England’s Test selectors got everything right

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It’s not cool to say that. But we’re not cool. We once did a live Twitter review of a cricket computer game while drinking real ale.

On the face of it, picking a Test side is simply a matter of finding your 11 best players and then saying their names out loud in front of some microphones, but in reality there’s far more to it than that. We’d say England’s selectors got it bang on leading up to and during the 2010-11 Ashes, so hats off.

Ian Bell at six?

Not strictly speaking a selectorial decision, but linked. Some people will say that Ian Bell should have moved up the batting order and while we think that’s ultimately a good idea, it wasn’t a bad move to leave him at six in this series.

England traditionally use number six as a dumping ground. All-rounders, wicketkeepers and debutant batsmen slot in there and four wickets down so often seems like it’s going to be five wickets down.

In the fifth Test, England lost their fifth wicket and because there had been a nightwatchman, Ian Bell strolled out in the form of his life. How dispiriting must that have felt for the Aussie bowlers? Bell promptly hit a hundred, as did Matt Prior, batting at eight.

That they achieved this from down the order probably had more impact than if they’d been batting at four and five. Plus, it didn’t undermine Paul Collingwood, which was wise (even if it didn’t actually work out in practice).

Dropping people

Ian Bell was in the side after a famously galvanising dropping. The same thing happened to Andrew Strauss. In effect, selection decisions made good players better.

Perservering with people

Alastair Cook HAD to be dropped before the Ashes, according to quite a large number of people. We disagreed and so did the selectors – thank Frigg.

Selection and rotation of bowlers

Chris Tremlett – masterstroke. Tim Bresnan – masterstroke.

Picking the right players in the first place

James Anderson could have been abandoned plenty of times in years gone by. Graeme Swann was actually quite a leftfield selection when he first appeared.

Matt Prior was identified as England’s wicketkeeper some time ago and has ridden it out, even though barely a day goes by without someone pushing some county keeper’s case on the grounds that he hit a six in a Twenty20 match once. Foster, Kieswetter, Read, Davies? None of these would have been a patch on Prior in our opinion.

The players made the selectors look good, but the selectors allowed them to do that.


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  1. I once threw a load of twigs in the air and when they landed they spelled out “BERT IS GREAT” on the floor. It was the 1,356,783rd time I’d thrown them in the air. Most of the time they just ended up looking like a load of twigs that had been thrown in the air. Interestingly, on 117 occasions they spelled out “WHAT’S THE POINT?”

  2. These selectors are on a fine run of stick throwing that has culminated in the following words being spelled out:

    “Hey! Australia! In your face! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.”

  3. It’s simply amazing you find the time to produce fine art of the highest masterpiece quality while also being the most prolific stick-thrower in the history of all mankind, Bert.

    Words fail me, as KP often puts it while spouting off lots of words.

  4. I am being a tad unfair, I will admit, but it’s mainly because after the 2006/7 debacle I went to The Lowry to watch An Evening With Aggers (special guests, David Graveney and Geoff Miller). In response to various questions from the audience along the lines of “Well, explain yourselves then!”, Miller said that the poor performance had nothing to do with the selectors. His argument was that pretty much anybody would have picked the same team, which I though was an argument in favour of his redundancy. Andrew Hilditch is currently engaged in making exactly the same argument.

    I just can’t accept that there exists a job anywhere in the world where you can be praised when things go well but not to blame when things go badly. The selectors either have an effect or they don’t.

    I will concede that they have failed to make a complete balls of things this time. I will also concede that some of the selectorial decisions (not dropping Cook, for example) have been proven correct. But I also think that the praise goes mainly to the people who prepared an entire squad of test-quality bowlers for the selectors to pick from.

  5. KC while you are still gloating (one of the few things Poms have excelled in these past centuries) just think of the consequences of England as no. 1 – the mind-numbing boredom of endless Cook and Bell centuries.

    It’ll be the death of cricket, far more so than the recently deceased world domination by Oz. At least that was total wipeout. England will just slowly suffocate the opposition to death. It’ll be far worse than the Saffers.

    And if dullnes fails, you’ll take incessant toilet breaks, one by one, til the umpires, in despair of ever getting theirs, will declare a draw.

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but – go India!

  6. If you don’t like centuries from Cook and Bell, just find a bowler who can pitch two consecutive deliveries on the strip.

  7. Steve, Its impossible not to admire England right now. It is very hard to find a team (in any sport for that matter) who have no superstars and yet can challenge any team in the world and give them a run for their money.

    But yes, Cook is quite terrible to watch. But there is something to be said about KC’s thesis “Why your definition of technical fault doesn’t really count and Cook is a fine batsman” or some such. At least, that was the gist of his argument, if I remember right.

  8. Steve, what’s wrong with Ian Bell? We’d say he was pretty good to watch and we don’t even much like watching batsmen.

    As for bowlers, we’d go for England’s reverse swing over McGrath and Gillespie’s bore ’em out monotony any day of the week. And since when has bowling sides out for 98 been boring?

    If England become the number one Test side, it will be great because every other Test nation will suddenly remember that they want to smash our smug imperialist faces in, leading to a massive resurgence in the finest form of the game.

  9. I personally love watching Bell bat. His cover driving is a thing of genuine beauty.

    I got accused by an Indian fan the other day of finding Swann entertaining only because I’m English – the inference being that England are a boring team to watch.

    I have to say they may have a point with Cook, Trott and the erstwhile Collingwood in tests, but the others I think are pretty entertaining!

    Agree with you KC on the bowlers too.

    After all, who in the Aussie side would you class as ‘entertaining’? Watson? Hughes? (for about 10 minutes of course until he’s out)…

  10. p.s. fascinating stuff on Frigg. And there were thinking it was a word derived from far cruder origins. We will now use it in public and denounce anyone who thinks we are being rude as uneducated.

  11. It’s very hard to like selectors. If they do something right, then they are doing their jobs. Managing expectations must be tricky for them.That’s not to say I intend to cut them any slack. Miller et al have just proven that they have an aptitude for this. If they suddenly revert to picking Ricki Clarke, I will think even less of them, knowing they are capable of so much more.

  12. To be fair, Watson, Ponting and Johnson have all been thoroughly entertaining to watch this series for an alarming array of reasons.

  13. “I once threw a load of twigs in the air and when they landed they spelled out “BERT IS GREAT” on the floor. It was the 1,356,783rd time I’d thrown them in the air. Most of the time they just ended up looking like a load of twigs that had been thrown in the air. Interestingly, on 117 occasions they spelled out “WHAT’S THE POINT?””

    That is the singularly best comment I have ever seen on this site.

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