No one has said selecting an international cricket team is easy but following a few simple rules does lessen the burden.
As a selector, former Australian captain Herbie Collins strove "for the right combination above all things". The best illustration of this common-sense adage is the choice of wicketkeeper in a best ever Australian side.
When you have a batsman named Donald Bradman at three and a few other exceptional willow wielders accompanying him, runs aren't your main concern. However, with such feisty competitors in your bowling ranks as Bill "Tiger" O'Reilly, Dennis Lillee and Shane Warne, you had better choose the best fielding combination.
I wouldn't like to be the selector assigned the task of telling that trio the guy chosen as wicketkeeper was there primarily for his batting, after he missed a couple of chances. Anyway it's not like the candidates for best ever Australian wicketkeeper are mugs with the bat; Rod Marsh and Ian Healy made three and four Test centuries respectively, and Don Tallon's top score was 92.
Former South Australian captain Les Favell stridently insisted: "When the gloveman starts hurting the team, it's time for a change." On that basis England's chief selector, Ed Smith, has a tough decision looming. There's no doubt that Jos Buttler's shoddy glovework not only hindered England's victory chances in the first Test against Pakistan but also put offspinner Dom Bess' place in jeopardy.
Eventually Buttler helped England claim a meritorious victory with the bat. However, it's reasonable to mount an argument that England wouldn't have needed his precious second-innings runs if he had accepted either of the first-innings chances century-maker Shan Masood offered with his score on 45.
And then there's the not insignificant matter of Bess' career. He was the unfortunate bowler when Buttler flubbed those two chances, and he also missed another one off Bess, and these mishaps undoubtedly affected both the bowler's figures and his confidence.
England have proposed tours to Sri Lanka and India in the near future and this will require a keeper adept at standing up to the stumps. Buttler is far from sure-handed when standing up and that has to be a prime consideration when choosing the keeper for those series. England are slated to tour Australia in 2021-22, and on bouncier pitches, it's crucial to have a wicketkeeper who covers a lot of territory standing back. That is not a Buttler specialty either. His footwork is poor and a couple of times in the West Indies series he failed to even attempt catches on the off side that you would expect an international keeper to swallow.
On their 1991-92 tour of Australia, India chose to go with Kiran More, a good keeper under home conditions. It turned out to be an ill-conceived selection as he covered very little territory standing back - where a keeper in Australia spends the bulk of his time. With his current footwork, if England bring Buttler to Australia as their premier keeper, that's also likely to be an error of judgement.
A good wicketkeeper sets the standard for a fielding side and it's no coincidence England's catching is currently fallible.
On the plus side, Smith has one ingredient that every selector hopes - or, in some cases, even prays for - an allrounder who bats in the top six. Ben Stokes is currently the best allrounder in the game. In addition to his ability to bat as high as five and his bowling versatility, he is also the best all-round slip fielder. With Stokes and a strong pace attack, England have the building blocks for a really good team.
What they do require to ensure their best combination in the field is a wicketkeeper chosen primarily for his excellent glove work.