Andy Flower: Why I had to rest my prize horse
England coach comes out fighting and defends exclusion of Anderson for tomorrow's third Test
Andy Flower yesterday delivered a spirited explanation of England's selection policy which brooked no contradiction. Aware of the less than universal approbation that greeted the decision to omit fast bowler Jimmy Anderson – not least from the player himself – the team's coach recognised it was time someone put the selectors' case.
"When I was thinking of a few comparisons to make I thought: 'Would you enter your prize horse in every race through the year'?" asked Flower. "You wouldn't, you would target the races you want to win. We've won this race already.
"Would you play your most valuable pitcher in every single game in a baseball season? No you wouldn't. In fact, you don't even see them play full games. You pull them out of games because physically it makes sense to do so. Eventually their shoulder or their elbow would go.
"Does Wayne Rooney play every game for Manchester United? No, he doesn't because he would break down if he tried to do so. Brian O'Driscoll does not play every game for Leinster. There is a good reason."
With England 2-0 ahead, Anderson has been rested for the third Test against West Indies which begins at Edgbaston tomorrow as part of a rotation policy designed to prolong careers. But it deprives Anderson of possible Test wickets, something he was not happy about, and the possibility that his replacement could do so well as to preclude a return, something he was still less happy about.
While appreciating Anderson's chagrin, Flower's conviction that it was the correct decision and the right policy was unshakeable. And he conceded that it was still possible that England might also omit Stuart Broad, who was at least included in the 12-man squad for the match, from the XI.
"These types of decisions are made for the good of the team but also they will extend the careers of bowlers like Anderson," said Flower. "I understand the reasons why he is disappointed but it is beneficial to him in the long run.
"Firstly we came into this series with one goal and that was to win the series. We've achieved that goal so obviously our priorities do shift. If it had been 1-1 going into this third Test Jimmy would have played so he is not badly injured and he could play this Test match if we wanted him to. That's not the case. The second point is that the days of us playing our players until they either wear down significantly or snap physically or mentally are over."
Flower's case made perfect sense, though there was a feeling that it could, perhaps should, have been put by National Selector Geoff Miller, who presumably shapes policy, when the squad was announced on Sunday. That might have headed critics off at the pass.
Nor was Flower finished yet. Declining to answer questions on Kevin Pietersen's withdrawal from limited-overs cricket and his part in it, Flower was warming to the rotation theme.
"My third point is we have to try to grow the pool of fast bowlers available to the England side. You would have seen through the Ashes in Australia that it wasn't the same attack that was used throughout that series.
"Over the next couple of years the schedule is incredibly heavy and so it is not only going to be Anderson, Broad and Bresnan who are going to be our bowlers who will be used. My fourth point is the possible replacement or replacements we use in this Test match are fine bowlers in their own right who have already performed very successfully in Test matches in England. I don't see it as devaluing this Test match."
While Flower kept his counsel for now on Pietersen, Jonathan Trott said the players understood the retirement. "Everyone makes decisions in life, you've got to accept it. As a team we've all accepted it and fully support him."
West Indies, meanwhile, have yet to confirm whether mystery off-break bowler Sunil Narine will make his Test debut tomorrow.
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