England Right To Omit Unfortunate Ben Duckett

Via LastWordOnCricket

England have announced their limited-overs squads ahead of January’s ODIs and T20Is against India.

Unsurprisingly, Joe RootEoin Morgan and Alex Hales all return to the squads after missing October’s series win in Bangladesh.

The trio were all omitted for reasons irrelevant to performance – Root was rested after a gruelling eighteen months playing in all formats for the national side and Morgan and Hales withdrew from selection due to security concerns – so it was no great shock to see them slot back into the touring party.

However, one man who can consider himself unfortunate to have missed out is Northamptonshire batsman Ben Duckett.

The left-hander enjoyed a fair deal of success in his first three ODI outings, making 123 runs and passing fifty twice.

In the first ODI at Mirpur, he anchored England’s innings with a score of 60 from 78 deliveries batting at number three. Whilst it was not the explosive innings that county cricket fans are so used to seeing from the diminutive 22-year-old, Duckett showed great maturity in keeping a calm head on debut and rotating the strike well.

Despite a duck in the second game of the series, Duckett bounced back at Chittagong as top-scorer in England’s successful chase of 278.

His 68-ball knock of 63 included 31 runs from 22 deliveries against the off-spin of Nasir Hossain. Although Hossain is something of a part-time spinner, Duckett’s admirers will point to this fact as evidence for his ability to play the ball that turns away from him in limited-overs cricket. Whilst Duckett’s struggles against Mehedi Hasan and R Ashwin in the Test arena have been well-documented, that knock suggests that this might not translate into the white-ball formats.

However, despite his strong showings in Bangladesh, Duckett cannot feel too aggrieved about Trevor Bayliss‘ decision to leave him out of the white-ball side.

Firstly, it will do the youngster some good to get back home and spend time with his family after a tough couple of months on the subcontinent. Whilst the 22-year-old has spent long winters away with England under-19s, the relentless media pressure on him in the past two months will be something somewhat alien to him.

Furthermore, with so many pundits and journalists having pointed out a gaping flaw in his technique against off-spin, Duckett faces a psychological challenge as much as anything to get his game back in order.

However, as well as the fact that Duckett could do with some time out of the firing line, it is important to bear in mind the make-up of England’s current squad.

Coach Trevor Bayliss said upon the announcement of the white-ball squads that there had been “a lot of discussion” about Duckett, and that “he has done well for himself,” but that the selectors “thought we would show a bit of solidarity with the team we have had and [who have] done so well in the last 12-18 months.”

Indeed, with Sam Billings and Jonny Bairstow, who are both above Duckett in the pecking order, being described by Bayliss as “probably the two spare batters at the moment,” it is easy to see why the Northants man has been left out: there simply isn’t room for him in a squad packed with batting talent.

The specialist batsmen in the squad that Duckett would be competing with have all been in inspired form in 50-over cricket in 2016: Alex Hales and Jason Roy have both broken records, Joe Root is England’s best batsman, Eoin Morgan has captained the side with inspirational vigour and the undroppable Jos Buttler has England’s three fastest ODI hundreds. 

Thus, whilst it may appear a harsh decision to leave the youngster out of the white-ball leg of the tour, it makes sense in two ways. Firstly, it will take Duckett out of the firing line and give him some time to refresh ahead of 2017’s gruelling international schedule; and secondly, it allows England’s record-breaking batting line-up to continue their form as a unit.