Squad rotation (and team turmoil) – looking ahead (and back)

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We both utterly detest squad rotation and completely agree with it. We’d like to live in a world where it isn’t necessary. But it is.

We predicted squad rotation years ago, but it’s still only really seeping into the sport even now. Most teams do little more than flirt with the concept, resting players when they don’t especially care about a game and driving their stars into the ground with overuse when they do. Injuries have a tendency to test a team’s commitment to its plans too with resting players often called up to work overtime.

England’s insane 2021 fixture list has made rotation pretty much non-negotiable though. A strong desire to field a significantly less fast-medium attack overseas has also helped create an environment where the likes of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad can be rested without too big a backlash.

This is why we hate squad rotation though: cricket is an unequal sport. It’s the quick bowlers who miss out most often.

Despite bowling brilliantly in the first Test against India, Jimmy Anderson will sit out the second. We’re not annoyed about it happening. We’re only annoyed that it needs to happen.

The return of Stuart Broad will be a comfort at least.

The only other omission for the purpose of rest is Jos Buttler whose overall workload is exacerbated by being in demand for all of the colours of balls.

Jofra Archer also misses out, but only because of injury.

Dom Bess, meanwhile, has fallen victim to a good old-fashioned dropping – potentially triggering a very predictable headline about Moeen Ali on this website at some point soon.

Back in the day

It’s interesting to ponder modern notions of scheduled rest and the ‘rotation’ of players when you look back at old matches.

The final episode of the first series of The Ridiculous Ashes is about the sixth Test of the 1997 series. It’s not exactly a spoiler to say that by that point England had sourced a selectorial hat and were in full rabbit-pulling mode.

We don’t know if you’ve given The Ridiculous Ashes a go yet. If you haven’t, the logical thing to do is start with episode one, but we also have a theory that a great many people will decide to dip a toe with this latest episode because it was the most bonkers and therefore the most entertaining.

You can find all six episodes of The Ridiculous Ashes here.

26 comments

  1. This is all true, and there is definitely too much cricket being squeezed into 2021, but if anyone was rested during the Ashes with England 1-0 up I would be pretty surprised, it’s hard to completely escape the feeling that England are in danger of treating this series as less of a priority than their hosts.

    1. I’ve phrased that poorly in an awful sentence. What I mean is that if England lose 3-1 now, there will be a sense that in part it was because they didn’t prioritise the series, even if the actual individual selection decisions all make sense.

      1. This is why we’re against the world where squad rotation is necessary. The decisions taken can be the best ‘big picture’ ones for a compact but relatively long series. Yet those same decisions can also easily be painted as mistakes when you don’t win.

        Maybe reverse swinging first Test Jimmy was only so effective because he was fresher having sat out a Test in Sri Lanka. That’s a harder point to make than ‘maybe if he’d played he’d have taken more wickets than the other guy’.

        Ideally, short and long term plans wouldn’t conflict so much.

      2. We just fundamentally like the idea of Best XI v Best XI.

        It feels like that is what international cricket should be about but we’re probably quite some way from that at the minute.

    1. Same thing keeps happening to Ged by the sounds of it. Maybe we need more bombastic theme music.

    1. I wouldn’t care if England were a bit fast-medium if it meant they picked Stokes, Foakes and Woakes.

    2. I’m certain I left a comment about this wondrous prospect, but now I cannot find it.
      It surely has to happen now, doesn’t it?

    3. If they all play then clearly Pope needs to be moved up the order so that the 6-7-8 is Stokes-Foakes-Woakes. Stokes-Pope-Foakes-Ali-Woakes would be a huge missed opportunity

      1. Cannot believe it. I felt sick as a pike when I saw that; indeed, I struggled to spake for quite some time afterwards.

        Still, it’s good to have a proper quick in the side. Can Woakes not learn to bowl a bit faster or at the very least, change to left-arm?

  2. All I think the whole world wants right now is to have England in the WTC final. Imagine how bad it would be if we weren’t in it.

    We would have NZ v AUS at Lords. I would expect that NZ would play very fair and good cricket, AUS will come along, ball tamper, cheat, be racist, cross ‘the line’, the biggest idiots (Warner and Smith) will do well and score lots, we would have a lot of genetically enhanced criminals/fans come across (thats all they are really), and the list goes on and on.

    I would love to see a very fair and well contested game between England and NZ, as it only could be. So please England, do not under any circumstances let Australia get into the WTCF.

  3. Personally I’d have dropped Dan rather than Dom, playing Bess, Leach & Moeen (batting three) with Broad, Woakes & Stokes (batting five) as the pace options. Looks like plenty of batting to me and lots of choices for bowling.

    No-one knows how the pitch will play with this new top soil. You need bowling options in those circumstances.

    Looking forward to it already.

  4. Morning everyone. Channel 4 coverage already better for the addition of Lord Strauss and Lady Rainford-Brent.

    Olly Stone’s back!!

  5. Good to see crowds back. Seems strange that rather than have all the stands open but spaced out they’ve gone for one or two of the stands open but packed.

  6. Where is Chris Woakes? Has anybody seen him of late? I know he has grown a beard but he seems to have disappeared. 19 players have already played Test cricket for England this year but he has been left out of every game. How is it that the PCA Player of the Year, yes, it was Mr Woakes, has not managed a game? He took shed loads of wickets last year at 20 a piece and helped to win the crucial game with Pakistan with 84 not out. You would think that this would make him one of the first names on the team sheet, as his stats are way better than Archer, Wood and Stone. I know people will bang on about his Test average of 51 away from home, but Stuart Broad averages over 50 against India as well, away from our lush grounds. Surely he should get the nod for the 3rd Test, when the ball is rumoured to swing? However, I doubt he will as, despite his much improved away performance (7 wickets at 25 in his last two away Test matches), Woakes always ‘goes under the radar,’ in media parlance. I feel it is this media reflection of his ability that goes against him. Sam Curran, on the other hand, is frequently described as a ‘game-changer’ or a person who ‘makes things happen.’ Look at the averages of the respective players, first class and Test, and Woakes is clearly the better player. I can think of no-one who has been more shabbily treated by England since I first fell in love with the game, back in 1978.

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