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England cricket selectors have got it all wrong in the Ashes

December 19, 2013

It’s not only the on-field performances that let England down in the Ashes. The selectors too got it wrong starting from the initial announcement of the squad to the playing XI that was chosen for the third Test. The team management must also share the blame for going 3-0 down and losing the urn.

They made their first mistake in denying paceman Graham Onions a place in the touring party, a move that then came under harsh criticism in the English media. He has long been considered the second best swing bowler in England after James Anderson and his omission especially after a good season with Durham was baffling if not downright foolish. Instead, Onions is now in South Africa, playing for the Dolphins.

Of course, it is easy to criticise the selectors on the basis of hindsight but there were early signs that should have been heeded.

England were drained after winning the home Ashes 3-0 in August and it would have only been prudent to inject some more firepower into the playing XI for the return series, knowing that Australia would fight back hard.

The selectors preferred Steven Finn and Boyd Rankin over Onions and still didn’t give any one of them a go in the crucial third Perth Test, given that the WACA surface offered more for the fast bowlers than Adelaide. Chris Tremlett too went out of the reckoning after a sombre showing in the first test in Brisbane.

Add to that skipper Alastair Cook’s tendency to lean towards all-rounders when faced with a selection dilemma. He went in with both Tim Bresnan and Ben Stokes in Perth when the situation demanded a specialist pace bowler, and the result wasn’t surprising.

Only just fit-again Bresnan is no Andrew Flintoff and it is foolhardy to expect him to run through sides and Stokes is more of a batsman who bowls. England should play either of them and not both in a Test ever again.

There is no point in having nine batsmen if you can’t take 20 wickets in a Test. England got so absorbed in fixing their batting woes that their bowling lacked the penetration it needed.

There were moments in the Perth Test when England could have taken an upper hand but they had nobody else apart from Stuart Broad who could make use of the conditions. Australia were 143-5 and went on to post 385 in the first innings, negating the early advantage England had.

To compound Cook’s problems, Anderson has looked a shadow of the bowler one saw in England and it would do no harm if he were given a break.

Now England must focus on avoiding a whitewash and that will only be possible if their bowling is strengthened. Unleash Rankin or Finn or both together.

There is also the wise option of calling up Onions from South Africa, who we can safely bet won’t be too far from his phone.

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