Sunday, 12 June 2011

England's New One-Day Direction

This morning England name their first post-World Cup One Day squad. In effect, with the start of a new World Cup cycle starting here, this is an opportunity for a blank canvas in terms of England's limited over cricket, with new players given the chance to prove themselves and old players who couldn't hack it given the boot. This could be a defining squad announcement for England, as the established order swept aside and a new generation welcomed in. This will certainly be the squad with the most new faces until this similiar situation in four years time. I've written about who should or shouldn't be in the limited over squad quite a few times, but seeing as this is a chance to reevaluate England's ODI squad, I've reevaluated who I'd put in there myself.

For me, before picking the squad, there should only be one definite on the list - and that's the captain. While personally I would have liked someone else to have done the job, the selectors have gone for Alastair Cook, so at this moment in time, he's the only name on the board. And seeing as Stuart Broad is going to be T20 captain, he can be in there too. Other than that, past reputations should count for nothing, and the selectors should be ruthless in picking the best One Day players in the country, regardless of past glories (or not).

The first thing to think about is the balance of the team. England had a muddled ODI strategy going into the World Cup that kept chopping and changing - it was evident that they didn't know what their prefered team was. Did they want 6 or 7 out-and-out batsmen? Did they want one, two, three or even four all-rounders? Did they want one spinner, or three? Did they want the wicket-keeper to open? The strategy wasn't so much as wrong but clouded by indecision. So Andy Flower needs to set his stall out and pick a tactic for success. For my team, I've gone for 6 batsmen (of whom one can bowl), a wicket-keeper at seven, and four bowlers. There should be plenty of depth to both the batting and the bowling, and I think it is the most balanced side possible for ODI cricket.

The first name I'm going to pick is my wicket-keeper. England's use of wicket-keepers has been as muddled as anything else, with Prior, Davies and Kieswetter all getting jettisoned in the 12 months leading into the World Cup, before Prior was eventually selected. Personally, it's between Kieswetter and Davies, but I'd rather have Craig Kieswetter in down the order where he can give the final throes of an innings real impetus. While he was found out against the harder new ball in English conditions last summer, Kieswetter is a far better bet when the ball (and the bowlers) are a little more tired, and he can be a great 'finisher' down the order.

Batting wise, Alastair Cook is selected due to his captaincy, and opening alongside him I'd pick Alex Hales. Hales is a big hitter, which would be needed alongside the more sedate Cook, and has had an excellent start to the season. A lot is expected of him, and I think the time is certainly right to get him into the England team in order to improve his nascent game and gain invaluable experience.

While I said past reputations shouldn't come into it, my 3, 4 and 5 are straight from the World Cup. Jonathan Trott, for all of the accusations about a slow scoring rate is an incredible accumulator who can really anchor the innings. And Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan would walk into any One Day team in the world (although judgement still to be passed about KP's mental state).

The last jigsaw piece of my middle order would be Samit Patel - unthinkable not too long ago, but after shedding (some) pounds and seemingly winning favour by getting into the Lions squad, Patel may have earned redemption. Clearly talented enough, the only question mark would be over his fitness, but if he's done enough to suggest to Andy Flower that he's ready then he should be brought in. Good with the ball but better with the bat, Patel is the sort of player that adds real balance to the team and can be England's trump card.

In terms of the bowling, Graeme Swann gets in as he is the best spinner in the country. Stuart Broad also plays because he is the T20 captain, as well as being a very good ODI player. And the other two fast bowling spots I'd give to Jade Dernbach and Chris Woakes. Dernbach has really impressed over the past year, both at Surrey and with the Lions, and has very quickly become a very accomplished one day bowler. And Woakes has already played a few times for England, and is already a very good player who will only continue to increase as he matures.

Perhaps the highest profile absentees are Ian Bell, Matt Prior and Jimmy Anderson. All stalwarts of England sides over the past few years, they've been passed over for various reasons. Prior is a very good attacking batsman, but has a distinctly ordinary ODI record, and should be moved aside to allow someone else a go. Bell is fast becoming one of the best test batsmen in the world, and I would love to have him in any England side (it wasn't that long ago I was campaigning for him to captain the ODI team) but I can't really see a space for him in this team. However, if Pietersen continues declining or Trott is brutally killed by Bob Willis then Bell would be the man to fill the vacant position. And Anderson's ODI form has tailed off significantly, and we saw all too clearly the poor perfomances in the Australian ODIs and the World Cup, which were almost certainly due to overkill and tiredness. A break from cricket after each test series would keep Jimmy fighting fit and fresh and would certainly benefit him in the long run.

England have a real opportunity with the announcements of the limited over sides today to turn over a new leaf and start again with One Day cricket. In the T20 side we might see Jason Roy or Ben Stokes, and there could be some new faces in the 50 over team too. Today's squad is a significant one, as it really sets the course for England's one day direction over the next four years. Let's just hope that the destination is the World Cup.

My ODI team:

Alastair Cook (c)
Alex Hales
Jonathan Trott
Kevin Pietersen
Eoin Morgan
Samit Patel
Craig Kieswetter
Chris Woakes
Stuart Broad
Graeme Swann
Jade Dernbach

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