England contrived a classic selection dilemma. In naming a depleted squad for the one-day series against Australia they were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t.
It was patently obvious that many of the players involved in an arduous Ashes series needed and deserved a break. The theory on rest and rotation, however, is invariably easier to orchestrate than the practice.
By omitting five first choice players, including the captain, Alastair Cook, the selectors opened themselves up to a charge of short-changing their public. It may not necessarily have helped either in securing a new sponsor for 50-over cricket which the England and Wales Cricket Board are actively seeking for next year.
Eoin Morgan will lead the side both for the single match against Ireland in Dublin next Tuesday and for the five games against Australia. It is another sure sign that the selectors see leadership qualities in Morgan, who has already stepped into the breach several times, although his recent batting form has been fairly moderate.
He has played 17 innings since last scoring an ODI fifty and has had a lean time of it with Middlesex this summer. Only on Monday did he at last find some form by scoring 90 in a YB40 against Leicestershire at Lord’s.
Morgan will not have at his disposal Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson and Graeme Swann, all of whom are regular fixtures in England’s one-day side. But he will have Kevin Pietersen, who remains perhaps England’s most destructive one-day batsman and Jonathan Trott.
National selector, Geoff Miller, said: “Following a very intense period of cricket this summer we have decided to rest a number of senior players which will allow them to recover from a heavy workload over the last three months and to prepare for the tour of Australia which begins in eight weeks.”
In many ways it has allowed England to choose an exciting squad of players who will be contending for places in the World Cup in 2015. Among those are Ben Stokes, of Durham, an all-rounder with high skill in both departments, and Jamie Overton, the Somerset fast bowler who still has an outside chance of a place on the tour of Australia. Altogether five players are uncapped.
There were other omissions based perhaps on form rather than the need for a touch of r and r. Neither Jonny Bairstow, who played in the first four Ashes Tests, nor Chris Woakes, who played in the last, has made the squad despite being regular members recently. There is room for the 32-year-old Michael Carberry who has reinvented himself as one-day batsman and may well win his first limited overs cap.
The twittershpere was awash with suggestions that people who had bought tickets were being cheated with a second string team. The ECB are looking for a new sponsor for 50 over cricket.
NatWest, the present backers, are moving exclusively into Twenty20 next season and will lend their name to the shortest form in all its guises from men’s international down to the club sponsorship. That is the sort of deal the ECB will be seeking for the 50-over game. With the World Cup coming up in 2015 they may well be able to convince potential partners that next summer the stars will definitely return.