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
18

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • gudolerhum on June 30, 2013, 15:15 GMT

    Great commentary on what has been part of the problems that the England side experiences from time to time. Compton has done nothing wrong, Root is a promising potential but not yet as an opener; Bairstow another great talent. Compton has proved himself as opener to the extent that he should be an automatic choice as opener for the 1st test. But, no, the selectors have introduced the dreaded element of insecurity into the minds of all three candidates, each knowing they are only one, maybe two matches away from the axe. In Compton's case the axe already seems to have fallen on a potentially good career. How many times will this be repeated? Ask Mark Ramprakash, Graham Hick and the list goes on and on; so many quality batsmen (and bowlers) whose careers have been squandered by the selectors' whims and fancies.

  • on June 30, 2013, 13:54 GMT

    Good article. This business of putting Compton in to play against the Australians for Worcestershire is either terribly cynical or scrambled thinking by the selectors. Could be both at the same time, which would be consistent with the thesis, and depressingly traditional. In effect, Compton has been dumped, and given another chance to fail. He has not been given a chance to succeed, or else his two decent knocks for Somerset against Australia would have sufficed (along with being top of the Somerset averages, having better Test figures than Root and Bairstow etc). Muddled cynicism strikes again.

  • JassimA on June 30, 2013, 11:49 GMT

    I think there are two sets of questions here , Young Joe vs Compton as opener and Compton vs Bairstow . The series against NZ was Comptons first failure at the International level and I think he panicked and went into his shell. I wouldnt completely dismiss his mental strength as he has shown by scoring ample runs in domestic games and the practice game is that he is serious about getting back into the Eng side.

    Bairstow however has had such a rough deal , the guy has scored important runs when it has mattered. For people who have watched cricket for a long time can easily tell that Compton is not highly talented. He is someone that 6 years ago would have been an automatic choice in England. However, he works hard at his game and grinds out runs. I highly suspect that he maybe one of the unfortunate cricketers to be in the wrong era.

  • tickcric on July 2, 2013, 9:22 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.

  • Dashgar on July 1, 2013, 3:37 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.

  • Hughesy83 on June 30, 2013, 19:37 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.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on June 30, 2013, 9:59 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.

  • lebigfella on June 30, 2013, 7:30 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

  • on June 30, 2013, 6:52 GMT

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

  • SDHM on June 29, 2013, 19:58 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?

  • gudolerhum on June 30, 2013, 15:15 GMT

    Great commentary on what has been part of the problems that the England side experiences from time to time. Compton has done nothing wrong, Root is a promising potential but not yet as an opener; Bairstow another great talent. Compton has proved himself as opener to the extent that he should be an automatic choice as opener for the 1st test. But, no, the selectors have introduced the dreaded element of insecurity into the minds of all three candidates, each knowing they are only one, maybe two matches away from the axe. In Compton's case the axe already seems to have fallen on a potentially good career. How many times will this be repeated? Ask Mark Ramprakash, Graham Hick and the list goes on and on; so many quality batsmen (and bowlers) whose careers have been squandered by the selectors' whims and fancies.

  • on June 30, 2013, 13:54 GMT

    Good article. This business of putting Compton in to play against the Australians for Worcestershire is either terribly cynical or scrambled thinking by the selectors. Could be both at the same time, which would be consistent with the thesis, and depressingly traditional. In effect, Compton has been dumped, and given another chance to fail. He has not been given a chance to succeed, or else his two decent knocks for Somerset against Australia would have sufficed (along with being top of the Somerset averages, having better Test figures than Root and Bairstow etc). Muddled cynicism strikes again.

  • JassimA on June 30, 2013, 11:49 GMT

    I think there are two sets of questions here , Young Joe vs Compton as opener and Compton vs Bairstow . The series against NZ was Comptons first failure at the International level and I think he panicked and went into his shell. I wouldnt completely dismiss his mental strength as he has shown by scoring ample runs in domestic games and the practice game is that he is serious about getting back into the Eng side.

    Bairstow however has had such a rough deal , the guy has scored important runs when it has mattered. For people who have watched cricket for a long time can easily tell that Compton is not highly talented. He is someone that 6 years ago would have been an automatic choice in England. However, he works hard at his game and grinds out runs. I highly suspect that he maybe one of the unfortunate cricketers to be in the wrong era.

  • tickcric on July 2, 2013, 9:22 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.

  • Dashgar on July 1, 2013, 3:37 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.

  • Hughesy83 on June 30, 2013, 19:37 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.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on June 30, 2013, 9:59 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.

  • lebigfella on June 30, 2013, 7:30 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

  • on June 30, 2013, 6:52 GMT

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

  • SDHM on June 29, 2013, 19:58 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?

  • Herbet on June 29, 2013, 17:23 GMT

    You have 6 batting spots. Can you afford three of those to be out and out defensive batsmen, and can you afford those 3 to be the first 3? I think England want to capitalise on Australia's fragile confidence and put them under pressure, rather than allow their own slow scoring to put themselves under pressure. I wouldn't be surprised if the selectors came to this conclusion during the 1st innings of the 1st test v New Zealand. Root is better at ticking over and Bairstow at 6 can score quickly to compliment Pietersen and Prior. Compton scored 2 hundreds, but he scored them on lifeless featherbeds against a good but not earth shattering bowling attack. Bairstow scored 90odd and 50odd against Steyn, Morkel and Philander in bowling conditions. Which is more impressive? Did anybody complain when the likes of Hodge, Law and Love were dropped by Australia? Competition is good, and unfortunately somebody has to lose out.

  • on June 29, 2013, 16:36 GMT

    Nick Compton has been really badly mishandled by the England selectors. The Cook-Compton partnership has worked well for England both in India and in New Zealand. A lean patch of two matches is no reason to do away with someone who's worked so hard for so long to get into the England side through sheer weight of runs. If Compton's temperament is in question, he needs to be given an extended run, *not* be rudely thrown out like this. If temperament were the be all and know all for Test selection, then Eoin Morgan should be in the playing XI. Its a very very raw deal which Compton has gotten. There should not be different yardsticks for measuring success for different people. Root and Bairstow have not as yet done anything spectacular when compared to Compton. Lest we forget, this man is the grandson of the great Denis Compton. If he becomes even half the player that his grandfather was, England would do well to bring him back into the playing XI ASAP.

    Hang in there Nick, don't let go.

  • Rey23 on June 29, 2013, 14:43 GMT

    Of course the selectors pick those who 'look like a Test player'. Heaven forbid they pick players who don't.

    For me, Compton only has himself to blame for being dropped. His two Tests in England were so bad, it's hardly a surprise he's gone. His last innings was laboured, and ended in a desperate fashion - standing his ground for an obvious bat-pad, before walking off the pitch a defeated man. It reminded me of Ravi Bopara before he was dropped in the 2009 Ashes - only Compton had got into this state before the Ashes had even started.

    In addition, those arguing for fairness on Compton's behalf, don't seem too bothered about applying the same rules to Jonny Bairstow. I doubt there would have been much more than a shrug of the shoulders on these pages and on twitter if the selectors' decision was different. Compton has his two tons in NZ as evidence in his favour, but Bairstow has his own - not least the 95 against SA, and 41 (top score) and 64 against NZ in games Compton struggled.

  • EVH316 on June 29, 2013, 14:14 GMT

    There`s nothing hugely unusual about anything England, or Miller, have done here - in the same way that Trescothick and Vaughan were clearly players who possessed something beyond the story told by their averages, Root (and to a lesser extent Bairstow) has shown enough for the selectors to feel sufficiently confident to make a big call before a big series. This selection merely echoes Morgan`s inclusion over Bopara the other year which overlooked runs in favour of other less easily measurable attributes.

    And in the event of an injury to a top-six batsman? Well, Compton will be well prepared. He may not be in Miller`s top six, but he might well still be in his top eight!

  • on June 29, 2013, 13:26 GMT

    Why has Compton now been asked to play another match against Australia after having done well in the Somerset game this week, and having also made the big runs Flower wanted in earlier games? Good question. Why has Miller stated that Root is the best opening partner for Cook when they have no experience of opening together since Root made his England debut? He may well prove to be but it is by no means certain. And why was this unequivocal statement made before they had had a look at Compton v. the bowlers who will likely feature in the Ashes? Why ask Compton to prove himself by making runs if there was no intention to select him?

    It's one thing to act decisively in the best interests of the team, but I think the chain of events here has been unfair on Compton. Flower or Miller could have told him at the end of the NZ series that England had decided to move in another direction, with an acknowledgment of his efforts. Miller's statement was curt in the extreme.

  • 37c. on June 29, 2013, 11:14 GMT

    This is good writing, equal to a side such as England's. It's great that we're debating about inclusion of really good batsmen. This means that we, England, have a glut of real talent - and opportunity to win. Priority has to be to win against Australia, then take back the No 1 spot! While I completely agree with the assertion that "some players are given time to bed into to the side regardless of results, whereas others are jettisoned from the side regardless of results", with our many current options, what are the alternatives?

  • MarkTaffin on June 29, 2013, 11:11 GMT

    Also shows the selectors fickle "love-you/love-you-not/love-you/love-you-not/love-you" attitude toward Bairstow.

  • thegreatwhiteduck on June 29, 2013, 10:16 GMT

    You're not listening, so I'll repeat Miller's statement that Root is "currently the best opening partner for Alastair Cook". Since Miller is the National Selector, that is the necessary and sufficient condition. He is paid to make such decisions and he'll rise or fall according to their consequences. Compton may feel harshly treated, and has gathered sympathisers like yourself, but Miller has simply decided on what he believes to be his best team to face Australia. There have been too many occasions in the past when selectors have dodged their duty and allowed players to jump, only much later than when they should have been pushed.

  • thegreatwhiteduck on June 29, 2013, 10:16 GMT

    You're not listening, so I'll repeat Miller's statement that Root is "currently the best opening partner for Alastair Cook". Since Miller is the National Selector, that is the necessary and sufficient condition. He is paid to make such decisions and he'll rise or fall according to their consequences. Compton may feel harshly treated, and has gathered sympathisers like yourself, but Miller has simply decided on what he believes to be his best team to face Australia. There have been too many occasions in the past when selectors have dodged their duty and allowed players to jump, only much later than when they should have been pushed.

  • MarkTaffin on June 29, 2013, 11:11 GMT

    Also shows the selectors fickle "love-you/love-you-not/love-you/love-you-not/love-you" attitude toward Bairstow.

  • 37c. on June 29, 2013, 11:14 GMT

    This is good writing, equal to a side such as England's. It's great that we're debating about inclusion of really good batsmen. This means that we, England, have a glut of real talent - and opportunity to win. Priority has to be to win against Australia, then take back the No 1 spot! While I completely agree with the assertion that "some players are given time to bed into to the side regardless of results, whereas others are jettisoned from the side regardless of results", with our many current options, what are the alternatives?

  • on June 29, 2013, 13:26 GMT

    Why has Compton now been asked to play another match against Australia after having done well in the Somerset game this week, and having also made the big runs Flower wanted in earlier games? Good question. Why has Miller stated that Root is the best opening partner for Cook when they have no experience of opening together since Root made his England debut? He may well prove to be but it is by no means certain. And why was this unequivocal statement made before they had had a look at Compton v. the bowlers who will likely feature in the Ashes? Why ask Compton to prove himself by making runs if there was no intention to select him?

    It's one thing to act decisively in the best interests of the team, but I think the chain of events here has been unfair on Compton. Flower or Miller could have told him at the end of the NZ series that England had decided to move in another direction, with an acknowledgment of his efforts. Miller's statement was curt in the extreme.

  • EVH316 on June 29, 2013, 14:14 GMT

    There`s nothing hugely unusual about anything England, or Miller, have done here - in the same way that Trescothick and Vaughan were clearly players who possessed something beyond the story told by their averages, Root (and to a lesser extent Bairstow) has shown enough for the selectors to feel sufficiently confident to make a big call before a big series. This selection merely echoes Morgan`s inclusion over Bopara the other year which overlooked runs in favour of other less easily measurable attributes.

    And in the event of an injury to a top-six batsman? Well, Compton will be well prepared. He may not be in Miller`s top six, but he might well still be in his top eight!

  • Rey23 on June 29, 2013, 14:43 GMT

    Of course the selectors pick those who 'look like a Test player'. Heaven forbid they pick players who don't.

    For me, Compton only has himself to blame for being dropped. His two Tests in England were so bad, it's hardly a surprise he's gone. His last innings was laboured, and ended in a desperate fashion - standing his ground for an obvious bat-pad, before walking off the pitch a defeated man. It reminded me of Ravi Bopara before he was dropped in the 2009 Ashes - only Compton had got into this state before the Ashes had even started.

    In addition, those arguing for fairness on Compton's behalf, don't seem too bothered about applying the same rules to Jonny Bairstow. I doubt there would have been much more than a shrug of the shoulders on these pages and on twitter if the selectors' decision was different. Compton has his two tons in NZ as evidence in his favour, but Bairstow has his own - not least the 95 against SA, and 41 (top score) and 64 against NZ in games Compton struggled.

  • on June 29, 2013, 16:36 GMT

    Nick Compton has been really badly mishandled by the England selectors. The Cook-Compton partnership has worked well for England both in India and in New Zealand. A lean patch of two matches is no reason to do away with someone who's worked so hard for so long to get into the England side through sheer weight of runs. If Compton's temperament is in question, he needs to be given an extended run, *not* be rudely thrown out like this. If temperament were the be all and know all for Test selection, then Eoin Morgan should be in the playing XI. Its a very very raw deal which Compton has gotten. There should not be different yardsticks for measuring success for different people. Root and Bairstow have not as yet done anything spectacular when compared to Compton. Lest we forget, this man is the grandson of the great Denis Compton. If he becomes even half the player that his grandfather was, England would do well to bring him back into the playing XI ASAP.

    Hang in there Nick, don't let go.

  • Herbet on June 29, 2013, 17:23 GMT

    You have 6 batting spots. Can you afford three of those to be out and out defensive batsmen, and can you afford those 3 to be the first 3? I think England want to capitalise on Australia's fragile confidence and put them under pressure, rather than allow their own slow scoring to put themselves under pressure. I wouldn't be surprised if the selectors came to this conclusion during the 1st innings of the 1st test v New Zealand. Root is better at ticking over and Bairstow at 6 can score quickly to compliment Pietersen and Prior. Compton scored 2 hundreds, but he scored them on lifeless featherbeds against a good but not earth shattering bowling attack. Bairstow scored 90odd and 50odd against Steyn, Morkel and Philander in bowling conditions. Which is more impressive? Did anybody complain when the likes of Hodge, Law and Love were dropped by Australia? Competition is good, and unfortunately somebody has to lose out.

  • SDHM on June 29, 2013, 19:58 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?

  • on June 30, 2013, 6:52 GMT

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