THE England selectors have come in for a lot of flak these past few days, with some reports suggesting that they could even be put out to pasture at the end of the season.
The positions of James Whitaker, Mick Newell and Angus Fraser are said to be under the microscope, with Andrew Strauss, the England director of cricket, taking a detailed look at the present system.
Whitaker, Newell and Fraser were criticised after James Anderson was left out of the Lord’s Test, when captain Alastair Cook and coach Trevor Bayliss wanted to take the player’s word for it that he had recovered from a shoulder problem.
Instead, on medical advice, Anderson was whisked off to Southport and eased back into action with Lancashire, for whom he bowled 22 overs in the County Championship match against Durham.
After England lost the first Test by 75 runs, Anderson’s handling was widely criticised, with former England captain Michael Vaughan describing the player’s non-selection at Lord’s as a “screw-up”.
Writing in his national newspaper column, Vaughan insisted: “No selector should ever have the power to tell a captain he cannot have a certain player.
“That is prehistoric thinking and belongs with the blazer brigade of the 1980s.
“This is an era where the captain and coach take on much more responsibility; they stand and fall by results.”
Writing as one not privy to the events concerned, which were clearly unusual in that Anderson had been back practising with the England team before the match despite not having been named in the 12-man squad, I cannot say who was right or wrong as regards his fitness.
But the issue has taken on the broader context of the selection system full-stop, which is a valid matter for cricketing debate.
In my view, everyone involved in the selection process is a knowledgeable and experienced individual.
Whitaker is a regular at Headingley, where he is always a shrewd observer and personable presence, while Newell and Fraser are top-drawer characters and operators. I do not agree with every selection made, but, then, who does?
I certainly have no wish to see any of them removed.
Could there perhaps be more clarity, or a tweaking to the current system? Yes, I think there could.
Personally, I believe that the captain and coach should indeed have the final say on selection and be accountable for it, so if Anderson had broken down at Lord’s, then Cook and Bayliss would have had to explain.
Without intending any disrespect to Anderson, who might indeed have been able to come through the match successfully for all I know, the history of sport is littered with players who have declared themselves fit because, like most players, they are desperate to play.
It seems unfair, therefore, to criticise Messrs Whitaker, Newell and Fraser for acting on medical advice.
Personally, I think the selectors should really be scouts, people who provide recommendations to the captain and coach, who then act on all the information available – including extremely detailed video analysis – to come up with a final squad and starting XI.
That way, the captain and coach are solely accountable and everybody knows that, while the likes of Whitaker, Newell and Fraser can get on with the vital job of providing in-depth knowledge of what is happening around the counties.