England’s chuckers, keepers, and last-chancers
Scapegoating. Backbiting. Ignominy. Introspection. Overhaul? Continuity? It’s been something of a typical winter for England. Who should be spared the cull? Who needs to do one, sharpish? Who's out back having nets, fate dangling from a thread?
WHO SHOULD GO?
Supremely adept at wearing a grey suit, shaking hands, and talking predominantly through his nose and arse while appearing confident in lots of things that appear to everyone else as being irremediably shite (a skill no doubt acquired while working in finance), the time for the ECB's phonecall to Dignitas has come.
In more feverish moments, it feels as though English cricket has become a dystopian sci-fi run by a multi-badged robocoach with the dreary, on-message spiel of a junior minister whose party whip possesses Polaroids of him covered in lube and ramming root vegetables up his corridor of uncertainty. All of which makes him perfect for bringing on the kids, rather than managing the delicate egos of the main team (who, history has shown us as recently as 2008, don't take kindly to drill-sargeantry).
Everyone wants Bell to succeed, sometimes even the opposition. It's those mesmerically beautiful cover drives. But beneath all that grace is a chronically debilitating intensity (watch his face when he gets out) that translates, at crunch time, as ball-munching risk aversion. He will thus probably always be a very good, not great player and it’s time to move on.
Adieu, Ravi, with your face like a bewildered capybara emerging from a k-hole. You're never quite going to quite do the biz, are you? Still, you're quite cuddly.
The problem with being prematurely elevated to quick-bowling duties is that you're probably going to be prematurely ready to be quietly transported to the bone factory. Broad’s nip is now blue-moon rare and his batting entirely without sphincter control. No more.
The next white ball Jimmy should see is on a pool table. A great red-ball operator who is on the cusp of becoming England's leading Test wicket-taker, he has been blagging it in ODIs since his first three World Cup games in 2003.
Tredders will be a not-young-looking 37 by the time England 2019 looms ominously into view, so, like a retiring accountant, he should be given an engraved pen and some earnest thanks for his canny F&G and sterling efforts to hide himself in the field.
WHO SHOULD STAY?
Make him captain. Bat him at No4 to No6, depending on the situation.
Bowling stood up well throughout the tournament, but his batting his been patchy, with an increasingly Wattoish tendency to block or bash. As the boundaries dried up, so did his composure. Still, a gifted shotmaker, if one that needs to show more gears to cement himself at the top of the order.
Another disrupted by England’s tombola top order. Sure, there are doubts about his capacity to hurt or worry top bowling – much has been made of televised domestic hundreds, but slog-sweeping Morkel and the Mitches ain't so easy – yet his obvious doggedness means it would be foolish to write him off or think he couldn't adapt. Deserves chance to fail properly.
In a fair world, Buttler would be president of a republican Britain, not reduced to teaching Morgs the words to the national anthem. As it is, he has been squeezed into a tight box marked 'No7: Escapologist' and has about six months to escape before air runs out and he’s asphyxiated by the English genius for talent-ruination.
Run up, whack it in back of a length, turn, walk back, finger-comb your hair into unidirectionality, repeat. Such has been Woakes’ ODI career, the repeat part of which makes him just about the pick of the attack. And therein lies his destiny: with a better attack around him, his sameyness wouldn't be such an issue.
Sensational fielder, useful tailend slugger and erratic yet slippery bowler, you feel there’s a dynamic and dominant cricketer waiting to get out. However, he’s got to get that radar in for an MOT, pronto.
WHO’S IN LAST-CHANCE SALOON?
Morgs' stock has fallen further than anyone’s over this miserable winter. Pilloried for refusing to sing the anthem by right-wing idiots and mocked for parroting dismal management-speak, it appears he’s in the midst of a prolonged mid-career slump. His captaincy record at Middlesex hardly suggested he'd be a roaring success, mind. Badly needs to discover his mojo, otherwise he should look to ‘do a Kepler’ and re-qualify for the Irish.
A year of building an impressive reputation in international cricket has been chucked into a pokey room with a fan the size of a 747 engine and a binlinerful of faeces, and it’s fair to say the part-time leggie and bare-torsoed victory celebrator has come out of it looking like a Test specialist.
Quite what message Ballance’s continued selection can have transmitted to Alex Hales is anyone’s guess. No world-beater, he still has enough to frighten teams if given licence to swing. However, he will be 30 by the time the next World Cup swings around – potential no longer – and an emerging generation may have moved past him. Now or never to back him.
A wibbling thousand-yard-stare merchant looking likely now to retire forever a work-in-progress. Having started life as a Peperami stick, he’s morphed into a bland and polite stick of celery, the living embodiment of a peculiarly English dish: heavy-handed mismanagement with a side-order of limp compliance. Tragedy.
AND WHO SHOULD BE DRAFTED IN?
Surrey’s slugger is x-factor, no-fear factor, and quite possibly sponsored by Max Factor. New era: new dumb himbo biffers.
Leggies are famously slow to mature, yet Rashid has flourished under Dizzy Gillespie's hands-off simplicity and, in addition to his wicket-taking variety (bowled perhaps 3 or 4 mph too slowly), should bring handy lower-order insurance runs at No8.
A no-brainer. Selecting him for the World Cup would have been hugely counter-intuitive, but his talent has to be backed.
By Scott Oliver
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