The selection of Chris Read August 3, 2006

A dose of shock treatment

Read does not have to score many runs to better Jones's recent record but he will have to keep very well



The wait is finally over for Chris Read © Getty Images

Be careful what you wish for - you only appreciate someone when they're gone ... et cetera. No sooner had Geraint Jones been given the Anne Robinson treatment by the England selectors than the backlash started.

The first sign that something was up was a text message from a friend indicating in the plainest Anglo-Saxon that he wouldn't exactly be cheering Read on at Headingley. Once I'd got over the surprise I asked why. It turned out my friend didn't go a bundle on the whole Jack Russell-style, eccentric keeper schtick which is how he identified Read.

I would have happily put this outburst down to the rantings of a madman but then, the letters started. Over the past year or so at The Wisden Cricketer we've had a steady trickle of pro-Read/anti-Jones correspondence ranging from 'something must be done' territory to a variety of a conspiracy theories for the Kent man's continued selection.

But this week the tide turned. It's only four days since Jones was dropped but already we've had a bunch of emails supporting Jones and complaining of his omission. A year ago Jones was receiving hate mail when he played at Trent Bridge (Read's home ground) in the Ashes. Now it was tearful nostalgia.

Maybe it was just the shock of the decision. Because it surely was a shock. A colleague told me how he'd heard the announcement on his car radio and been genuinely shaken by the decision (and he's a Read man).

As bolts from the blue go, it's hardly a JFK moment. But it seemed so out of character with Duncan Fletcher's England. Central contracts have put paid to the great English tradition of the selectorial merry-go-round.

It is hard to remember the last time an England player was dropped in the middle of a series. In the last two-and-a-bit years, the only such decision made with any perminance in mind was Jones's controversial selection in place of Read in Antigua. Other major switches are generally made at the start of series.

Fletcher has made a virtue out of consistency of selection and loyalty to the players he has identified. But the presence of specialists like Read and Monty Panesar at Headingley may indicate a sea-change in the dynamics of Team England.

Or it may mean nothing of the sort. One imagines Read will get a fair crack of the whip but he is under pressure. His reputation has been built partly by his exceptional performances with the bat for Nottinghamshire but also by the wishful thinking of journalists, many of whom will hardly have seen him play since he last wore an England cap.

Read does not have to score many runs to better Jones's recent record but he will have to keep very well. Jones kept exceptionally at Old Trafford and equalled Jack Russell's England record of five dismissals in an innings five times.

Read can expect the support of England followers but for how long? He's not a new kid on the block, he's supposed to be a prodigal son. And The Wisden Cricketer's inbox has shown how fickle we can be. Maybe all nations are the same but England supporters seem to need a fall guy, even in the good times. Ashley Giles was one and he's gone. Jones was certainly one and now he's gone. Ian Bell was another but he's batting like Peter May. So who's it to be now? Again, be careful what you wish for.

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer

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