Cricinfo XI February 1, 2007

England's World Cup roulette

England's approach to one-day cricket has been a shambles for years, but in recent months - just as the rest of the world gears up for the World Cup, in fact - the planning and preparation has gone into meltdown

England's approach to one-day cricket has been a shambles for years, but in recent months - just as the rest of the world gears up for the World Cup, in fact - the planning and preparation has gone into meltdown. No fewer than 36 players have been tried, tested and (mostly) rejected since the tour of Pakistan in 2005-06. Here, Cricinfo takes a look at just a selection of the outcasts

Matt Prior: not the new Kaluwitharana © Getty Images

Matt Prior

If you thought Geraint Jones and Chris Read were England's forgotten glovemen, then you've forgotten what "forgotten" means. In 11 of his 12 one-dayers for England, including 10 matches on last winter's tour of the subcontinent, England forgot even to play Prior in his preferred role as a wicketkeeper. Instead he was thrust up the order as a good old-fashioned pinch-hitter - or outdated slogger, depending on your viewpoint. After a top-score of 45, and a strike-rate of 70, the selectors slapped him out of the park.

Marcus Trescothick

Mind you, England's persistence with Prior had a vast amount to do with the absence of this man. In 454 matches over the course of 36 years, English batsmen have registered a pitiful 79 ODI hundreds, which is fewer than the combined tally of the Indian team that beat West Indies at Vadodara yesterday (84). Trescothick, however, has managed 12 of those on his own, which is four more than England's next most prolific century-maker, Graham Gooch, and four times as many as either Andrew Flintoff or Kevin Pietersen (3). And we wonder why England have been so listless since his illness.

Vikram Solanki

For one glorious campaign in 2003, in the immediate aftermath of England's last World Cup meltdown, Vikram Solanki was the answer to England's prayers - an elegant but forceful opener who could act as the perfect foil for Trescothick's stand-and-deliver approach. Against South Africa at The Oval they clicked perfectly with a pair of hundreds in a 200-run standing. But Solanki was never allowed to recover from a dreadful tour to Bangladesh that winter. He scrimped his way to 11 runs in three innings, and since then, he has epitomised England's play-and-miss approach. He has been dropped a Hick-esque nine times in three years, and until he was binned - seemingly for good - midway through last summer, he had played in as many games (26) as he had missed.

Ian Blackwell: when he connects, it travels ... © Getty Images
Ian Blackwell

Not one of nature's lither creatures, Blackwell does, however, use his considerable bulk to belt a cricket ball considerable distances - a talent that would serve him well in one-day cricket, you might think. And in fact, four years ago, he was a key component of England's World Cup campaign, after a slugger's 82 against India in the preceding Champions Trophy and some useful spells of left-arm spin against the Aussies in the VB Series. His bulk, however, didn't please the fitness-focussed Fletcher-Vaughan regime, which banished him for the best part of three years. The Somerset captaincy helped relaunch his prospects, and even earned him a Test debut in India, but his ineptitude against Shoaib Akhtar last winter had caused the doubts to resurface even before a shoulder injury scuppered his 2006 season.

Michael Yardy

Here's a left-field selection. A county journeyman with the most front-on batting stance since Peter Willey last faced the West Indians. Yardy was another of Duncan Fletcher's wild-card picks - a bits-and-pieces cricketer whom he could mould in his own dour, functional image. For a while it even worked. Yardy grabbed three wickets on debut with his darting left-arm spin, and Mohammad Yousuf was one of those, no less. But then, things got a bit silly. For the Champions Trophy he was thrust in at No. 4, ahead of England's form batsmen, Collingwood and Pietersen, and soon enough he - and England - had sunk without trace.

Alex Loudon

Talking of spinners who could bat a bit, here's another - apparently. Alex Loudon was the wild-card for the tour of Pakistan in 2005-06, where he was hailed as England's elusive "mystery spinner" after bowling Trescothick with a doosra in the Rawalpindi nets. But the only thing that remains mysterious is the extent of his abilities. He has played in just one ODI, midway through last summer's debacle of a series against Sri Lanka, in which he bowled six wicketless overs for 36, and was run out without facing a ball.

Glenn Chapple: an 11-year wait for a call-up, and then he got injured © Getty Images
Glen Chapple

As one-cap wonders go, however, few can match Glen Chapple's tale of woe. He could and probably should have earned an international debut against West Indies way back in 1995, when he was a sprightly 21-year-old and one of the brightest prospects on the county circuit. He missed out to his Lancashire team-mate, Peter Martin, and was again overlooked for a Test cap in 2003 against South Africa at Trent Bridge. Instead, three years later still, he finally earned an ODI debut against Ireland at Stormont ... but lasted just four overs before succumbing to a stomach strain.

Tim Bresnan

On the plus side for Chapple, his injury did at least excuse him from the slaughter that followed in England's five-match series against Sri Lanka. Tim Bresnan, on the other hand, was not so lucky. A Yorkshire prodigy who, with hindsight, was promoted too soon, he played in four of the five matches, and acquitted himself half-decently in the circumstances. He leaked his runs at a mere 6.76 an over as Sanath Jayasuriya laid waste to reputations left, right and centre, but the final insult came at Headingley. His only two overs were smashed for 29 as Sri Lanka chased 322 with an absurd 12.3 overs to spare.

Kabir Ali

When Sajid Mahmood served up figures of 2 for 80 in seven overs against Sri Lanka at The Oval, they were - ever so briefly - the most expensive economy rate ever produced by an England bowler over a sustained spell. Within three games, however, another soon-to-be reject, Kabir Ali had managed to cap that. His six overs were carted for 72, and at a stroke (or rather, in a flurry of them) his brief flirtation with international cricket was ended. Kabir's finest hour had come at Bloemfontein in January 2005, when he lost his nerve in the final over, regained it flukily when a rank full-toss was swatted to midwicket, and retained it for the next five balls to deliver a dramatic tie. England hoped they had found their new death bowler, but that was as good as it got.

Steve Harmison: not a fan of one-day cricket © Getty Images
Steve Harmison

Oh, Stevie, Stevie. What might have been ... In the event, his retirement from one-day cricket in the aftermath of his Champions Trophy humiliation was a blessing for a team that was visibly tiring of his supine performances. In truth, Harmison hasn't given a damn about one-day cricket since that awful experience at Lilac Hill on the 2002-03 Ashes tour, when he delivered seven consecutive wides in a single over. He had his moments, most notably against Australia at Bristol in their first meeting of the 2005 summer, but just when England were looking for him to lead the line, he became instead the biggest liability. Ninety-seven runs in a single spell against - you guessed it, Sri Lanka - wasn't too clever either.

Darren Gough

Being dumped by text message is all the rage among the youth of today, apparently. But for one old stager it was an indignity too far. David Graveney later apologised for the manner in which Gough had been omitted from England's preliminary World Cup squad, but it was a predictable enough decision all the same. The old Dazzler's decision to enter, and win, the BBC's "Strictly Coming Dancing" talent show when he ought to have been leading the attack in Pakistan last winter all but sealed his fate. He did return to face them for two ODIs last summer, but went wicketless on each occasion and drifted off into the sunset.

And one good bit of news

Stuart Broad

It was often said that the best thing that ever happened to Mike Atherton was his omission from Gooch's tour to the Caribbean in 1989-90, when he was a callow 21-year-old and West Indies were in their pomp. The same might one day be said of Stuart Broad, the brightest young seamer on the scene in 2006, and a man who would have spent far too much time in Australia either fetching drinks in the manner of a Liam Plunkett, or straining his neck muscles like Mahmood or Jimmy Anderson. Instead he has the memory of five worthy performances against Pakistan last summer, and the knowledge that his turn, undoubtedly, will come again.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo