England’s selectors are so often lambasted that it is only fair to give them credit after picking a Twenty20 World Cup squad bursting to the rim with specialists. Darren Maddy, Jeremy Snape and James Kirtley are each highly unlikely to play any more one-day internationals for England, but they are shrewd Twenty20 players, and will offer England much more than James Anderson, Ian Bell, Alastair Cook and Monty Panesar would in this form of the game. Chris Schofield and Luke Wright, meanwhile, will hope selection proves the springboard for other national honours.
The winning skipper on Twenty20 finals day, Rob Key, made an astute point when asking whether good Twenty20 Cup players had the necessary class to excel against the world’s best. However, the trio of Maddy, Snape and Kirtley have proved they are excellent players in this form of the game who, one would think, have the skills to do well internationally. The great gambles are Wright and the rejuvenated Schofield, two players selected solely on their performances in this season’s competition. Schofield, with 17 wickets at 8.82 (and an economy rate of just 6) is a worthy selection, especially given his ability to improvise with the bat in the final overs; Wright is perhaps a little luckier considering that, during his innings of 103 and 98 in this season’s competition, the highest calibre bowler he faced was Yasser Arafat.
Of those who did not make it, the unluckiest is surely Mal Loye, who has an outstanding Twenty20 record and played some exhilarating cameos in the CB Series; he would have been a fine replacement for Trescothick. Key and Mark Ramprakash have mixed big shots with nous, to great effect, in this form of the game and had merit over Wright and possibly Vkram Solanki, though he is a marvellous fielder, attractive batsman and worthy selection.
With the ball, England look to have got it just right. Their two spinners are better suited to this format than Monty Panesar, and are also very useful batsmen; the all-too-hittable James Anderson has surprisingly been omitted; and it is very hard to argue with the four seamers, with the inclusion of Chris Tremlett’s bounce and consistency a clear indicator he is part of Peter Moores’ long-term plans. Kirtley has bowled expertly at the death for Sussex this campaign, although forgotten man Jon Lewis, so impressive on finals day and with an exemplary ODI record, is hugely unfortunate to have been overlooked for both the Twenty20 and one-day squads.
Put simply, this is a very good squad which gives England the best possible chance of taking advantage of having played more domestic Twenty20 than anyone else, although the management’s lack of coherent thinking is impossible to ignore: the games against the West Indies would have been most useful for gauging the specialists' international suitability. The only real gripe, in fact, is that there is the faintest whiff of home bias on Moores’ part. Wright and Kirtley were borderline selections; but Matt Prior is undeserving of the wicket-keeping job ahead of Paul Nixon and Tim Ambrose.
My line-up (from the 15):
Maddy, Prior, Pietersen, Shah, Collingwood, Flintoff, Bopara, Schofield, Broad, Sidebottom and Tremlett with Solanki, Wright, Snape and Kirtley in reserve