Selectors have failed to prepare for Ashes series
England’s selectors this summer have not selected. It is their job to stand back and prepare for the future, while England’s captain and head coach focus on the present, and they have hardly done so.
After the practice game between the Stokes XI and Buttler’s XI at the start of July, it was clear that England’s best attack for the next Ashes series – now only 15 months away – would consist of Jofra Archer, Ollie
Robinson and probably the revamped Craig Overton, backed by Ben Stokes and a spinner. Only when these bowlers needed a rest this summer should England have resorted to their abundant resources of seam and swing.
Unless Robinson is a late call-up for the third Test team, nothing has been done. Archer has been given three Tests as third or fourth seamer, and bowled like one. He should have been leading the attack. Who is the bowler most likely to take 20 wickets in the next Ashes series, when England have to take more than 80 to win? Nobody in the last Test, where the pace bowling was designed to maximise English conditions: James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran, all with far better records at home than abroad.
Instead the selectors – Ed Smith, James Taylor and Chris Silverwood, also head coach – have allowed Anderson and Broad to dictate selection. As soon as one is omitted, their PR campaign swings into action. Anderson had a triumph in Australia in 2010-11 by being relentlessly accurate and getting the Kookaburra to reverse-swing, but even so his record in Australia is 60 wickets at 35 runs each in 18 Tests;
Broad’s is 34 wickets at 37 each in 12 Tests; Woakes has taken 10 wickets at 49 each in four Tests.
In addition to those statistics is the scarring. An English cricketer who is exposed as a failure in a Test series in Australia is broken: not finished, because he might well carry on playing county or even Test cricket, but he is not going to succeed in an Ashes series in Australia. It is the unscarred who win in that particular environment.
The defect in the present panel has been highlighted. England need a selector who has been there and done that. The existing three have played 16 Tests between them. Only one has played a Test in Australia, Silverwood, who featured in one, when he was injured after four overs. Collectively they possess the data, but none knows from experience what is involved in winning, and losing, in Australia.
To make the big call, and tell Anderson or Broad that somebody younger needs to take the new ball instead, a selector who is a former player of distinction is required. Australia’s selectors have always been ruthless in informing a player his time has come, and he has to go for the sake of the team’s evolution. England’s bowling has been going up a cul-de-sac this summer, not on the road to Brisbane.
Strike bowler: Jofra Archer has been third or fourth seamer this summer instead of leading the England attack