A #Powerful Blog On Selection

As an Essex and England fan I’m naturally dissapointed that Ravi Bopara hasn’t scored the century to see England home every time he’s been to the crease in his entire career. His run of scores since he got back-to-back fifties at the start of the Sri Lanka series was poor indeed and I can see why Gary Ballance has been picked in his place for the Australia game tomorrow.

The debate on social media that I’ve seen this morning about the selection has not been “Gary Ballance is a fantastic player and England are lucky to have the likes of him and Alex Hales as batting cover.” Rather the debate has been about the injustice of excluding Ben Stokes and picking that useless waste of carbon bloke who plays for Essex: Ravi Bopara.

Stokes is undoubtedly a talented player who has the ability to be successful in international cricket for many years to come. He will break all of Sir Ian Botham’s records for England I’m sure of it. In fact, he’s already taken a five wicket haul in ODIs for England which is something Sir Ian never quite managed to achieve in his 16-year ODI career.

This World Cup is the 2nd ODI tournament that he could have been selected for since he made his ODI debut. The first (the 2013 Champion’s Trophy) he did not make as a fall-out from the England Lions tour to Australia the winter before. England needed a batsman who can also bowl in the Collingwood mode and they fell back on Ravi Bopara. Having had their hand forced, the selectors were almost repaid in full as Bopara made a number of contributions with the bat lower down the order and with the ball he recorded the best bowling figures for any England bowler in a World Cup, Champions Trophy or World Twenty20 final:

Best England Bowling in a Final

So Stokes missed the 2013 Champions Trophy on behaviour and form issues. He missed World Cup selection because his form with the bat in 2014 has seen him scoring almost exclusively in binary. He missed the 2014 World Twenty20 because he inflicted an injury upon himself in a rage (he needs to learn from Ricky Ponting and smash TVs instead).

There are many reasons to want Stokes in the ODI team: he can smash bowling attacks, he can bowl in excess of 85mph and he’s a very good fielder. But his form and confidence have not been evident in his displays during the past 12 months. Including him in the world cup squad at this stage would have been a huge gamble wouldn’t it? Bear in mind England have dropped their captain of 3 years one month before the world cup, have a bowling attack that is being lead by two bowlers feeling their way back after injury lay-offs (albeit successfully in Anderson’s case, #Stay #Humble Stuart), an opener and spinner who has only been playing international cricket for a year and a number three who had 2 ODIs to his name before the start of this winter. Don’t you think that’s enough gambles to be taking without adding another one to the squad?

It would be interesting to watch I suppose. But this is the World Cup, it’s the sport’s premier international event and England have got just about the best squad of players available for a 6 week tournament.

I really think we ought to be talking about how good a player Gary Ballance is, not how Ravi Bopara didn’t deserve to be in the squad ahead of Ben Stokes.

Anyway I’ll always back Ravi, because that’s the joy of watching and playing sport. You always have players whom you want to watch playing, no matter what their form is.

Ravi haters are going to hate.

Post Script.

Dave Tickner nails it perfectly: