Anderson Debate Points To Bigger Issues
James Anderson’s controversial omission from the Lords Test appears to have put Director of Cricket Andrew Strauss on a collision course with the England Selectors, with the former national team captain apparently set to ditch James Whitaker, Mike Newell and Angus Fraser this autumn.
The idea that Anderson’s absence was the sole cause of this rift seems somewhat far fetched however.
England captain Alastair Cook and coach Trevor Bayliss wanted their best bowler to play, which is understandable given it was the first Test in a four-match series against one of the best teams in the world.
Anderson himself believed he was ready to go, his shoulder injury sufficiently healed.
The England selectors opted to act on medical advice however, keeping the seamer out of the squad altogether.
Anderson would subsequently play two days of Lancashire’s County Championship game against Durham at Southport, claiming 3-58.
His success at the seaside ground poured further fuel on the fire that he should have been playing for England all along, but it is hard not to feel like the entire debate is a smokescreen for larger issues.
England did not bowl especially poorly at Lords, it was the batting which caused concern, particularly the way they played Yasir Shah and the disappointment emanating from their second innings, in which the home side needed a get-able 283 to win with nearly two days in which to do so.
The selectors should not be shamed for erring on the side of caution when it came to the health of England’s number one bowler. With the remained of the Pakistan series, a tour of India this winter and South Africa visiting next year, gambling on Anderson’s health for one game was simply not worth it.
But it’s an easy stick with which to beat Whitaker and co. following a loss and it is hard not to feel that there are bigger problems here.
Bayliss wanted Ben Stokes and/or Jos Buttler in the squad solely as batsmen, ultimately neither were picked and while Stokes proved his fitness for Durham, Buttler was injured playing for Lancashire.
Scott Borthwick also missed out, a decision Cricinfo’s Jarrod Kimber said he was confused by on the One Stump Short Podcast, while Moeen Ali remains a consistent point of debate.
A fourteen man squad has been named for the upcoming Second Test at Old Trafford, something which could easily be read as either the selectors throwing their hands up and saying ‘here you go’ to Bayliss and Cook, or, more concerning, a sign England don’t really know what their best team is.
Whatever the logic, the question should be whether things have really soured that quickly between Strauss and the selectors?
It seems hard to imagine a two week period could simply break a relationship of this nature. And thus it is hard not to feel there must have been another issue, or issues, bubbling under the surface.
The defeat at Lords seems to have put Strauss in a position where he can legitimately make a change. England do not look as dominant as they did against Sri Lanka, the ‘excuse’ is there – we can bully ‘weaker’ sides in friendly conditions but cannot matchup to the best teams and so things must change.
Whatever the logic, it’s been a somewhat bizarre week for England, and one which makes them look more disorganised than potentially dominant in this evenly matched series.