New Zealand tour squads: Graveney hopes for continuity of selection from his masters

Will the continued confusion over wicketkeepers count against England's top picker?
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The Independent Online

At 9am sharp tomorrow, David Graveney will present himself at Lord's for a job interview. He will attempt to persuade his employers to let him keep the one that he has done diligently and, by and large, successfully for 11 years.

Its name has changed from Chairman of Selectors, a post with an almost mythic status in English cricket, to National Selector, an anodyne title that was one of several barely explicable proposals in the so-called Schofield Review which was established in the wake of Ashes disaster a year ago. The role is unchanged: pick a winning team.

Whatever the merits of the other applicants, they will have to be going some to submit more impressive credentials than Graveney. He has vast experience of English cricket and cricketers, he played 457 first-class matches, has watched as many, and the game courses through his veins. His father, Ken, is one of the 73 players to have taken 10 wickets in an innings since 1848; his uncle, Tom, was one of the great England batsmen of the 20th century.

If the interviewing panel is on their game so early on a Monday morning following the Christmas and New Year break, they may like to test Graveney early in the proceedings. They could ask him to explain the thinking behind the England squad chosen for the tour of New Zealand later this month.

Graveney announced the names (21 in all across the Test and one-day parties and 13 more in the England Lions, formerly the A team, who will go to India) at Lord's on Friday. He recognised it might be the final time he would perform this duty, and took the opportunity to let his senior players know it was about time they delivered.

In the 11 years since he became chairman, Graveney had never before been quite so direct. His usual mantra, indeed, has been to press the need for continuity in selection.

There were two significant changes to the party that toured Sri Lanka before Christmas. Andrew Strauss, the opening batsman, has been recalled in place of the middle-order batsman Ravi Bopara, and Tim Ambrose is preferred as wicketkeeper to Matt Prior. Both selections appear to lack logic. What has Strauss done since he was omitted to merit reselection? He has not batted, so cannot have persuaded selectors by dint of a return to form. Equally, perhaps, he has not dissuaded them by a lack of it. Perhaps the selectors think he has benefited from the rest, though a proper rest would undoubtedly have embraced the entire winter.

Strauss had been increasingly careworn and has hardly had time since his last innings on 23 September to recharge empty batteries. He is a risk, based on England's poverty-stricken batting lately, and it will require yet more meddling with the order.

England's wicketkeeping isin a mess. Ambrose has been picked because Prior was deemed to have underperformed so badly in the Third Test against Sri Lanka, when he failed totake three eminently catchable chances, that he could not be trusted further. Yet nothing really suggests that Ambrose can do better. His career batting average is almost four runs an innings fewer than Prior's.

Chris Read remains comfortably the best wicketkeeper of those available for selection, with a batting average scarcely worse than that of Ambrose. But Prior, for all his shortcomings, deserved to have been retained. He batted with aplomb in Sri Lanka and had to keep wicket in intense heat. The selectors seem to be acknowledging their own shortcomings.

It would be intriguing tohear Graveney's answers, if the interview panel decide to pursue these issues. After 11 years, in which he has sometimes managed to deserve his reputation as the great survivor, he should have them.

The England and Wales Cricket Board are giving no details of the interview process. The official line is that it "is not company policy", an absurdly pompous response which forgets that they are dealing with a sport.

Graveney, however, can point to the fact that England have won 52 and lost 45 of the 133 matches in his tenure while using 80 players, compared to 27 wins, 54 losses and 103 players in the preceding 133. It will take a good man to beat him.

Test squad: M P Vaughan (capt; age 33, caps 73), T R Ambrose (25, 0), J M Anderson (25, 20), I R Bell (25, 33), S C J Broad (21, 1), P D Collingwood (31, 30), A N Cook (23, 24), S J Harmison (29, 56), M J Hoggard (31, 66), P Mustard (25, 0), M S Panesar (25, 23), K P Pietersen (27, 33), O A Shah (29, 2), R J Sidebottom (29, 10), A J Strauss(30, 43), G P Swann (28, 0).

One day squad: P D Collingwood (capt; caps 136), T R Ambrose (0), J M Anderson (81), I R Bell (59), R S Bopara (age 22, 19), S C J Broad (21),A N Cook (16), A D Mascarenhas (30, 7), P Mustard(5), K P Pietersen (66), O A Shah (31), R J Sidebottom (8), G P Swann (5), J C Tredwell (25, 0),C T Tremlett (26, 8), L J Wright (22, 2).

England Lions squad: M H Yardy (capt), Kabir Ali, M A Carberry, S M Davies, J L Denly, J C Hildreth, E C Joyce, G Onions, M S Panesar, L E Plunkett, A Rashid, A Richardson, I J L Trott.

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