Anyone following England 10 years ago could never have thought it would come to this. The improbable state of current affairs was enunciated yesterday by the West Indies coach, Ottis Gibson.
Asked if he was insulted by England's decision to rest three players from the third one-day international, which takes place at Headingley today, Gibson said: "Not really. The English system has been a well-oiled machine for some time now and it's the envy of the world. They are the top team in the world and have the luxury to rest players and it's a credit to them and all the people that work behind the scenes."
Gibson knows whereof he speaks. Before he took up his present post with the West Indies, he was England's bowling coach. He watched the development before his eyes and was instrumental in part of it.
As he observed, England can only rest players – in this case Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann – if they are winning, and part of the reason they are winning is the system they have put in place.
The trouble is that critics continue to insist with some justification , if players need resting, the programme is too crowded and spectators are at risk of being cheated of seeing the star players in regular action.
England still have something of a selection conundrum. They must decide whether to play Jade Dernbach or Stuart Meaker following the death of their Surrey team-mate, Tom Maynard, on Monday. Both are naturally still upset, and Dernbach was particularly close to him.
In the circumstances, when resting is the order of the day, it might have been wiser to allow both to step down. England want to do the right thing by everybody but still have a duty to select the players who are best prepared for the job and not appearing as a tribute to a fallen colleague.
Samit Patel is likely to come in for Swann and Chris Woakes, back to fitness and in splendid all-round form for Warwickshire, should play his first international at home.
Headingley: Details for the third ODI
England A N Cook (capt), I R Bell, I J L Trott, R S Bopara, E J G Morgan, C Kieswetter (wkt), S R Patel, S T Finn, J M Anderson, C R Woakes, S C Meaker.
West Indies C H Gayle, L M P Simmons, M N Samuels, D R Smith, D J Bravo, K A Pollard, D E Ramdin (wkt), D J G Sammy (capt), T B Best, S P Narine, R Rampaul.
Overcast all day, with a high chance of rain throughout the afternoon. Maximum temperature: 14C.
Sky Sports 1, 10.30am-7pm.
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