West Indies in England 2012 June 2, 2012

Workloads and players need careful managing

The international schedule demands that England rest their key performers or face a repeat of the Kevin Pietersen stand-off

There is a certain irony in England debating whether to rest one player within a week of telling another he cannot rest as much as he would like. While it would be disingenuous to draw too many similarities between the cases of James Anderson and Kevin Pietersen, their scenarios do highlight a dilemma that looks sure to become a greater problem over the next year or two: the onerous international schedule.

When England name their squad for the third Test at Edgbaston it seems likely that Anderson will be excluded. Stuart Broad may also be rested for the game.

While their status as England's two first-choice seamers remains unquestioned, the England management are keen not to over exert them in a series that is already won. They hope that by providing opportunities to the back-up seamers, Steven Finn and, perhaps, Graham Onions, they can not only keep Anderson and Broad for more important matches to come but provide some experience to the support bowlers should they be required to step up in the future.

There is logic in that. While some will decry a perceived degradation in the value of Test cricket - also, with some logic - it is an inevitable sign of the times. There is no way England - or several other international teams - can get through the next 18-months without squad rotation. Those members of the squad who hope to play in all three formats of the game, can expect to spend less than two weeks (from December 24 to January 2) in England between late October and April. Even before that, they face a trip to Sri Lanka for the World Twenty20. It is asking too much of the players and their wives. It is not sustainable.

Anyone doubting the absurdity of the current fixture programme need only look at the scheduling of the ODI against Scotland on August 12. It comes just six days after the second Test against South Africa at Headingley and four days before the third Test at Lord's. To make matters worse, it is also scheduled two days after a Lions fixture against Australia A in Manchester and two days before a Lions fixture against the same opposition in Birmingham. It is surely the person responsible for such scheduling who should be the one 'retiring' from the ECB.

There is no way England can sustain such a fixture schedule at the same time as any pretence about the sanctity of international cricket. Something had to give and if it is resting a leading player or two from a Test in a sealed series against an opposition struggling for equilibrium, then so be it. That Anderson is not happy speaks volumes for his excellent temperament: it is good that he wants to play. But, just as he bounced back after being omitted from England's side for the World T20 success in the Caribbean, so he will bounce back from this. He is not the one about which England should worry.

"There is no way England can sustain the current fixture schedule at the same time as any pretence about the sanctity of international cricket"

No, it is Pietersen's future that is causing the headaches. Given the schedule and the way in which the ECB are keen to look after Anderson, it is not hard to understand why Pietersen wanted more time to rest. He was requesting, after all, only what England imposed on him a year ago by 'resting' him from the ODI series against India. Had the England management - too heavy on the stick and too sparing with the carrot - handled this situation better, he might simply have missed a few games this summer and resumed normal service over the winter. He might have continued to play ODI and T20I cricket. Or he might just have retired from ODIs. But, bearing in mind that England have a different captain for each format of the game, the ECB's argument that the ODI and T20I squads are so closely linked that opting out of one limited-overs format should automatically rule a player out of the other, is fatally flawed.

Perhaps Pietersen does not cut a particularly sympathetic figure. His decision - a decision that he would have been insane not to take - to participate in the IPL rather than resting will always rile some and, perhaps more pertinently, it is apparent that he has never developed the reservoir of loyalty and affection within the England set-up that others - the likes of Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood - did, to see him through the lean times. He has been tolerated, not embraced, for some time.

But just because Pietersen is not wildly popular does not make him wrong. His needs are not so different from those of Anderson. Perhaps they are expressed differently, perhaps they are more personal, but they are not so different. Both are individuals who require careful handling and both could, with careful management, still have a huge role to play in the future of England's Test and limited-overs teams. If the ECB continue to push the players too hard, however, the cracks will become more apparent.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on June 6, 2012, 0:00 GMT

    Re- Anderson (cont.) - his S/R I would say he is below ave, @ almost 37, (I rate S/R as being more important than economy) - here Broad & Finn are superior, Bresnan & Tremlett are significantly worse. So I was saying that not having Anderson in ODIs would not be such a bad thing, he clearly is worth being in the squad from a pure ODI aspect. I would still hold that overall (with the primacy of Tests), England are better off searching for a replacement for him in ODIs & Broad in T20s (his stats are OK but not great, Sidebottom & Finn's are better). So IMO, if England have greater use of their "bench strength" in the Short Forms, they won't need to rotate their best bowlers in Tests. It's funny atm, it seems only batsmen in England are concentrating on Tests!

  • Andrew on June 5, 2012, 23:50 GMT

    @jmcilhinney/JG2704 - I know the ODI series v Oz is a joke, however, I would think that resting their Test stars for it would be better than resting them from a Test. I think the stop/start nature of an ODI series is more likely to produce an injury, (particularly in Oz where there is plenty of air travel in between games). In tests, whilst a bowler will have to possibly bowl 300 balls (the equivilent of a 5-match series), it would only involve about 7 or 8 spells over 2 or 3 days versus around 15 spells over 2 weeks. Regarding Anderson getting an unfair rap - I have to admit I may of judged him harshly by comparing him to other bowlers from other countries. If you think it is fair to say England have underperformed in ODIs over the last 10 yrs, I had a look at all Eng bowlers from the last 10yrs - his E/R is (IMO very ave in Global terms) - only about 4 recent Eng pace bowlers are superior (Flintoff/Finn/Sidebottom/K Ali) TBC

  • John on June 5, 2012, 12:21 GMT

    @Meety- as I put earlier in the thread or on another I feel Eng should be more flexible with the contracts/workloads of the 3(now 2) who regularly play all 3 fmts.Re Shaz , I've not notice his form pick up recently.Woakes is one to use in the shorter forms.Re Broad - it's difficult as he is possibly our most valuable player across all 3 fmts but is also injury prone.Bres is a bit injury prone too and Jimmy is prone to burnout.I'm starting to wonder if they are overdoing the fitness/training whereby they're carrying the stress into the matches?I'm not fussed if they rest Broad in this one as I feel he is a key player in the shorter forms and as much as the T20s/ODIs are not AS important as the test rankings, I'd still like it if we maintained our T20 ranking and improved our ODI ranking although without KP it will be a tough ask.Re KP the more I think about it the more I feel it's to do with the fine re comms on Knight and see it getting messy with KP retiring from tests too maybe soon

  • John on June 5, 2012, 11:01 GMT

    @Meety on (June 05 2012, 10:22 AM GMT), I'm interested to see Woakes again too. he didn't seem to do too much wrong when he played in Australia after the Ashes. I seem to recall that he was even instrumental in England's win in one of the T20s. Obviously England didn't do well in that ODI series but I don't recall how many 50-over games Woakes played. I'm not sure that the powers that be consider his batting strong enough to warrant calling him an all-rounder though. As for Anderson, I think he's a real power in Tests and not such a standout in ODIs, but I think he does get judged a little too harshly based mainly on not having had a great WC. Who in the England team could actually claim to have done so though. I also thing that England have backed themselves into a corner with this ODI series against Australia. It's pointless but it's on so they have to take it seriously. Resting players during that series would flag it as a complete joke, which is not good if ODIs are in danger.

  • Andrew on June 5, 2012, 10:22 GMT

    My advice to the ECB is not to rotate your star bowlers from Tests, just don't select them for ODIs & T20s. For your short forms a bowling attack that has Woakes, Shahzad & Patel in it would do reasonably well, at least in comparison to recent bowling (last 5 yrs), performances in short forms.

  • Andrew on June 5, 2012, 10:19 GMT

    On a micro level, Broad being given the T20 captaincy has a lot going for it, (succession planning, inventive tactics? etc), however, here is an injury prone bowling allrounder who is now pretty much bedded to 3 formats, this (IMO) spells disaster over the long run. I think that Shahzad is a very good ODI bowler (looked good in Oz), if he was to be included in the short form squads - surely that would instantly releive workload issues? Oz have what I consider a benefit in having Brett Lee playing in the Short Forms, he is still one of the best ODI bowlers in the world & it means we lose absolutely nothing by resting Siddle & even Harris from that Form's fixtures. MJ is coming back into the ODI squad & I think that will further lessen the workload. I think there needs to be some research done into the stresses on a fast bowler, as I understand it, they bowl less in matches than in the past, but play more games. What stresses are they under that leads to more injuries? TBC

  • Andrew on June 5, 2012, 10:12 GMT

    The KP saga is just a side issue in relation to the heading of this article. I disagree with using the term "rotation" though. I do beleive that "resting" your plays, even for a dead rubber, devalues tests. I am not writing this little rant as bagging the writer or the ECB, I understand the reasons for resting Anderson. The simple question is 'why not rest Mr Anderson from the ODIs & T20s? No reflection on Anderson's ability, however, is he really amongst the best short form bowlers England have? (I'd say nope!). This article really sits at the edge of the real "workload" issue (IMO). I actually don't think there is too many fixtures, just too much of a backward mentality on most selection panels. There is no REAL reason why the best cricket nations can't have seperate squads for seperate formats. The KP saga is in the long run a good thing for England, a quality batting resource focussing on tests is great, why can't they do the same with Anderson? TBC

  • John on June 5, 2012, 4:44 GMT

    @GeorgeWBush on (June 05 2012, 03:27 AM GMT), you obviously don't listen to enough Australian cricket commentary. :-)

  • Paul on June 5, 2012, 3:27 GMT

    @RandyOz. I've not heard it called chin music before. I'm going to use that in future.

  • Paul on June 5, 2012, 3:23 GMT

    I think the reason England opt for only 4 bowlers is in part due to Swann being an exceptional spinner who very rarely fails to keep the scoring rate down, even if he is not taking wickets. The other reason is that all the England bowlers are extremely fit. I never looks like Anderson, Broad or Bresnan are labouring at the end of a day in the field. Sure there are passages of play when England a struggling to find a breakthrough but it is not normally because the bowlers are tiring - just because the opposition batsmen are batting well. With any other group of players England would have to play 5 bowlers but as it is they continue playing 4 for the foreseeable future. I suspect Bopara will be in the team for South Africa in part because he offers an option of a few overs that are of higher quality than anything the other part time bowlers (Trott or Pietersen) can offer.

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