Five months out from the World Cup, England’s selectors still appear to be at sixes and sevens in the world of one-day cricket. The only certain place in the tournament is perhaps the most contentious.
It was confirmed on Wednesday that Alastair Cook, the captain whose position has been scrutinised more than this year’s A-level results, will still be there in Australia and New Zealand next February whatever happens between now and then. Unless Cook starts scoring some meaningful limited-overs runs in the 12 matches potentially available, he will arrive being derided and doubted, a role with which he has become depressingly familiar this year but will be no use whatever for his side’s prospects.
James Whitaker, the national selector, offered his undiluted support for Cook after naming the squad which will play seven ODIs in Sri Lanka in November and December. “We debated all the positions in the team and Alastair’s was no different, but we are 100 per cent committed behind Alastair to captain not only in Sri Lanka but also the World Cup,” Whitaker said.
“He’s had his ups and downs in the summer but he’s shown immense dignity and fortitude and we are 100 per cent behind him.” On balance a 100 per cent vote of confidence is probably better than 150 per cent backing.
The rest of the 16-man party contained the bulk of the players who lost 3-1 to India in the recent ODI series at home. But continued uncertainty was reflected in the recalls of Ravi Bopara and James Taylor. Bopara was dropped from the squad against India, an omission that was swiftly seen as folly such is his vast experience.
Taylor has earned his place after playing only two previous ODIs, both in Ireland, in 2011 and 2013. He has all but beaten down the selectors’ door after three recent hundreds in the domestic 50-overs competition. The first two last month failed to move them but the third for Nottinghamshire against Durham in the semi-final of the Royal London Cup seems to have been decisive.
It is known that Whitaker is a huge supporter of Taylor, a diminutive dasher with technical flaws, but his position comes at the expense of Gary Ballance, one of the discoveries of England’s season. Although Ballance has yet to transfer his impressive Test form to the one-day arena it would have been only a matter of time.
England resisted the opportunity to pick a squad for Sri Lanka which might have been more suited to the slow pitches there. Rightly, they see team bonding as much more important.
Adil Rashid and Stephen Parry, two spinners picked for the winter Performance Programme which was also named, will accompany the main party for the warm-up period in Sri Lanka. England need all the help against spin they can muster and their hosts have plenty of it.
England: Alastair Cook (captain), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler, Steven Finn, Harry Gurney, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, James Taylor, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes.
Schedule: 21 & 23 Nov Two warm-up matches v Sri Lanka A
26 Nov-16 Dec Seven-match ODI series v Sri LankaReuse content