West Indies in England, 2009 May 1, 2009

ECB's strong words to the excluded

Well done to the selectors for a choice that is both bold and sensible, and that has added further to the necessary competition for places
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Show some consistency Mr Bell. And then some more © Getty Images
 

This has been a momentous week for English history. The selection of a Test squad that was both surprising and interesting seemed to have been consigned to the bulging dustbin of history when central contracts took hold. England team announcements had mostly become as predictable as the returning officer delivering the results of the latest North Korean elections (at which, incidentally, Darren Pattinson last summer won a seat as MP for Pyongyang West).

On Wednesday, however, coach Andy Flower and his selectorial compadres caught the media – and some of the centrally contracted players – unawares with a novel XII for the Lord’s Test against West Indies. There are two brand new bowlers fresh off the splutteringly inefficient production line of county cricket (Bresnan and Onions), a new No. 3 (Bopara, the first current Kings XI Punjab player to be picked for England in 132 years of Test cricket), and a marked failure to base selection on fading reputation.

This is a no-lose selection for England. Either they will unearth a couple of new gems to hurl at the unsuspecting Australians, or they will be able to recall and unleash a seething, jilted Harmison, Vaughan or Bell, or even a justifiably peeved Hoggard, bent on proving their worth one final time. In fact, the trickiest scenario may be that the new players do adequately in the Tests, and the old players do adequately for their counties, and England enter the Ashes still unsure of their best team.

Well done to the selectors for a choice that is both bold and sensible, and that has added further to the necessary competition for places. In the absence of many world-class performers, it makes sense to select the team with greater flexibility than of late. At times in England’s past, the selectors have given the impression that they would quite like to give WG Grace another crack, for old time’s sake, because there is no substitute for experience, and because they did not want to upset him.

This time, however, they have boldly given youth its chance, whilst sending some strongly worded messages to the excluded. The Confectionery Stall’s mole in the ECB post room intercepted some of these strong-worded messages. Here they are:

Dear Mr Bell
Whilst we appreciated your charmingly naive confusion between ‘a good week’s batting’ and ‘earning your place back after an elongated period of irritating failure’, we would like to reiterate that you have been dropped, and properly dropped. Not merely sent to the corner until you’ve cheered up. You are, clearly, a very good batsman. Please prove it consistently and numerically over the next two months. And then keep proving it.
PS: Moving your front foot fully forward might help.

Dear Sir Michael
We want to pick you. The public wants us to pick you. Cricket wants us to pick you. Even the Australians want us to pick you. We all want to see that cover drive a few more times before it retires. You scoring a series-winning century at The Oval in August would be one of the greatest stories in sport history. The only thing that doesn’t want us to pick you are the cold hard statistics. And they are arguing their case loudly and annoyingly. If you could find a way of winning them round, we would be most grateful.

Dear Mr Harmison
Please find enclosed one official ECB time-machine. It has been set to travel back to early 2004. Please get in it, do some bowling, then set it to return you to Cardiff on July 8. Please. Please.

Dear Owais
Call us when you get home. Something’s come up. Bad time to take a paid holiday.

And, finally:

Dear Mr Zaltzman
Thank you for your application to fill the vacant No. 3 spot in the England batting line-up. We regret to inform you that you have been unsuccessful on this occasion.

After careful consideration, we concluded that your CV demonstrated that you lack the required experience for this highly specialised role. The job of batting first-wicket down in Test cricket essentially requires that the successful applicant be very good at batting, and you fall markedly short of the necessary standard in this regard (notwithstanding your outstanding century for Penshurst Park against Chiddingstone in a Sunday village friendly in 1997, as described in painstaking single-by-single detail in your covering letter).

We also noted your congenital fear of fast-moving hard round red objects, and, whilst we acknowledge that this has been assessed by your doctor to be a psychological condition dating from early childhood, we are nevertheless concerned that it would detract from the England team’s performance in the field.

Additionally, we felt that your claim to be ‘a dangerous partnership-breaking occasional wrist spinner’ in your spare time was a bare-faced lie, and our research has revealed that every single wicket you have ever taken has been due to either luck or criminally negligent batsmanship.

Furthermore, your two referees, whom we contacted, both testified that, given your catastrophic failure to control the audience for 20 minutes at a rowdy Christmas gig at the Comedy Store in Manchester in 2002, you would probably struggle to deal with the intense pressure of five days of Test cricket.

And, finally, having dropped Samit Patel due to his over-enthusiastic girthwork, we feel it would be hypocritical to select you.

We will keep your details on file, and should a similar vacancy arise in the future, please feel free to apply again. In the meantime, we recommend that you attempt to gain some work experience as a first-class cricketer, and cut down on fatty snacks between meals, to assist your future applications.

Regards, G Miller, National Selector.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • paawan on May 7, 2009, 12:25 GMT

    hilarious, n true mostly...which makes it so funny

  • Anant on May 4, 2009, 6:25 GMT

    Not as hilarious as you usually (always) are....I think you tried too hard with that letter addressed to yourself...

  • ram on May 4, 2009, 5:04 GMT

    Hilarious as ever!!!! Way to go Andy. Too bad the selectors have refused your application for the Number 3 spot. I have no doubts that you would have done no worse (or no better) than the current occupants of that slot now. You are probably right - maybe only the Ghost of the Bearded One can inject some life into the listless English batting line-up now. And I hope Vaughan gets one final fling against the old enemy and one final shot at glory.

  • Chris on May 3, 2009, 19:15 GMT

    A further offering that exemplifies the great quality of Mr. Zaltzmann's cricketing writings; the convergence of satire, absurdity and the truth.

    Notwithstanding fawning sycophancy, however, I do feel that the test squad lacks real ambition. Bresnan's performances for Yorkshire do not, and have never, suggested he will be a test class allrounder in all conditions; he bowls neither with exceptional bounce, pace, swing or accuracy. Onions has been selected, however, with good reason; he is an excellent bowler both with old ball and new, though I fear he may be a little similar to Anderson. I still feel Tremlett deserves a further series or two; his performances, on a qualitative and quantative level, against India in 2007 did not deserve the subsequent treatment he as incurred.

  • Aashish on May 3, 2009, 6:32 GMT

    Let's face it - Michael Vaughan may continue to have an extended romance with cricket, but the game has moved on. He needs to move on too, may be to the commentary box. It's time.

    While putting Ravi Bopara in at 3 is a great decision, Owais Shah should continue to be on ECB radar. Admittedly he hasn't done enough since that 87 on debut in Mumbai 3 years back, but that is partially because he hasn't go as many chances in tests as others like Cook, Bell and even Collingwood have been afforded.

  • Kais on May 2, 2009, 16:36 GMT

    "Consigned to the [bulging] dustbin of history". Didn't Trotsky say that about the Mensheviks?

  • R Sivasubramaniam on May 2, 2009, 5:15 GMT

    At last England has a set of selectors with a vision. They are to be complimented for their courage in choosing the XII to play the West Indies. It is now the responsibility of the players to justify the faith of the selectors - otherwise they will be ruthlessly eliminated. The selectors have shown that they mean business - of course you cannot please everyone - because only 11 can play. I wish the Englande team all the best this seasopn. Siva from Singapore. P.S. Andy, ignore the comments and keep on writing - yours is a refreshing view of the gane that all of us love.

  • R Sivasubramaniam on May 2, 2009, 5:15 GMT

    At last England has a set of selectors with a vision. They are to be complimented for their courage in choosing the XII to play the West Indies. It is now the responsibility of the players to justify the faith of the selectors - otherwise they will be ruthlessly eliminated. The selectors have shown that they mean business - of course you cannot please everyone - because only 11 can play. I wish the Englande team all the best this seasopn. Siva from Singapore. P.S. Andy, ignore the comments and keep on writing - yours is a refreshing view of the gane that all of us love.

  • R Sivasubramaniam on May 2, 2009, 5:15 GMT

    At last England has a set of selectors with a vision. They are to be complimented for their courage in choosing the XII to play the West Indies. It is now the responsibility of the players to justify the faith of the selectors - otherwise they will be ruthlessly eliminated. The selectors have shown that they mean business - of course you cannot please everyone - because only 11 can play. I wish the Englande team all the best this seasopn. Siva from Singapore. P.S. Andy, ignore the comments and keep on writing - yours is a refreshing view of the gane that all of us love.

  • jogesh99 on May 2, 2009, 3:29 GMT

    How can the selection of an English team be an occasion for any writing, let alone one for your delightful prose? You need new material bro.

  • paawan on May 7, 2009, 12:25 GMT

    hilarious, n true mostly...which makes it so funny

  • Anant on May 4, 2009, 6:25 GMT

    Not as hilarious as you usually (always) are....I think you tried too hard with that letter addressed to yourself...

  • ram on May 4, 2009, 5:04 GMT

    Hilarious as ever!!!! Way to go Andy. Too bad the selectors have refused your application for the Number 3 spot. I have no doubts that you would have done no worse (or no better) than the current occupants of that slot now. You are probably right - maybe only the Ghost of the Bearded One can inject some life into the listless English batting line-up now. And I hope Vaughan gets one final fling against the old enemy and one final shot at glory.

  • Chris on May 3, 2009, 19:15 GMT

    A further offering that exemplifies the great quality of Mr. Zaltzmann's cricketing writings; the convergence of satire, absurdity and the truth.

    Notwithstanding fawning sycophancy, however, I do feel that the test squad lacks real ambition. Bresnan's performances for Yorkshire do not, and have never, suggested he will be a test class allrounder in all conditions; he bowls neither with exceptional bounce, pace, swing or accuracy. Onions has been selected, however, with good reason; he is an excellent bowler both with old ball and new, though I fear he may be a little similar to Anderson. I still feel Tremlett deserves a further series or two; his performances, on a qualitative and quantative level, against India in 2007 did not deserve the subsequent treatment he as incurred.

  • Aashish on May 3, 2009, 6:32 GMT

    Let's face it - Michael Vaughan may continue to have an extended romance with cricket, but the game has moved on. He needs to move on too, may be to the commentary box. It's time.

    While putting Ravi Bopara in at 3 is a great decision, Owais Shah should continue to be on ECB radar. Admittedly he hasn't done enough since that 87 on debut in Mumbai 3 years back, but that is partially because he hasn't go as many chances in tests as others like Cook, Bell and even Collingwood have been afforded.

  • Kais on May 2, 2009, 16:36 GMT

    "Consigned to the [bulging] dustbin of history". Didn't Trotsky say that about the Mensheviks?

  • R Sivasubramaniam on May 2, 2009, 5:15 GMT

    At last England has a set of selectors with a vision. They are to be complimented for their courage in choosing the XII to play the West Indies. It is now the responsibility of the players to justify the faith of the selectors - otherwise they will be ruthlessly eliminated. The selectors have shown that they mean business - of course you cannot please everyone - because only 11 can play. I wish the Englande team all the best this seasopn. Siva from Singapore. P.S. Andy, ignore the comments and keep on writing - yours is a refreshing view of the gane that all of us love.

  • R Sivasubramaniam on May 2, 2009, 5:15 GMT

    At last England has a set of selectors with a vision. They are to be complimented for their courage in choosing the XII to play the West Indies. It is now the responsibility of the players to justify the faith of the selectors - otherwise they will be ruthlessly eliminated. The selectors have shown that they mean business - of course you cannot please everyone - because only 11 can play. I wish the Englande team all the best this seasopn. Siva from Singapore. P.S. Andy, ignore the comments and keep on writing - yours is a refreshing view of the gane that all of us love.

  • R Sivasubramaniam on May 2, 2009, 5:15 GMT

    At last England has a set of selectors with a vision. They are to be complimented for their courage in choosing the XII to play the West Indies. It is now the responsibility of the players to justify the faith of the selectors - otherwise they will be ruthlessly eliminated. The selectors have shown that they mean business - of course you cannot please everyone - because only 11 can play. I wish the Englande team all the best this seasopn. Siva from Singapore. P.S. Andy, ignore the comments and keep on writing - yours is a refreshing view of the gane that all of us love.

  • jogesh99 on May 2, 2009, 3:29 GMT

    How can the selection of an English team be an occasion for any writing, let alone one for your delightful prose? You need new material bro.

  • Goutham Chakravarthi LS on May 2, 2009, 3:03 GMT

    Hilarious!

  • sumit on May 1, 2009, 21:34 GMT

    Oh-my-god!

    ROFLMAO :)

    the letter to shah is just priceless!!! It deserves to find a place in this years Wisden.

  • lal on May 1, 2009, 18:50 GMT

    andy,are u the fake ipl player

  • Stuart on May 1, 2009, 17:04 GMT

    but what about Monty, what's he still doing there?

  • dilse on May 1, 2009, 12:56 GMT

    ECB should put in player Joe Denly in the 15 man squad, if they want to win the twenty/20 World Cup. because he (Joe denly) and Rob Key are the very good opening twenty/20 batsman. (Example)They are like Sialkot stallion player like Imran Nazir, Shahid Afridi. or Hayden and Gilchrist, or Gutam and Sehwag. if you undestand wat am talking about.

  • vikas on May 1, 2009, 12:52 GMT

    Thats not a bad decision They will atleast try hard to get in form as soon as possible and they will learn from their mistakes and its a good decision by the board as well

  • boom on May 1, 2009, 12:17 GMT

    not quite in your level andy, I'm disappointed !

  • LyricalGangsta on May 1, 2009, 12:09 GMT

    Very well written Andy. Regarding your claim about the public wanting to pick Vaughan – I am sure many of us here don’t want him back unless he scores runs against quality bowlers. One 82/83 isn’t enough. There are other run scorers waiting at the gates. Also glad the selectors have gathered the courage to drop Bell. You don’t score runs you don’t get picked as simple as that. Picking him up would have proved England ‘C’amikaze Board living up to its name. Let’s hope the ECB stops living in past glories and start thinking similarly. Will someone please tell Nielson not to be puzzled at ECB’s decision to drop Vaughan. One wasted before the Ashes.

  • Suhaib on May 1, 2009, 12:02 GMT

    Great Job Dude...PERFECT indeed! However, I do wish you had focused a little more on Bopara "Darling".

  • Dave on May 1, 2009, 11:39 GMT

    Nice try Andy, but surely you don't expect us to believe that the ECB would begin a letter to Ian Bell with 'Dear Mr Bell' as opposed to 'Dear Belly'?

  • Jojy John Alphonso on May 1, 2009, 11:32 GMT

    OMG you are so funny. I really liked the small letter to Owais Shah. Its a pity that he hasnt been given a chance yet in the IPL.

    ECB should give him more chances I feel.

  • John on May 1, 2009, 10:31 GMT

    boring... Perhaps you should'nt try harder. And just stop

  • Marcus on May 1, 2009, 10:24 GMT

    Bell looks to me to be a better bet as a long-term replacement for Paul Collingwood at no. 5. His performances there have been much better than at 3 where he's never scored a century.

  • Arvind on May 1, 2009, 10:12 GMT

    Very poor by the high standards you have set, Sir.

    The selection of a Test squad that was both surprising and interesting ... ???

    It should be ... The selection of a Test squad that was both unsurprising and uninteresting.

  • Martin on May 1, 2009, 9:47 GMT

    As ever, a brilliant contribution. I'm disappointed with Bell's reaction. While I would have picked him at three, this was only due to a lack of options. Going for Bopara is far bolder than I and so hats off to the selectors for doing so. Pointing out how much we all want Vaughan to play is spot on. I am still keeping my eyes out for Chris Woakes, as repeatedly pointed out in my blog, he's going to be a star http://beardedsocialist.blogspot.com/

  • alex on May 1, 2009, 9:42 GMT

    Brilliant, Andy. Keep working on that wrist spin and you'll be in with a chance.

  • Zachy on May 1, 2009, 9:19 GMT

    Boorrring!!!!!!!! Perhaps you should try even harder.

  • ChooForTwentyChoo on May 1, 2009, 8:47 GMT

    Way to go Andy! Spot analysis on as always. I still wouldn't rule out the selectors assembling WG Grace's bones in front of the Nursery end stumps. Might do a better job of keeping out the swinging Hilfenhaus ball than some of those provisionally selected for the job. The Bearded One might even score nmore runs too. After that, he can be (re)appointed National Selector. Ah the Olde England Time Machine; Different sport, but does anyone remember 1966? Aye, them were the days...

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  • ChooForTwentyChoo on May 1, 2009, 8:47 GMT

    Way to go Andy! Spot analysis on as always. I still wouldn't rule out the selectors assembling WG Grace's bones in front of the Nursery end stumps. Might do a better job of keeping out the swinging Hilfenhaus ball than some of those provisionally selected for the job. The Bearded One might even score nmore runs too. After that, he can be (re)appointed National Selector. Ah the Olde England Time Machine; Different sport, but does anyone remember 1966? Aye, them were the days...

  • Zachy on May 1, 2009, 9:19 GMT

    Boorrring!!!!!!!! Perhaps you should try even harder.

  • alex on May 1, 2009, 9:42 GMT

    Brilliant, Andy. Keep working on that wrist spin and you'll be in with a chance.

  • Martin on May 1, 2009, 9:47 GMT

    As ever, a brilliant contribution. I'm disappointed with Bell's reaction. While I would have picked him at three, this was only due to a lack of options. Going for Bopara is far bolder than I and so hats off to the selectors for doing so. Pointing out how much we all want Vaughan to play is spot on. I am still keeping my eyes out for Chris Woakes, as repeatedly pointed out in my blog, he's going to be a star http://beardedsocialist.blogspot.com/

  • Arvind on May 1, 2009, 10:12 GMT

    Very poor by the high standards you have set, Sir.

    The selection of a Test squad that was both surprising and interesting ... ???

    It should be ... The selection of a Test squad that was both unsurprising and uninteresting.

  • Marcus on May 1, 2009, 10:24 GMT

    Bell looks to me to be a better bet as a long-term replacement for Paul Collingwood at no. 5. His performances there have been much better than at 3 where he's never scored a century.

  • John on May 1, 2009, 10:31 GMT

    boring... Perhaps you should'nt try harder. And just stop

  • Jojy John Alphonso on May 1, 2009, 11:32 GMT

    OMG you are so funny. I really liked the small letter to Owais Shah. Its a pity that he hasnt been given a chance yet in the IPL.

    ECB should give him more chances I feel.

  • Dave on May 1, 2009, 11:39 GMT

    Nice try Andy, but surely you don't expect us to believe that the ECB would begin a letter to Ian Bell with 'Dear Mr Bell' as opposed to 'Dear Belly'?

  • Suhaib on May 1, 2009, 12:02 GMT

    Great Job Dude...PERFECT indeed! However, I do wish you had focused a little more on Bopara "Darling".