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Selection Dilemmas

So Ed Smith is England’s new National Selector. He got the job after impressing at interview. Apparently all three candidates (that’s Big Ed, Derek Pringle, and Mike Selvey) were asked to deliver a presentation called “Selection: Art Or Science?” I imagine Del and Selvs looked puzzled, and then threw up in a bucket when they realised that Andrew Strauss was serious. I imagine Smith, on the other hand, embraced the opportunity to talk gobbledygook and regurgitated one of his essays on baseball. And that was enough to secure the job. Well, that plus the fact that he and Straussy go way back.

The good thing is that nobody will particularly care why Big Ed got the got the job if he can find England a new opener (or possibly two) and a new No.3 batsman. The old panel consisting of Jim, Gus and Mick singularly failed to do this over a four year period – which is probably why they were given their marching orders.

So what kind of players will Smith be looking for? Apparently Big Ed has a statistics-driven philosophy, so it looks like an iMac will be picking the England team rather than a human being. Although this approach doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence – after all, they’ve used stats in cricket for years and it didn’t exactly do Peter Moores any favours – I guess Smith’s computer can’t do any worse than the old gang.

Fortunately for the sake of this blog, neither you nor I need an algorithm to spot the best up and coming talent. And, even more fortuitously, we’re not going to get abused on social media or lose our jobs if our tips don’t pan out. Therefore I’d like to use today’s post to ask you guys who you think can solve England’s Batting Woes. In other words, if you were picking the team for the first test, who would you include (and who would you leave out)? Most cricket betting sites think England will beat Pakistan next month. But unless we can solve our batting woes this might prove a tall order.

I won’t go into detail on James Vince because Mark already has an article lined up that discusses Hampshire’s captain. Personally I would move on (sorry Mark!) because he’s just too frustrating. However, there’s no natural No.3 waiting in the wings – unless you’re in the camp that wants Root to bat there. Therefore Strauss and Smith will have to do some serious head scratching.

The main candidates to bat three are as follows: Alastair Cook (one could call up Hameed to open with Stoneman), Dan Lawrence, Alex Davies, Liam Livingstone, Tom Westley, Sam Hain, Gary Ballance, Chris Nash, Joe Clarke, and Nick Gubbins. The problem, of course, is that only two of these players (Davies and Nash) actually bat 3 for their counties. One could argue that Gubbins batted 3 for the Lions in their ‘tests’ against Windies A, and Hain batted 3 with great success in the subsequent ODIs, but there’s no obviously candidate screaming “pick me”. Not that Big Ed’s iMac would hear him.

There are pros and cons to each candidate. The pros are that they’re all very talented. The negatives are as follows: Dan Lawrence is a bit green, ditto Alex Davies (who doesn’t quite average 40 for Lancs yet), Livingstone looks like a natural 4 or 5 to me, Westley has been found wanting in the past, Hain has mucked around with his technique a bit, Ballance is old news, Clarke is still very young, and Nash is very old and getting older.

The creative option might be to select Gubbins. Although he’s more of an opener at least he made a few runs for the Lions. Luckily for him, he’s from the right sort of family and went to the right school, so at least he ticks those boxes on Strauss and Smith’s spread-sheet. And yes, I am being facetious. I don’t think Gubbins is actually any better than the other candidates.

Talking of the openers, the main candidates are clearly Keaton Jennings and Haseeb Hameed. Personally I prefer the latter, although there’s a case for including both if you don’t think Mark Stoneman has what it takes. And that’s quite a legitimate viewpoint.

The man who probably deserves a shot more than anyone else is Rory Burns. In fact, many Surrey fans think that Burns deserved an England call up more than Stoneman last summer. One can see why: he’s scored over 1000 runs in each of the last four summers. That’s very consistent.

Personally I like the look of Burns. He seems like a good old fashioned player. He leaves the ball pretty well, is prepared to knuckle down, and he drives the ball naturally too – which means he would be a contrast to Alastair Cook even if they’re both left handed. The problem, of course, is that his inclusion might hold Hameed back. Plus England would still have a huge hole at No.3.

Consequently, I’m inclined to think that the ‘move Cook down a slot’ mob might have a point. After all, it would be the only way to include both Hameed and Burns. The only casualty would be Stoneman, who probably hasn’t quite done enough to retain his place anyway.

What do you think? I have to say I’m not particularly enamoured with any of the options. Looks like Ed’s iMac has got its work cut out.

James Morgan

Written in collaboration with Betting Top 10

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Selection Dilemmas


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