The England selectors will show whether it is reputation or runs that matter when they name the squad to tour West Indies on Monday. Michael Vaughan, the former captain, is tipped for a recall to try and solve the troublesome No. 3 spot despite playing hardly any cricket since he resigned from the captaincy in August.
If Vaughan does return to the fold for the four-Test series, that starts in Jamaica on February 4, it will be a prime example of someone’s value growing by being out of the team. When he stepped down following the series loss against South Africa, he stated his desire to have another crack at Australia and the tour of the West Indies was always a possible route back.
However, that was based on the presumption that he would have had some action since the end of the English season. Not through any fault of Vaughan or England, those plans fell through when the Mumbai terror attacks forced the Academy side home from India alongside the full squad. Vaughan has barely picked up a bat since September - and even then his mind was gone - so the selectors will be placing a huge amount of trust in his past performances if they plump for him in their latest squad.
The subtle hints started doing the rounds towards the end of the India series with Peter Moores saying Vaughan would come into the discussions, while Kevin Pietersen has regularly spoken about his admiration for him and the value of his experience. Pietersen’s influence runs deep in the England set-up and if he wants Vaughan, he will probably get Vaughan.
The decisions the selectors make on Monday will show their thinking ahead of the Ashes later in the year. England have six Tests (all against West Indies) to finalise their combination and to string together some strong performances. Australia’s struggles against South Africa haven’t gone unnoticed on this side of the world, but England are certainly not in a position to begin any sort of gloating.
Vaughan’s record against Australia stands him in good stead. He has four centuries - three as opener in 2002-03, when he briefly rose to No. 1 in the world rankings, and his memorable 166 at Old Trafford in 2005 - and England desperately need a No. 3 who can command some presence. He was a million miles from that form against South Africa, but at his best can provide the counter-attack England have lacked in recent times.
He also has the respect of the Australians, something that cannot be said of Ian Bell, who has utterly failed to convince since moving up the order against South Africa. Bell has regressed since his 199 at Lord’s and England can’t afford a timid player behind two openers - Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook - who are unlikely to dominate in the early stages of an innings. There is a chance Vaughan will never recapture his best form, but time is running short for the selectors to find out.
Bell could miss out on the squad altogether after making only 182 runs in his last ten innings, otherwise it would be incredibly harsh on Owais Shah, who is finding it very hard to add to his two Test caps. If ever they was an opportunity to give Shah a chance, it was in Mohali, but his lively one-day contributions have so far not been rewarded. Shah, too, may be benefiting from being talked-up because he isn’t in the side, but unlike Vaughan (or Bell) he has rarely had the chance to show what he can do.
Aside from the extra batting place the squad will largely pick itself even though a number of players will tour with huge question marks over their form. Steve Harmison, the destroyer on the 2004 West Indies tour, needs a successful series to make people believe he can rattle the Australians, while Monty Panesar is now facing a fierce battle for his place from Graeme Swann. If Ryan Sidebottom is fit he will return in place of Amjad Khan and the selectors will hope he can regain his spark to provide some valuable variation.
Alongside the Test squad, the one-day party will also be named for the Twenty20 international and five-match ODI series that follows at the end of March. After the 5-0 drubbing in India there are likely to be some further tweaks, especially at the top of the order as England try to find a combination that works in the Powerplays. Kent’s Joe Denly has been one of the more successful on the county circuit and could earn a call in place of the one-paced Cook.
Possible Test squad Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Michael Vaughan, Kevin Pietersen (capt), Paul Collingwood, Owais Shah, Andrew Flintoff, Matt Prior (wk), Tim Ambrose (wk), Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad, Steve Harmison, James Anderson, Ryan Sidebottom, Monty Panesar.
Possible one-day squad Joe Denly, Ravi Bopara, Kevin Pietersen (capt), Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Owais Shah, Andrew Flintoff, Matt Prior (wk), Samit Patel, Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Ryan Sidebottom, Amjad Khan, Steve Harmison.
Source:Cricket NewsMore on:Alastair Cook, Amjad Khan, Andrew Strauss, Australia, england, Ian Bell, Jamaica, Kent Joe Denly, Michael Vaughan, monty panesar, South Africa
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Sunday, December 28th, 2008 and is filed under General, Cricket.
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