Andrew Caddick: thanks but no thanks
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Wisden Cricinfo staff
The ECB has delayed the announcement of the West Indian Test and one-day tour parties, and will now unveil its squads on Wednesday afternoon. It had been assumed that the selectors would have completed their global consultations over the weekend - involving Duncan Fletcher in South Africa and Rod Marsh in Australia - but they have opted to delay for 24 hours.
It could well be that there are one or two last-minute bleep tests to carry out. The bulk of the selectors' conversation will have been about the fitness - or rather lack of - of their seam bowlers. The main contenders are in various states of unreadiness, and it is not inconceivable than the bulk of the front-line choices could be ruled out on medical grounds.
The key man in the whole business of who goes to the West Indies is Peter Gregory, the England doctor. David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, made it clear that no player would make the trip if he couldn't satisfy Gregory that he was fit.
"We have to listen to Peter Gregory and his input will be crucial," said Graveney. "In view of what has happened last year in Australia, we must be sure that we don't select players who aren't going to last. The medical team on tour simply can't treat ongoing injuries as well as those that are bound to crop up, otherwise it'll be chaotic."
That leaves three men - Simon Jones, Andrew Caddick and Steve Harmison - sweating by the telephone. Caddick has the most to fear - Graveney said as much - as he has still not resumed bowling following surgery last summer. Jones is reported to be bowling well in the nets but, like Caddick, he is woefully short of any match practice. The selectors will not gamble on both of them, and so Jones's youth - and the fact that he has at least started bowling - will count in his favour.
The questions surrounding Harmison's suitability are quite different. His fitness is an issue, but perhaps no more than his growing reputation as being a difficult tourist. Stories abound that since his early return from Bangladesh he has been markedly reluctant to fall into line with what England believe is the best rehabilitation for him. Several influential members of the England camp are reported to be less than thrilled with his overall attitude.
If all three were to be ruled out, England's attack looks decidedly weak. Andrew Flintoff is a certainty, James Anderson not far short of being one, and the rest include Matthew Hoggard, Richard Johnson, James Kirtley and Martin Saggers from the autumn tours. It's not quite scraping the barrel, but with West Indies pace attack in disarray, it will not be a battle of the world-class fast men.
The spinners are easy to pick now that Robert Croft has withdrawn his hat from the ring, and the two allrounders - Flintoff and Rikki Clarke - pick themselves in the absence of any realistic alternatives. The same applies to the wicketkeepers.
The batting is also more straightforward, with the same six as toured Bangladesh and Sri Lanka almost certain to retain their places.
Possible squad Michael Vaughan (capt), Marcus Trescothick, Mark Butcher, Nasser Hussain, Graham Thorpe, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Rikki Clarke, Chris Read (wk) Geraint Jones (wk), Ashley Giles, Gareth Batty, Steve Harmison, Richard Johnson, James Anderson, Simon Jones.