England announced their squad for March’s World T20, making a late bid to match their previous and astounding heights of omnishambles over the last few years. The selection of Liam Dawson, apparently on the back of a good Lions tour, is certainly eyebrow raising. Trevor Bayliss’ swiftly made it clear one way or the other than if it all goes horribly wrong it ain’t down to him guv, by openly stating he hadn’t seen him play and that he was trusting the selectors. The tone is so often the giveaway, and saying he was a good fielder “apparently” spoke volumes. Of course, it’s not remotely Dawson’s fault, and he will be rightly thrilled and excited at his call up. That James Whitaker stated it was on the back of the Lions tour may have been because it’s rather hard to state it was due to last year’s T20 blast when he failed to take a wicket. Stephen Parry can count himself unfortunate.
Dawson may well go on to be a success, and there is nothing at all wrong with selections based on a hunch that the player will go well, but there is the suspicion that he will be little more than drinks carrier on this trip.
Broad too has been omitted, which rather makes his call up to the ODI series in South Africa somewhat peculiar, as he could have been given the time off to recover if he wasn’t going to be in the squad. As it stands, and given he isn’t playing in that series so far, it seems pointless to make England’s key Test bowler hang around.
The selectors have managed to thoroughly pretend the various T20 competitions going on around the world don’t exist by ignoring Luke Wright. England play too few T20 matches for there to be a pattern of international success to draw upon, and Wright is unquestionably a specialist in this form of the game.
And then there’s Kevin Pietersen. His non-selection is a surprise to no-one, but the idea that England have six better T20 batsmen to draw upon is laughable. It is thus a team selection for reasons other than cricketing ones. Some will approve of that, many will not. No one will be shocked, but the ECB once again are making it clear that teams are not decided on what players can do on the field. They could have made the argument that they felt others would be more effective, which would be open to question, but a cricketing decision. Instead they said that he wasn’t even discussed, and thus confirming the point that cricketing matters were not the focus. As ever, the point is not about one player’s presence or otherwise, but what that means for all others going forward – if they don’t like you, then no matter how many runs or wickets you might take, you will not get in the side.
Some have suggested that England are amongst the favourites for the tournament, but the bowling looks somewhat thin for India conditions. Even so, in competition cricket, they may well find a way, for not too many would have pointed to Ryan Sidebottom being so outstanding in the one global tournament England have ever won. Steven Finn is in the squad despite his injury, and he is the one member of that attack shorn of Stuart Broad who looks a wicket-taker, his fitness is critical to England’s chances.
The fundamental objection to the ECB remains that they would prefer not to give themselves the best chance of winning something, in favour of internal politics.
As a statement of policy, it takes some beating.