June 29, 2013

It's not you, it's me

Peter Miller
The way England have dumped Nick Compton seems to show they regard temperament as more important than first-class runs

Why have Compton play for Worcestershire against the Australians when you have already announced that Root is the best opening partner for Cook? © Getty Images

Some relationships aren't meant to be. Things can be going along great, and one day you are happily shopping for picture frames at your local IKEA when you realise that this isn't what you want anymore. Telling the other person who is oblivious to your concerns is never easy. Andy Flower and the England management have exactly this problem.

Nick Compton has been dropped from the England Test team. This announcement may not have been made officially but we all know what is going to happen. There are six places in the England top order, and Kevin Pietersen has swaggered back from injury. His blistering 177 not out on his return for Surrey was a subtle reminder of what he is capable of. The England management have had their heads turned by their volatile but exciting ex. Pietersen's relationship with England has never been easy, but they can't live without each other.

Someone needs to make way for his return. The choice appeared to be between Jonny Bairstow and Compton. If Compton were to make way then Joe Root would be chosen to open the innings with Alastair Cook for the first Ashes Test. With the decision to exclude Compton from the England side to face Essex in the Ashes warm-up, these points are moot. England have made the call. Young Joe Root will be opening the batting with Cook when England take on Australia at Trent Bridge. Geoff Miller has said that Root is "currently the best opening partner for Alastair Cook". The question that you have to ask yourself is: what has Compton done wrong?

In his Test career so far Compton has two hundreds and a half-century in nine matches. A record that many England batsmen of the past would have been delighted with. Then you have to consider that record with that of the man who is in the side ahead of him. Bairstow has played one fewer Test, but even taking that into account Compton has more runs, more hundreds and a better average. This is not to say that Bairstow is not a phenomenal talent. He has all the skills that are needed to play 100 Tests for England. However, by preferring Bairstow to Compton, England have decided to go into the Ashes with Root opening the batting. Again, Root is a fantastic talent, but he has never opened the batting in a Test and has looked suspect against the second new ball even when well set. So with him doing so well in the middle order why move him?

The reason appears to be ethereal rather than based on results. For many, Compton doesn't "look" like a Test player. As we have seen with Eoin Morgan's selection for Test matches, England's selectors seem more interested in temperament and potential than weight of first-class runs. This leaves us in the situation that some players are given time to bed into the side regardless of results, whereas others are jettisoned regardless of results. What this says to the players who are battling for recognition week in week out in county cricket only they can say.

That brings us to the decision to get Compton a game for Worcestershire. It is difficult to fully understand the logic of this move. Compton is Somerset's leading first-class run scorer this season. After just six matches for the county he has nearly 600 runs. He has just scored a well-made 81 against the same Australian bowlers he would be facing in the Ashes. As he has not been involved in England's limited-overs squads he is not short of first-class practice.

So why is he playing for Worcestershire against the Australians? If the decision has been made that Root will be opening with Cook, what will we learn from Compton playing for Worcestershire? Flower asking Worcestershire coach Steve Rhodes to put Compton in the side is like dumping your girlfriend and then saying you still want to be friends - admirable but futile.

The way that Compton has been treated raises far more questions than it answers.

Peter Miller is the UK editor of www.thearmchairselector.com