True to their declared policy, England yesterday rotated a fast bowler. With the team already 2-0 up in the series of three Tests against West Indies, Jimmy Anderson had to turn on his heel and away from the England dressing room.
The action was much more contentious than the intention. Anderson has been omitted from the squad for the final match at Edgbaston on Thursday and will be replaced by either Steve Finn or Graham Onions. Both of them could play if it is also decided to rest Stuart Broad, though that decision is now out of the hands of the whole selection panel and will be taken by the coach, Andy Flower, and the captain, Andrew Strauss.
Anderson is miffed by the omission. It deprives him of a chance to take Test wickets as he heads for an England record, and he is overdue a hatful against these tourists, and also deserves them.
England felt it was imperative to give him a rest now with tough series coming up, later this summer against South Africa and this autumn against India. Throughout his tenure, Flower has expressed belief in the policy without ever having been able to do much about it, except for a series in Bangladesh two years ago which was played out of necessity. Anderson missed that too, rather more obligingly.
There are sound reasons for allowing Anderson, a true master of his craft, to spend a little more time with his family. Most of them, however, come back to the fact that England (and every other national team) play too much. Fifteen Test matches this year are accompanied by 18 one-day internationals and a total of Twenty20s dependent on progress in the world championship.
Player burnout, since that is what it amounts to, is being acknowledged in pursuit of another buck. By England's own admission the best team is not being picked, though they might counter that by saying Onions and Finn are being scrutinised in Test conditions. Spectators, of whom there look likely to be too few at Edgbaston, are entitled not to see understudies if that is avoidable.
If this had been the deciding Test for the Ashes, or come to think of it any other match but this, Anderson would have played. The National Selector, Geoff Miller, is naturally taciturn in discussing selection, which is at odds with his other occupation as a (brilliant) after-dinner speaker. But he has done himself and his fellow selectors few favours by declining to expand on Anderson's omission and the policy in general, beyond it being in the best interests of player and team. Rotation will only happen when teams are winning, of course. The rest of the time it is being dropped.
For third Test against West Indies:
A J Strauss (capt, Midds), J M Bair-stow (Yorks), I R Bell (Warwicks), T T Bresnan (Yorks), S C J Broad (Notts), A N Cook (Essex), S T Finn (Midds), G Onions (Durham), K P Pietersen (Surrey), M J Prior (wkt, Sussex), G P Swann (Notts), I J L Trott (Warwicks).