The dropping of Steve Harmison, Owais Shah and Ravi Bopara from both the test and ODI respective squads is probably down to the influence of Andy Flower flexing his muscles and would appear to be another sign of his forward planning to mould a 15-16 man unit in what he would regard as men of a particular attitude.
Gone are the men who can provide a flash of brilliance, the players who on their day – allbeit the days were never frequent enough – can smash the bowling all round the park with the massive six hitting power of Shah, the elegant stroke playing of Ravi Bopara and the destructive bowling with pace and bounce of Steve Harmison. All to be replaced with the not so pleasing on the eye steady batsmen, the line and length workmanlike but not so threatening (unless helpful pitch & conditions) same type bowlers.
With the exception of the inclusion of Luke Wright – who most would consider not really a test class player – the selectors have played it safe with a very risk free squad in the conservative mould of both Strauss and Flower. Not much flair, but plenty of discipline and grafters.
The type of thinking that led to conservative declarations in West Indies earlier this year, the less risky option (but correct) in the selection of Jonathon Trott for the Oval test when all where calling for recalls for Ramprakash, Trescothick etc.
The recall of Alastair Cook to the ODI squad further brings the two units closer together in terms of personel, five batsmen, one wicketkeeper and six bolwers are named in both touring squads as it now looks more like England are going back to the basics of ‘your best players are your best players in any form of cricket’.
With Cook in particular this is a prime example of a man getting picked (in the ODI squad) for his temperament and personality rather than any ODI expertise. He may have got a couple of Pro40 centuries towards the end of the English summer but they were hardly classic knocks. I also believe it is because Flower has identified him as his next captain and wants him around as much as possible in both forms.
The pragmatism of Strauss, Cook, Collingwood, Plunkett, Onions etc will give England a more predictable blandness to their team in South Africa, Jonathon Trott’s inclusion is another safe bet as well, lets hope the flair of Pietersen in both forms can be backed up by one or two other stroke makers such as Bell in the tests and Morgan in ODI’s. And in the bowling department Anderson can become more of a strike bowler, backed up by Broad to complement the line and length at the other end.
I just hope Flower and Strauss have got the balance right and haven’t gone too far down the ‘play it safe road’ as it will be a far harder watch if England are playing boring cricket as opposed to attacking cricket, especially if it is losing cricket.
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