There has been much talk about England’s potential line-up in Galle next week. Some reporters are even suggesting that Stuart Broad might miss out if England pick three spinners.
Really? I can’t see this myself. Broad is England’s second leading wicket taker of all time, a huge figure in the dressing room, and he hasn’t been dropped (as opposed to rested due to injury or workload) for nigh on a decade.
Personally, I think there might be some unrest from senior players if Broad is dropped in favour of a relative rookie like Jack Leach. Especially if the likes of Sam Curran or Chris Woakes make the cut because they’re better batsmen. It should be the job of the proper ‘batsmen’ to score runs – not that they’re particularly capable. Even still, England shouldn’t pick an inferior bowler at No.9 just in case they need a few extra runs.
A different question, however, is whether England should pick Broad (irrespective of dressing room politics)? This is where it gets a little more interesting. If the test match was at home then Broad would be a shoo-in. However, it doesn’t take a review into the corporate culture of a governing body to work out that Sri Lankan pitches are rather different to your average Trent Bridge green top. Will Broady be effective in the sweltering heat when canny spinners rather than beanpole bang-it-ins are likely to take the lion’s share of wickets?
Personally I’m tempted to argue that England should have enough slow bowling options in the XI without dropping Broad for Leach. There’s Moeen and Rashid for starters, and then there’s the strong possibility of Denly playing (although apparently he didn’t impress in the first innings against the SL Board XI). There’s also the option of giving Joe Root a few overs.
Consequently, one might argue that England would be dropping Broad to accommodate a 4th (or even 5th) spinner – which seems a little daft. The problem, of course, is that Leach is possibly the best spinner in the squad (or at least the most reliable and consistent at county level). He certainly has the best first class statistics by a country mile.
The logical conclusion to reach, therefore, is that both Broad AND Leach should play. So who would miss out as a result? That man, I hate to say, should be Sam Curran, who’s unlikely to be effective with the ball on this tour. In fact, left arm medium fast bowlers shouldn’t be effective in Sri Lanka full stop.
There’s just one problem with this analysis, however. And the hole is bigger than a Californian sinkhole: Chaminda Vaas was a left-arm medium pacer. And he seemed to do rather well on those dead slow Sri Lankan puddings. So I guess we can put the ‘leave out Curran’ theory in the dustbin too.
So who should England leave out? Erm. We can’t leave out a batter because that would be like depriving a thirsty man of water. And we can’t leave out a wicket-keeper because, well, that would be as daft as introducing a new cricket tournament for people who don’t like cricket.
Hmmmm. Looks like Stuart Broad might miss out after all. Although it makes no sense to drop him. And we don’t need to drop him either. What strange times we live in.
There is one other solution however: keep things as simple as possible by picking 3 seamers, 3 specialist spinners, and a batting line-up with Mo at 7 and Rashid, who’s a more than handy batsman with a first class average of 33 (and ten tons to his name) as the all-rounder at 8.
This side would mean no Pope, no Curran, and no Woakes either, but the Surrey young guns and the Warwickshire Bear will surely get their chance in the next game, as the management are bound to panic and make wholesale changes after we lose the first test by an innings.
Potential England XI:
2. Jennings (although Geoff Boycott’s gran would play if available)
6. Buttler (wkt)
What do you think?