The One Stump Short Winter Tour Squad
The annual debate – who should England take on tour?
It’s perfect ‘down the pub’ fodder. An easy conversation to start along the boundary during, well, any game of cricket – club or county – with talk of wicket types, weather conditions and whimsical fantasy selections that include the latest youngster to burst on the scene.
But actually thinking about it and naming a 16-man touring party, not quite so easy. Some selections are obvious, but there are always a few that are subjective.
With trips to Bangladesh and India looming, All Out Cricket challenged arm chair pundits everywhere to name their squad, and so here we are:
The Obvious: Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Jimmy Anderson.
While Cook may miss the Bangladesh tour to be at the birth of his second child, the England captain, Joe Root and Jimmy Anderson all essentially pick themselves.
Basically Certain To Go: Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood.
Whether you believe Bairstow will relinquish the gloves this winter or not, his place in the side is basically safe thanks to a strong summer with the bat, which brought two centuries and four half-centuries to go with the 150 not out he recorded in Cape Town in January.
Moeen is England’s first choice spinner, Stokes talent is not in question (just his current fitness) and Woakes was arguably England’s best player during the Pakistan series. All three are on the plane.
Stuart Broad has had a quiet summer by his standards but did not bowl badly by any means, and, assuming he is fit, his place should also be safe.
As it’s a tour of the sub continent at least one additional spinner will travel, so naturally Adil Rashid makes the trip, while Mark Wood’s recent performances should see him handed an opportunity to take his horse on tour.
The Last Chance Saloon: Alex Hales
Yet to score a Test hundred, Hales did at least show some signs of development during the series against Pakistan and scored a vital half-century during the Third Test at Edgbaston as he and Alastair Cook managed to overturn Pakistan’s first innings lead before the fall of the first wicket.
His summer was far from perfect however and his current form is a concern, having posted scores of 6, 12, 0, 7 and 14 in all competitions prior to today’s third One Day International at Trent Bridge.
I’d give Hales a chance, but right now it’s hard not to agree with those who believe he is on borrowed time.
The Comeback Kids: Ian Bell and Jos Buttler
Some would accuse England of taking a step backwards if they selected Bell less than twelve months after ditching him, but there is undoubtedly an issue at 4 and 5 right now and alternatives to James Vince – surely finished as a Test batsmen – and Gary Ballance all come with their own pros and cons.
Would it be right to head to India with an inexperienced middle order? While there is no doubt players like Sam Billings possess a huge amount of talent, a little experience never hurt anyone, particularly in the cricketing cauldron that is India, and Bell is about as experienced as they come.
That said, perhaps somewhere in the middle of the above point lies Jos Buttler – a supremely talented, but only moderately experienced Test batsmen.
One suspects he might find his way on tour anyway, if only to cover for a Bairstow injury (or keeping nightmare), but England could consider playing Buttler as a specialist batsmen if they wanted to shake things up a touch.
The Wild Cards: Sam Robson, Gareth Batty, Ben Foakes
If Hales falters, where do England turn?
Lancashire’s Haseeb Hameed has firmly inserted himself in to the ‘one for the future’ camp. Mark Stoneman has had another strong year for Durham (821 runs at 43.21) and Nick Gubbins will pass 1,000 runs for the season during Middlesex’s next game (he currently has 999 runs at 66.60); but I lent towards Gubbins’ team mate Sam Robson – who was somewhat cruelly dumped after just seven Tests in 2014.
I wouldn’t take Hameed, not just yet, but Stoneman or Gubbins would be strong possibilities. Ultimately Robson’s previous experience against India (albeit in England) swung it for me.
Likewise you could name a number of potential third spinners for England to take on tour, with Zafar Ansari among the strongest candidates if he is fit. But ultimately I plumped for Surrey captain Batty.
There are plenty of potential third spinners out there, but only a limited number you might feel are anywhere close to Test quality – hence Moeen Ali, basically a batsmen who bowled, now playing as England’s number one spinner.
Batty may well fall in to the group too. A wily old County bowler, he played seven Tests for England between 2003 and 2005 but lacked real success (and was part of the attack blasted around St John’s by Brian Lara in 2004).
He is economical and street wise however, traits which should not be dismissed if England are to try tie down the likes of Kohli in his own back yard.
Ben Foakes is something of a luxury pick, an option based on his skill with the gloves and his potential as a future England wicket keeper.
Think of it perhaps as an educational tour for Foakes, though I would not be upset to see him play with Bairstow on board solely as a batsman.