Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Pietersen's favouritism does England no favours

England's desire to keep faith with its players would once have been admirable; now it just makes the management and captain look incapable of making tough decisions.

England’s defeat in the second One Day International made for painful viewing. Watching the defeat, the team’s second mauling in four days, was bad enough, but the post-match interviews were the icing on the cake for England fans frustrated by their team’s performance and composition.

In the era of Team England media training and clich├ęd soundbites, Kevin Pietersen was never going to do anything other than defend his players and the team’s selection policy, but it would have been refreshing if the skipper referred in some way to the problems that seem so obvious to so many.

Darren Gough accused the England management of favouritism in their selection policy and it is hard to disagree. Tim has referred to the absurd preference for Alastair Cook over Dimitri Mascarenhas and the mystifying absence of Graeme Swann and it appears these choices are those of the captain.

Pietersen has been keen to stamp his authority on the job, and whilst his instinct and man-management have paid some dividends – notably the rejuvenation of Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison - his apparent omnipotence in selection is dangerous for those whose faces don’t fit.

A hierarchy has been established that makes objective decisions difficult and results in selection choices being based on factors other than form, balance of the team and conditions.

It is ridiculous that Swann is not playing. It is odd that Matt Prior is retained as opener despite scoring one half century in his 29 ODI innings. It is debatable whether Paul Collingwood and Steve Harmison should be in the team at all.

Sweeping changes are dangerous and it should be acknowledged that India are playing supremely well, but we all have our favourites, don’t we KP?

My team for the third ODI at Kanpur: Bell, Bopara, Pietersen, Shah, Flintoff, Patel, Collingwood, Prior, Swann, Broad, Anderson

Written by Philip Oliver, a sports writer who blogs about cricket betting.


Tim said...

Great piece Philip, raising some important questions.

I basically like your side and think it's better than the one they've chosen so far. We really miss Trescothick so much. Collingwood, to me, looks like he is nearing the end; that 135 may have been his final fling.

My team:
Collingwood (just)
Mascharenhas (Bopara)

Penguinissimo said...

Philip - I agree with a lot of what you wrote.

Tim - I also couldn't agree more about Trescothick - we have just never replaced him as an opener, despite trying basically everyone who can hold a bat.

What is worrying about the England batting is their total inability to score hundreds. Shah and Prior, for example, put together a decent partnership then both got our within two overs of each other; cue five overs of stagnation as new batsmen play themselves in. KP and Flintoff start to strut their stuff, then get out in the same over - end of match. We must convert starts to hundreds to turn ordinary batting scores into good ones, but we seem incapable of doing so. Everyone in the top 6 other than KP is culpable.

On the bowling, we really miss the niggling accuracy of Sidebottom (who, lest we forget, was so influential in our win in Sri Lanka last year, not least because Jayasuriya couldn't get him off the square). Harmison is a write-off in ODIs in these conditions, and KP hasn't yet let Anderson bowl out his allocation during his captaincy. Broad is good, but not ready to be the only bowler other than Flintoff that KP trusts.

When wickets spin, pick genuine spinners. Patel is not a genuine spinner, in fact he is little better than KP. Swann is, and he can bat, so play him and bowl him.

Disagree about Collingwood, I think he is still key to our ODI balance. Agree about Mascarenhas, and have never seen the point of Luke Wright instead of him.

Don't mind Shah at 3 - he needs more time to play himself in than KP, but once he's in he can be devastating. His dismissal was the first real nail in the run-chase coffin the other day. Agree that Bopara is better than a no. 8, and Prior might do some damage down there.

My team: Bell, Bopara, Shah, KP, Flintoff, Colly, Prior, Swann, Broad, Anderson (Siders if he was fit, which he's not).

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