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June 29, 2013

It's not you, it's me

Peter Miller
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
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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

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by tickcric on (July 2, 2013, 10:22 GMT)

It's like Root or Bairstow will get a Rohit Sharma treatment and Compton will get a Manoj Tiwari treatment. But that's how it is. Players are not just selected on the basis of stats. There is always future prediction and subjective evaluations involved in it. It's a gamble, partially instinctive and partially educated which the selectors play... I don't know how many matches Compton will end up playing for England. But the guy, so far has 2 centuries in 9 test matches. He can be proud of himself.

Posted by Dashgar on (July 1, 2013, 4:37 GMT)

As an Australian I'm glad Bairstow is playing and I'm glad Root is opening. Both have serious potential to flop in this series. Bairstow has shown weakness to quality fast bowling in the past and Root doesn't seem to have an openers temperament. He's far to calm and down to earth. If we can target those two and strangle Cook, Trott and Bell like NZ did then its simply a matter of getting Pietersen and Prior out. Those are the only two Australia are really worried about.

Posted by Hughesy83 on (June 30, 2013, 20:37 GMT)

I really don't see what Bairstow has shown to warrant being picked over Compton. His technique is pretty poor and he got worked over and totally exposed by Roach. He has looked poor in ODI and T20. He has had one decent knock against the South Africans and that's about it.

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (June 30, 2013, 10:59 GMT)

@Peter Miller: The caption under the photo says it all: "Why have Compton play for Worcestershire against the Australians when you have already announced that Root is the best opening partner for Cook?" England have not 'dumped' him [Compton]; this is more annoying mind-games, and Nick will be out in England Whites for Ashes games. Yes he might be rotated/swapped/messed-around, but dropped/banished he most certainly is not.

Posted by lebigfella on (June 30, 2013, 8:30 GMT)

Fascinating piece... Compton will be in the mix come the Ashes. Agree about Root against the new ball and Bairstow needs a decent run before we can fully judge whether he cuts the mustard. BUT and this is a big but... what this whole episode highlights is how short we are of decent openers... a little like the Aussies with the likeable but mediocre Cowan and the volatile & unlikeable Warner... they're the best of a bad bunch trouble we're looking for someone as ultra classy as Cook. Leave Compton in, Root down the order & Bairstow back to Yorkshire to get his eye in.... Prior at 7 makes our batting look pretty damn good

Posted by   on (June 30, 2013, 7:52 GMT)

They are debating over two players that Australia would kill to have in their side. That is the funniest part for me..

Posted by SDHM on (June 29, 2013, 20:58 GMT)

@Herbet - agree to an extent. Bairstow certainly balances the line-up better and has shown in making those runs against South Africa shows the temperament that Peter rightly suggests seems to be what the selectors look for, but I still can't help but feel for Compton. He got into the England side the old fashioned way - through performances in the Championship that couldn't be ignored, kind of like Trott did back in 2009, and was then dropped at the first opportunity. It's hard not to feel for the guy. What I really don't like is the fact that England have all but confirmed Root will open in the first Test and yet are making Compo play again anyway - what's the point?

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