Captain Cook is thrown overboard for Twenty20
England's leader in Bangladesh is left out of 30-man squad for World T20 tournament
From hero to zero might be pushing it a bit but Alastair Cook ought still to have been justifiably miffed. Six weeks ago he was England's captain in a Twenty20 international and yesterday he failed to make the provisional squad for the World Twenty20 tournament in May.
If it was typical of the selectors' hard-nosed, no-nonsense approach in their latest incarnation, it made little pragmatic sense. Indeed, it was the sort of omission that can destabilise teams. The chap commanding the ship is now no longer wanted on board. It is a crass piece of man-management and it may well be a wrong-headed selection.
Cook is the England captain on this tour of Bangladesh, leading the side in the three one-day internationals – the second of which is today – and the two Test matches. He was in the Twenty20 squad for the matches in South Africa and for those in Dubai a fortnight ago when, had something happened to the official T20 captain, Paul Collingwood, he might well have had to take over.
Quite why Cook is not considered to be among the 30 most accomplished T20 players in England only the selectors know. At the end of last season he virtually reinvented himself at his county, Essex, scored 337 T20 runs at 48 and on Sunday night exhibited his revolutionary new limited-overs method to splendid effect in the team's victory over Bangladesh in the opening one-dayer.
National selector Geoff Miller was at pains to emphasise yesterday that the formats of the game demand diverse qualities. "I don't think it's odd at all," he said. "There's a dramatic difference between 50-over and 20-over cricket. We didn't think Alastair was a 20-over player so he wasn't selected, to prove us wrong. He is improving his 50 overs, that might work at Twenty20 as well. We don't see he has got over that mark."
Dramatic differences indeed, but every other member of the party for the one-day, 50-over series in Bangladesh is in the 30 and the probability is that almost all of them will go to the World Twenty20, which starts in the West Indies in late April.
Stability alone dictated Cook's inclusion. It is possible that Cook would not have made the final 15 for the tournament but since he is captain here, in a position which is already delicate because he is standing in for Andrew Strauss, it might just have been more politic to put him in the provisional party.
On a tour made difficult precisely because England are expected to win, Cook is bound to feel affected. He led the side well when they were under early assault from Bangladesh on Sunday and will be in charge in tonight's second match of a team unlikely to be altered.
Toughness has to be tempered with sense sometimes. Given his omission and Craig Kieswetter's inclusion, it is distinctly possible that England will have yet another brand new opening partnership when the World Twenty20 starts. This would be audacity in the extreme.
There are five uncapped players in yesterday's party but it is difficult to think that any of them will be named. Ravi Bopara (below, left) and Owais Shah have both been recalled. If this is slightly surprising when it was thought that Shah had had his day and Bopara was being put out to grass awhile, the selectors have been shrewd enough to notice that both may have a chance to press their claims for the West Indies tournament by showing decent form in the Indian Premier League that precedes it.
There are two other potential sticking points. England's elite cricketers have still to sign the central contracts they were offered late last summer. They are playing under tour contracts tied to their terms of employment a year earlier.
"It doesn't worry me at all," Miller said. "They know what's required of them out on the field. I'm not over- happy with the situation that they're not signed immediately. There is a possibility of it affecting things on the field but it certainly hasn't been a problem as far as performance, dedication and effort."
Kevin Pietersen's inclusion in the squad is also fraught with potential problems. As England's leading T20 scorer (second only to Brendon McCullum in the world list) Pietersen is an obvious choice despite his recent international lull.
But Pietersen's wife, Jessica, is expecting the couple's first child sometime in May. It may or may not coincide with the tournament but Pietersen intends to be at the birth. Given the time frame, England are taking a chance.
Pietersen is no doubt doing exactly the right thing but, if the baby has not been born when the team depart, it may be decidedly tricky in the middle and in the maternity unit.
England squad for World Twenty20:
P D Collingwood (capt), J M Anderson, I R Bell, R S Bopara, T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, S M Davies, J L Denly, S T Finn, C Kieswetter, M J Lumb, S I Mahmood, A D Mascarenhas, E J G Morgan, G Onions, K P Pietersen, L E Plunkett, M J Prior, A U Rashid, O A Shah, A Shahzad, R J Sidebottom, G P Swann, J C Tredwell, P D Trego, J Trott, D J Wainwright, C R Woakes, L J Wright, M H Yardy.
Second ODI: Possible teams
T Iqbal, I Kayes, Z Siddiqi, A Ahmed, S Al Hasan (capt), M Rahim (wkt), M Ullah, N Islam, M Bin Mortaza, A Razzaq, S Islam
A N Cook (capt), C Kieswetter, K P Pietersen, P D Collingwood, E J O Morgan, M J Prior (wkt), L J Wright, T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, G P Swann, R J Sidebottom
Umpires: N Shah and R J Tucker (Aus)
Venue: Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur
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