ICL: Indian Cricket League

Players sweat on Stanford place


It’s the $20million question. Who are England going to take to Antigua for the Stanford Super Series and thereby hand a chance of the biggest payday of their careers? On Tuesday those lucky few will be announced, along with the one-day squad to tour India and the next batch of central contracts. Players will be hanging by the phone more than usual.

Given the cohesive unit Kevin Pietersen has formed in the first few weeks of his captaincy, the Stanford game throws up a few potential difficulties. There are going to be some very disappointed players who miss out on the trip and it will be one of Pietersen’s challenges to make sure any feelings of resentment don’t linger. It’s possible that a couple of players who don’t go to Antigua will still be named for India. Four weeks travelling between the likes of Guwahati and Jamshedpur doesn’t sound quite as appealing as a week by the beach.

However, if the selectors want to give England the best chance of claiming the bounty they will have to banish all thoughts of keeping people happy. England haven’t yet found a Twenty20 formula that works consistently; from a financial point of view November 1 would be a good time to start.

As with most squads, the majority of places are decided fairly easily. The core of the side remains the same from 50-over to 20-over cricket. It’s those few variables that will provide the tricky decisions. An extra batsman? How many spinners? Quick bowlers versus allrounders?

He has come to the party very late, but Steve Harmison is back in favour with everyone that matters. It will be a gamble to play him, but such is Twenty20 that any bowler can suddenly be taken for 10 an over. Wickets are important, too, and four good overs from Harmison can win a game. If England take just 13 players it will be difficult to squeeze in four quicks, so Ryan Sidebottom could be left to rue his brittle second half to the season. For 18 months he has carried England’s attack, but sentiment isn’t going to win anyone any money.

The key also lies in having players who can slot in and play a number of roles, so Ravi Bopara should travel as he can be a spare batsman, fill-in bowler and is lively in the field. No place, however, for Alastair Cook whose game is not suited to Twenty20. The matches will all be played on Allen Stanford’s postage-stamp ground near the airport, but that doesn’t mean spin should be discounted. The slow bowlers have been matchwinners in all conditions in Twenty20, so Graeme Swann should catch the plane, alongside Samit Patel, and keep his dream of a pink Ferrari alive. Again, he is also a multi-dimensional cricketer.

With the uniqueness of the prize on offer there will be a clamour for the selectors to be bold. Graham Napier is the name that comes out on top after his unbeaten 152 against Sussex in June. He followed it with a couple of other eye-catching displays, but there has certainly been a case of bandwagon-jumping with all the talk of him being an England player. Twenty20 specialists were tried in South Africa last year - remember Chris Schofield, Darren Maddy, Jeremy Snape and James Kirtley? - with little success.

After Stanford’s 20-20 for 20 it’s back to the day job. Seven ODIs around some of the less-trodden paths of India. This will be the true guide of Pietersen’s captaincy, Harmison’s drive and the new-found team spirit.

After a 4-0 series win against South Africa there won’t be many changes. The one major question mark is the spare batsman. According to Peter Moores, Cook has been “working hard” on his one-day batting, but is he really the man to take on the Powerplays in India if Ian Bell goes down sick on the morning of a game? Joe Denly, the Kent opener, has been consistently impressive in one-day cricket this season and, unlike Cook, can confidently go over the infield and isn’t afraid to use his feet. Cook will probably tour - team bonding and all that - but a Denly debut would be a bold selection.

The final major announcement on Tuesday will be the 12-month central contracts. Expect them to confirm the end of Matthew Hoggard’s career and the fact that the only way back for Michael Vaughan will be a mountain of runs. For the second year running there is unlikely to be a wicketkeeper in the contracted list, although Matt Prior is now set for a long run in all forms of the game. That means a return to the Test squad when it is named at the end of the month, but for now he’ll be more than happy with his Twenty20 place.

Squad for Stanford (probable) Kevin Pietersen (capt), Ian Bell, Matt Prior (wk), Owais Shah, Andrew Flintoff, Paul Collingwood, Ravi Bopara, Samit Patel, Graeme Swann, Luke Wright, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Steve Harmison

India ODI tour (probable) Kevin Pietersen (capt), Ian Bell, Alastair Cook/Joe Denly, Matt Prior (wk), Owais Shah, Andrew Flintoff, Paul Collingwood, Ravi Bopara, Samit Patel, Graeme Swann, Luke Wright, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Steve Harmison, Ryan Sidebottom

Central contracts (probable) Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom, James Anderson, Steve Harmison, Monty Panesar

Source:Cricket News

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