Geoff Miller, England’s chairman of selectors, has defended the decision not to include Matt Prior in the 30-man provisional squad for this summer’s Champions Trophy, despite the Sussex wicketkeeper-batsman’s Test heroics against New Zealand.
Jos Buttler, Craig Kieswetter and part-time wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow were all named alongside uncapped players James Harris, Chris Wright, Varun Chopra and Gary Ballance in the initial selection which will be trimmed to 15 players next month.
The continued absence of Prior - who has not played a one-day international since the 2011 World Cup and averages just 24.18 from 68 matches - was expected, even after his performances in New Zealand, where an unbeaten 110 in the final Test in Auckland helped salvage a series draw.
That innings was enough to propel him into the top 10 of the international batting rankings for the first time in his career, but even though Miller admitted he had considered recalling the 31-year-old, the selectors opted to stick with the squad who came from behind to beat New Zealand in their latest ODI series.
“We did discuss it - obviously Matt’s played very well and showed his worth in New Zealand from both an attacking and defensive viewpoint,” Miller said. “He’s not been involved for a couple of years and he has had many chances in the past to show what he can do. We know what he’s capable of but we have pursued other options in the past two years and we’ll continue to go in that direction.
“There are three wicketkeepers in the squad already and adding Matt would have imbalanced it.”
After making his one-day international debut in 2004 against Zimbabwe as an opener, Prior has flattered to deceive in the short form of the game and only has three half-centuries to his name with a top score of 87 coming against the West Indies in 2009. He earned a surprise recall for the 2011 World Cup after being dropped 11 months previously, but only managed a top score of 22 not out.
Kieswetter was earmarked as his long-term replacement following his starring role in England’s Twenty20 World Cup success in 2010, but the Somerset wicketkeeper was replaced by county team-mate Buttler for the fourth one-day international against India in January. Buttler has averaged just 9.60 in his four innings so far.
Miller is confident that England can mount a challenge on home soil. “This is a balanced squad which will provide the selectors with strong options in all areas and reflects players’ performances for both the senior England teams and the England Lions and England Performance Programme squads over the winter period,” he said.
“With this country hosting the tournament for the first time since 2004, there will be every incentive for England to perform well and we anticipate intense competition for places in our final squad.”
Prior is one of five members of the Performance Squad announced earlier this week who will not feature in the Champions Trophy, along with Nick Compton, Monty Panesar, Michael Lumb and Chris Tremlett. Nottinghamshire batsman James Taylor, who was surprisingly left out of the Performance Squad, has been included along with the Warwickshire all-rounder Rikki Clarke.
Of the uncapped quartet, new Middlesex seamer James Harris has the best chance of making the final cut on 5 May, although England are expected to stick with tried and tested performers like Stuart Broad and Jade Dernbach as they attempt to win their inaugural ICC one-day title.