30 December 2008

With Vaughan missing out, who holds the key and number three for England?

England named their squad for the tour of West Indies yesterday and if we are being honest, there were no real surprises. Some believed that former captain Michael Vaughan had an outside chance, but realistically, he hasn’t played enough cricket in recent months and it would have been a risky to include him.

The only other talking points in terms of the test squad were that Adil Rashid – who I wrote about on Island Express last week – has been selected and despite recent injury problems, so has Ryan Sidebottom. Other that that it was very much as expected.

So, Michael Vaughan. What does the future hold for him now? In reality, as Jonathan Agnew pointed out in his blog yesterday, the news that he missed out on the squad moves him a step closer to international retirement. Being the determined individual he is, he still harbour ambitions of making back into the England set-up, but the cricket odds are less likely to back this happening now.

The only way that Vaughan is going to remind the selectors he can do a job for his country is to go back to Yorkshire and score lots and lots of runs. The only problem with this though is that time isn’t on his side. Vaughan's main aim is to play against Australia again, that's for sure. If he is to do this next summer, he would have to do enough in the first few weeks of the county season to impress. Given the form he has been in, is this likely to happen?

Even if he does find some form again, he would have to hope that someone in England’s batting line-up has a bad run to make way for him. All in all, not many things are in favour of Vaughan playing for England again, but I wouldn’t rule it out just yet. Even if it isn’t next summer, Vaughan won’t give up hope and the selectors can’t avoid him for ever. Just go and score plenty of hundreds Michael!

I mentioned England’s current batting line-up a second ago and that’s what I want to talk about next. Vaughan’s omission from the squad means that Ian Bell and Owais Shah will be fighting it out for the number three position in the batting order. It is such a vital position for any team and one which England have had problems with for a while now.

Bell is the man in possession of the position and the faith shown in him by the selectors should boost his confidence. However, he really has been on a bad run of form of late. For whatever reason, he has yet to do justice for his undoubted talent with the bat. Graham Thorpe mentioned on Sky Sports yesterday that he always thought Bell looks like he is making his debut when going out to bat. He seems nervous and unsure of his ability to make a big score. Considering Bell has played 45 test matches now – this is a slight worry!

As for Shah, well in my opinion he has to be one of the unluckiest cricketers in recent times. No matter how excellent his form is, he just can’t nail down a place in the test team. His presence in the one-day side is significant, but he has only played two test matches. The Middlesex man is the master of the waiting game and he may have to do the same again in the West Indies.

Overall, the policy of the selectors seems to have been – ‘keep the faith’. Bell needs to repay this decision and score some runs. He needs to start believing in himself more, because in Shah, England have someone determined to force his way into the test team somehow.

This is a huge tour for a number of players and one which could decide whether they take part in the Ashes next summer.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about cricket betting

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