Wednesday, January 19, 2011

England take backwards step in World Cup selection

Having done so well recently it is hard to criticise England under Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss. After navigating their way serenely through the Ashes to record a historic 3-1 victory over the old enemy, English cricket is in a position to push on after this victory, not fade away as they did so spectacularly after the 2005 Ashes win.

Cue the announcement of the 15 men charged with bringing the World Cup trophy home with them alongside the Ashes.

Surrey Wicket Keeper Steve Davies looked set to go to the World Cup in February having been in charge of the gloves from Pakistan’s summer tour of England to the Twenty20 series and the start of the ODI series against Australia. Now he has been unceremoniously dumped by the selection panel and the decision will only serve to turn the spotlight on the selectors themselves.

In his brief stint in the team, bigfreebet would likely have considered Davies to have done more than enough to warrant a place in the squad. Averaging just shy of 35, the former Warwickshire glovesman also had an impressive strike rate of over 100 runs per 100 balls. Crucially test keeper Matt Prior has a far inferior average in the early 20’s and his strike rate is somewhat less spectacular than Davies’s.

But more than statistics the decision to replace Davies with Prior seems to go against all that England have been building for the previous two years. The foundations of the emergence of English cricket have been built on selection consistency giving the players the confidence to go out and play.

Alistair Cook was given time to correct his game after a barren spell left him desperately short of runs ahead of the test series against Australia. Davies has made an excellent start to his one day career and no indication was given of the impending decision to drop him from the team, making it all the more baffling.

Davies will not doubt be angered by the decision after sitting patiently through the Ashes series with an eye on the ODI’s and the World Cup.

Why was Davies selected for the first one day international against Australia on Sunday if the selection panel had no intention of taking him to the World Cup?
The selection of Prior harks back to the days of relying on big names rather than big performances, and should sound the alarm bells for England supporters. Mark Ramprakash called the decision “strange” and at the very least represents a sudden change in policy.

England coach Andy Flower will defend the move suggesting Prior’s excellent Ashes series, where he averaged over 50 (then again Chris Tremlett had an excellent ashes series but was dropped in place of Ajmal Shahzad, so where is the logic there?) and has suggested his game is suited to the pitches England will face on the sub-continent. Prior is certainly a leader on the pitch and as wicket keeper is a ball of energy and hub for the team.

Big free bet will see him as one of the more dangerous wicket-keepers at the World Cup, but he has not shown himself as clinical as Davies in the shorter form of the game.

The only way for Prior’s inclusion to be vindicated is for the Sussex man to score bug runs at the tournament. The sudden inconsistency displayed is worrying ahead of a competition that England will expect to do well in. Davies looked to be establishing himself by scoring runs at a pace needed in international one day cricket that Prior has so far showed himself unable to do. What more can Steve Davies do?

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