Sunday, 28 February 2010

Why selectors shouldn't try to appease the Cheese...

While I blogged earlier, it was in many ways a very poor attempt at covering the action. Which is probably because I didn't really watch the game. For a variety of reasons (mainly me wanting a lie-in), I didn't get up to watch a match with a result that was never in doubt. While Tamim Iqbal offered slight resistance, the bare fact that no other Bangladeshi scored more than a fifth of his score meant that they never had a defendable score, especially with a very sketchy bowling attack. And England had enough about them to win very comfortably. While England will be pleased to win, it was only Bangladesh, and it is doubtful whether that performance would have been enough to beat an Australia, India or South Africa.

While it is natural that England wouldn't need to fire on all cylinders in a fairly comfortable game, overall team selection has hampered England somewhat. In ODI cricket, playing the pitch can often be as important as playing the opposition, and England missed a big trick in playing only Swann as a specialist spinner. While Pietersen and Collingwood can offer some assistance, they are far too 'part-time' to restrict the rate or take wickets against quality opposition. With the World Cup being played this time next year in the same venues that England now play, it is more than essential that James Tredwell gets a run-out in the next two as a foil for Swann. Bangladesh proved that two good spinners operating from both ends is very effective in strangling run-rates, and can pick up handy wickets throughout. While ideally (for me) Adil Rashid should be in the mix, Tredwell is that second spinner, and should play in the next game on Tuesday.

Batting at six was wicket-keeper Matt Prior. I have written before at my opposition to Prior playing in the same team as Kieswetter, purely as I think it to be unnecessary. There is absolutely no need to play two keepers when a much better batsman or all-rounder could be put in his place. It is almost an apology from the selectors to Prior for adding Kieswetter to the squad. Prior would have left Heathrow fully expecting to play every game in the Dubai / Bangladesh tour as he was the only keeper in the squad. However, due to Kieswetter's late addition, this has been thrown into jeopardy. Whoever is in charge has clearly looked at Prior's relative form behind the sticks over the last 18 months and thought "We can't drop him, he's slightly improved on his glovework. Let's stick that young Kieswetter in, and keep Prior as well, as he might get upset otherwise". Prior has indeed improved on his keeping, but still is a long way behind many of his other international counterparts (Kamran Akmal not included). He is still guarenteed to play the summer tests (and almost certainly the Ashes in the winter). Dropping him for a few ODI's and Twenty20 games does not show a lack of confidence in Prior from the selectors - but a show of confidence in a young cricketer in Craig Kieswetter. By playing Prior as an out and out number six, the selectors are trying not to upset a popular (I guess) figure in the dressing room. Ultimately however, they are compromising the team's performance, as however you try and dress it up, Prior should not be batting at number 6 for England based on purely his batting. While it could be argued that there are no other options in the squad, that is the selectors fault for not picking a properly balanced squad.

While these issues will not make any difference in the forthcoming two ODIs, which England will again win very easily, England will need to review the makeup of their fifty over team in preparation for an important 12 months for their one day team. Whether it includes Tredwell or Prior is another matter.

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