City to me: ‘right then lads, who are our rivals for that fourth champions league spot? Villa eh. Ok, let’s sign their best two players by waving a wad of cash in front of them. That’ll screw ‘em right over’.

Giles is a good bloke – we all remember him fondly as a 2005 Ashes hero – however, it’s probably time he gave up his position as an England selector. If the current situation persists, the conspiracy theories will just gather pace.

Can you imagine the hoo-ha if he tried to sign Simon Kerrigan after failing in his bid to sign Keedy? And what if James Taylor leaves Leicestershire for Warwickshire, citing ‘improved prospects of playing international cricket’. Giles’ courtship of Taylor was well documented a couple of months ago. It looked bad then, just like Woakes’ selection for this India tour looks bad now.

Until Ashley gives up one of his positions, eyebrows will be raised every time a Warwickshire player is left out of an England squad during a crucial part of the county season. Warwickshire’s rivals will also continue to feel aggrieved when their key players sod off to play some meaningless ODIs, just so the selectors can ‘have a look at them’.

No matter how genuinely Giles’ wants to do his best for both England and Warwickshire, it’s impossible. It would be like Fabio Capello managing England and Chelsea at the same time. Nobody would put up with that – not least Giles himself. He’s a QPR fan.

James Morgan


  • Longer term, Chris Woakes would probably benefit more from a rest than going on another tour.
    As for conflict of interests, I see it differently – England and National sides come above the Counties every time. That’s why Warwicks missed Bell, Trott, Woakes, Rankin Portefield et al over all/parts of the season. To say a promising but raw player is not picked every game for England, but is picked for some, doesn’t strike me as Gilo demonstrating even a hint of conflict of interest, biased towards the Bears.
    Lancs lost Jimmy Anderson, and that’s it – they benefitted County wise from lack of call ups, not the Bears. Also the selectors, plural pick the England squads. Giles being at so many County games is a help, not hindrance.

  • We’re not saying that Giles is in any way putting Warwickshire before England – it’s just a matter of perception. Bell & Trott are established members of the England team in all forms of the game – there is no chance they’d ever be left out of the national squad. Warwickshire would have been prepared for that in the same way that Lancs don’t expect Anderson to play for them much, if at all. By the way, other than Kerrigan, who is new to the scene, Lancs have nobody else even close to international selection. So there is no real comparison to Woakes. The argument re: Rankin/Porterfield is irrelevant when it comes to Giles, as the players in question represent Ireland, so there is no conflict of interest. Although interestingly, Rankin has declared his intention to play for England if selected. And why not, he is a far better bowler than Woakes – at least by the evidence of the last few championship matches.

    Giles should not be a selector because it is a conflict of interest – surely nobody can deny that. I believe he is an honest man, few would disagree, but he cannot be both a selector and Warwickshire coach on the basis that it’s ‘a help not a hindrance’ that he’s so close to country cricket. Stacks of ex-pros are still close to country cricket, but are not tied to one particular county – they would be more suitable selectors. Besides, how exactly is Giles supposed to watch lots of domestic cricket if he can only watch Warwickshire when they’re playing? He can’t move around from game to game, assessing numerous players, he can only see his own players, plus the ones Warwickshire happen to be playing that particular week. It makes no sense at all.

  • I have read some utter tripe but this takes it. If bowling at an average in the mid 80s is medium pace (as is the case with Woakes) then most test seamers are medium pacers. The key point is that Woakes is the best England all-rounder since Botham (and I do remember the one season wonder that was Freddie). A first class average in 2011 of 47 with the bat, 56 wickets at 21 and a style that is clearly made for tests (I agree he will be a better test than ODI player). The real scandals are that he has not made the test team as a no 7 bat (with Prior at 6) and bowler. The other scandal is that Jade Dernbach gets near an England team. At Guildford (his club side) he is known as a decent Surrey Championship bowler – there are better. If you doubt Woakes ability ask Tremlett – who was on the receiving end of a Woakes century, and the Aussies – against whom he took a sixfor in the ODI.

  • What’s the weather like on your planet Andy? Sorry! To call Woakes the best allrounder since Botham is an amazing claim. He’s done well in the championship, but his one-day form (which is the discipline he’s being picked for) is extremely poor. Woakes is a good young cricketer, but he really does lack the pace for test cricket. This isn’t really a controversial statement as I’ve heard it many times. He operates in the early 80s at best, which is about the same speed as Ryan McLaren. If he can develop into a proper no7 batsman, then he might eventually make it into the team as a 4th seamer, but he’s not ready yet.


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