This country's best young players are set to be given the chance to show they have what it takes to become international cricketers when England's selectors tomorrow announce their one-day squad for this summer's matches against Pakistan, South Africa and Zimbabwe. With the memory of England's failed attempt to win the World Cup now bringing nothing more than a sigh, it is time for young talents such as James Troughton of Warwickshire and Will Jefferson of Essex to stake a claim for 2007.
As a survivor from South Africa, Michael Vaughan, the new one-day captain, will be in a minority on 17 June when he steps out to take on Pakistan. The side could contain only four players that played in England's last one-day international, a defeat to Australia in Port Elizabeth. The main reasons for such wholesale change, other than altering a team some way short of being good enough to win the World Cup, are retirement and injury. Nasser Hussain, Alec Stewart, Nick Knight and Andy Caddick chose England's exit as the right time to say goodbye, while Craig White and Paul Collingwood are struggling to overcome long-term injuries.
Such holes have created an opportunity for the selectors to show some verve. Before doing this they have to decide whether England start planning for 2007 now or pick a team to win the next match. It would be easy if they could do both with one side, but this is not the case. The age of the players they pick will depend on which policy they select.
Given that Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, is keen to unite both teams, this squad is likely to err on the side of youth. Through doing this Fletcher and Vaughan will be able to look at potential Test players as well as develop a side for the next World Cup.
After a superb all-round display against Zimbabwe there will be a lot of pressure to pick Mark Butcher. No England player, since limited-overs cricket started, has played more Test matches - 51 - without gaining a single one-day cap than the Surrey opener. His selection is not straight-forward however.
The 30-year-old is at best a reluctant bowler because of groin problems that affected him earlier in his career. The danger is that bowling regularly could lead to injury and the loss of his Test place. This is a risk he and the selectors seem reluctant to take. That Butcher has failed to get into Surrey's one-day side since May 2002 does not work in his favour, although he was dropped from their first-class team at the start of this season and look what happened.
One player certain to have been picked, had he not broken his thumb playing for Nottinghamshire, is Chris Read. Wicketkeepers are a tough breed but this cruel blow is set to give Essex's James Foster the first stab at filling Stewart's shoes.
Troughton, the grandson of Patrick Troughton, a former Dr Who, has started the season in wonderful form. After scoring more than 1,000 runs in 2002 the left-hander has not suffered from a bout of second-year blues like his team-mate Ian Bell. Despite this Bell is still one of the brightest talents in English cricket and should be given the opportunity to bat in the middle order.
Finding a shirt big enough to fit the frame of Jefferson could be a difficult task for the kit manufacturer. Standing at 6ft 10in, the Essex opener is the tallest man playing first-class cricket in England. Being tall can be a disadvantage for a batsman, but Jefferson has been impressive and his height and reach offer a completely different set of problems for bowlers.
After a fine Test debut Anthony McGrath can expect to add a one-day cap to his collection and Adam Hollioake can expect a belated recall. England's bowling line-up, young and inexperienced at the World Cup, will not change a great deal. He may be huffing and puffing, but the selectors must ignore the noises being made by Darren Gough. Vaughan would welcome him back, but nobody can guarantee his body will last four days bowling, never mind four years. Sadly his time has gone.
FRASER'S ENGLAND SQUAD: M P Vaughan (capt), M E Trescothick, W I Jefferson, J O Troughton, I R Bell, R T W Key, A McGrath, A J Hollioake, A Flintoff, A F Giles, J S Foster, J M Anderson, M J Hoggard, R J Kirtley, S J Harmison.Reuse content