Graveney adds to Read's misery

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The Independent Online

England's selectors demonstrated yesterday that they are perfectly willing to lead the way in one-day cricket innovation by naming five moderate fielders in the squad for the NatWest Series. In a form of the game that requires men who can preferably run like Carl Lewis and dive like Greg Louganis, it is a novel, not to mention risky, experiment.

England's selectors demonstrated yesterday that they are perfectly willing to lead the way in one-day cricket innovation by naming five moderate fielders in the squad for the NatWest Series. In a form of the game that requires men who can preferably run like Carl Lewis and dive like Greg Louganis, it is a novel, not to mention risky, experiment.

The panel also took the contentious decision to drop the country's best wicketkeeper, Chris Read, and replace him with Geraint Jones, who is the superior batsman. Jones will have his work cut out. He will have to try to match Read's speed of hands, to emulate him by standing up to seam bowlers and thus severely curtail batsmen's options, while also trying to cajole some fieldsmen not renowned for their nimbleness and agility.

Jones is one of three newcomers to the squad who drew 2-2 with the West Indies recently. Sajid Mahmood, the Lancashire fast bowler with a proclivity for bowling balls that take wickets, has been given his first opportunity to state his international credentials. Robert Key has been recalled, having been in prolific first-class form for Kent, although his one-day returns have been thin.

The selectors have dropped Read, Rikki Clarke, James Kirtley and Gareth Batty. They have retained Darren Gough, who looked spent at one stage in the Caribbean but continues to rage against the dying of the light, and Anthony McGrath, who did not play a single game during the winter. They also resisted the temptation (not for the first time) to call up Ian Bell as well as Glamorgan's in-form Michael Powell.

If Read were to feel aggrieved by his omission it would be understandable. David Graveney said the decision was one of the hardest made in his seven years as chairman of selectors. He went to see Read in Bath, where Nottinghamshire were playing yesterday, to explain the reasons. He may well have found himself short of words.

"He was very disappointed indeed," Graveney said. "We have an outstanding crop of young wicketkeepers in the country at the moment and we looked at the strengths and weaknesses of Chris and Geraint and we are happy with the package we have in Geraint."

Read has done nothing wrong in his time as England's one-day wicketkeeper. Indeed, he has done most things right. He has a commendable record of 38 victims in 28 matches, he has a strike rate of 71 and in the West Indies that was 98. His wicketkeeping is exemplary, and bearing in mind that all runs are vital in one-dayers, a bye here or there could be costly.

By now, it would seem to be clear that if Read scored 2,000 runs in a season and claimed 150 victims he would not be in the team. The selectors, however, must be feeling pleased with themselves at their recent run. Both Jones and Andrew Strauss have been triumphs in the Test team.

But the gamble on indifferent fieldsmen looks reckless. Key, delightful batsman and chap though he is, is not the sleekest around the deep. Ian Blackwell, Anthony McGrath, Marcus Trescothick and Gough all move like Massey-Fergusons rather Jaguars. The squad contains only two truly outstanding fielders in Strauss and Paul Collingwood. Graveney said it was about achieving balance.

Still, it would have been hard to keep Key waiting. His selection should put an end to the spurious theory that England are actually looking for one-day players in picking the one-day squad. In going for Key, they are seeking a way to get him back into the Test side as soon as possible. Had they picked Bell and he had done well, he would have overtaken Key in the race for a Test place. That would have complicated things.

It does not mean much for the World Cup in 2007, but if it means anything it is probably that England will not win it.

Squad: M P Vaughan (Yorkshire, capt) Age 29 Apps 44, M E Trescothick (Somerset) 28 79, A J Strauss (Middlesex) 27 6, P D Collingwood (Durham) 28 47, A Flintoff (Lancashire) 26 71, I D Blackwell (Somerset) 26 21, A F Giles (Warwickshire) 31 35, G O Jones (Kent, wkt) 27 0, R W T Key (Kent) 25 2, D Gough (Essex) 33 126, J M Anderson (Lancashire) 21 31, S J Harmison (Durham) 25 11, S I Mahmood (Lancashire) 22 0, A McGrath (Yorkshire) 28 10.

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