We have a problem. England have just nine Test-level cricketers. So one could argue that it doesn’t matter which agencies make up the wider 16-man lineup. The selector might as well choose a name at random. After all, these squad fillers aren’t particularly likely to score or get the ball. They might as well pick the seven best outfield players in the country … or pick the seven best guys for coffee.
However, it’s up to selectors to dig for diamonds in the rough and use their precious judgment (ha!) to determine which of the top unsung players might have what it takes. Duncan Fletcher used to be good at it. Unfortunately, Whitaker, Fraser, and Newell have been doing a terrible job of this.
England’s selectors have been throwing trash at the wall, hoping some of them stick around for years. We’ve gone through Carberry, Lyth, Robson, Ballance, Vince, Ballance, Duckett, Westley, Ballance, Malan, and now they’re back with Vince and, you guessed it, Gary fucking Ballance. The Yorkshire captain has more lives than Graeme Swann’s cat. It sure helps if you’re friends with the captain, eh.
As you can probably see, I’m totally against recalling Ballance and Vince. And I feel like I’m clearly in the majority on this one. None of the players in the past gave the slightest hint that they would morph into Test-level hitters, and they haven’t changed their game since leaving the franchise. Basically, they are known bugs. Trying them again shows an extreme lack of imagination.
Obviously, it’s easy to snoop around outside without suggesting other names, so I’ll throw some in there. How about Liam Livingstone, who averaged 45 points per game in Division I this year (Vince usually only averages 35)? What about Sam Northeast? At least these guys haven’t left much to be desired in the past. Australians might even have to do some homework. When it comes to Vince, and especially Ballance, every bowler in the world knows how to make them successful.
Most of all, the logic of choosing Vince frustrates me. Clearly, Whittaker and his colleagues thought he had the right game for Australia. What do you say just because he drives a bit like Michael Vaughan doesn’t mean he’s the same player. Vince looked unconvincing for England out of the outpost, and he didn’t show a particularly watertight back-foot kick…you know, the kind that is so important in Australian wickets. Vince did nothing domestically, absolutely nothing to warrant a recall, and his choices smacked of arbitrary.
I wonder what Tom Westley thinks about all this? On pitches that support bowlers throughout the summer, Essex batsmen tend to play through one side of the leg. If anyone could possibly thrive when conditions in Australia didn’t fluctuate much, it was Westley, not Vince. Steve Smith had (and to some extent still has) a penchant for hitting low legs, but playing kookaburra on real Australian courses doesn’t seem to bother him too much. By the way, I’m not saying I chose Westley; I’m just pointing out flawed logic.
Fortunately, the rest of the team is fine. Well, in terms of proven quality, it’s poor, but you can’t blame selectors too much for blindly groping around an empty closet in the dark. Jake Ball and Craig Overton’s bowling was alright, I think – although they probably won’t give the Aussies too many sleepless nights. The latter, at least, had an excellent season at Somerset. Too bad he doesn’t have the speed of his brother.
When it comes to pace, that’s the only thing this England team lacks. Again, you can’t blame the selectors too much — except for the very green George Gatton who isn’t a great bowler on the run — but that won’t stop our lack of speed and aggression from being a pretty standout A The heel of Karius. Mitchell Johnson completely destroyed us last time, and this time guys like Stark and Cummings are going to shoot us. Too bad we can’t fight fire with fire. This is not a good sign.
Two other somewhat controversial options on the team are Mason Kline and Ben Fox. Let’s start with the latter…it makes me less desperate. Basically, it’s a good thing England have picked the best pure goalkeeper in the country. It gives us another option if we don’t want to pick six bowlers (or pick another batter who might not run), and I think we need to take every opportunity we get.
As for Crane, I’m not sure what to think of his options. It can be argued that he was outstanding in Australia last winter (he became the first foreign player to feature for NSW since Rogue Elephant Imran Khan), and he is an unusually tall bowler. One could even argue that leg spinners tend to do better than finger spinners in Australia (unless your name is Yasir Shah) and that Crane adds a bit of magic dust or X-factor to the roster.
Or, one could say that Crane’s recordings exude an air of utter desperation. This is after all a man (or maybe I should say boy) who only took 70 first-class wickets, averaging over 40. Does Chris Schofield, or even Ian Salisbury’s name ring?
I’ve seen Crane Bowl a few times, but he’s not even close to a finished article. How could he? He is only 20 years old. If Jack Leach is ruined like Simon Kerrigan, the pickers don’t want to pick him, but they’re perfect