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May 11, 2013
Geoff Miller, England's national selector, has given the strongest suggestion yet that there was an element of complacency in the series against New Zealand and that the same mistakes from that tour will not be tolerated when the return series starts at Lord's next week.
In the aftermath of the recent tour, where England only escaped with a 0-0 draw after outstanding innings from Matt Prior and Ian Bell on the final day, the players have been adamant that there was no element of taking the task lightly after the high of winning in India or being lulled by pre-series talk of only needing to turn up to whitewash New Zealand.
While Miller, who has not been known for particularly strong public statements during his six years in the main job, did not to use words such as 'complacent' or 'underestimated' there was a clear indication that a repeat of the performances in New Zealand will have significant ramifications at the beginning of an Ashes year.
"It keeps your feet on the ground. It makes you realise you can't just go into a game and go through the motions and win the game because, on paper, you are supposedly superior. It doesn't work like that. These boys know they have to perform," he said after announcing England's first Test squad of the summer. "It was very disappointing and we talked about that but they are capable of playing far, far better than that - and know that - and hopefully, I'm quietly confident, they'll show they are a better side."
The selectors have shown faith in the players on duty in New Zealand - Monty Panesar has been dropped, but that is to accommodate Graeme Swann's return - and continuity, a hallmark of Miller's tenure, was at the forefront of his mind, as well as avoiding knee-jerk reactions to one disappointing series.
"All right, they under-performed there, but they're capable of playing better than that and you don't just discard somebody because they have had a bad time as a unit," he said. "You just say 'right, not good enough, improve'. That's exactly the message they have been given.
"New Zealand are a good side, they have shown what they are capable of doing. Maybe we were forced to under-perform but we didn't play to the capabilities they have shown in the past so that has got to be rectified."
If the first part of the year had fitted England's perfect script, they may have eyed this series as a chance to rest a senior bowler or two but after the significantly below-part display in New Zealand it made it virtually impossible for the selectors to name anything other than a full-strength side for this series, even though opportunities to give players a break are now few and far between.
Alongside Swann's return, Tim Bresnan has also been brought back into the squad following his recovery from the elbow problem that hampered him last year, which means there are two players in the 12 who have recently been on the operating table but Miller insisted there was no risk attached.
"They have gone through the process with their counties, showing there was no reaction to it," he said. "They have both been very, very positive, and there has been nothing at all. The reason for the operations was to get rid of the pain which they were showing and disability as such, which wasn't allowing them to perform to their best. Now they're pain free and bowling like they were before they had the problems."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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