With less than a month to go until the Champions Trophy gets underway, England are right not to rotate their side more than they have to for the upcoming two-match series against Ireland.
Not so long ago, rotation was, and still is to some degree, a much-used method for major cricketing nations – especially when playing against lesser opposition. Why not give that exciting talent a go for two matches? It is only Ireland, after all. The rotation policy has been excused somewhat in recent times given the evolution of the shorter forms. Now, players come and go with each changing format as ‘Test match’ players are exactly that and only a handful of the truly best cricketers represent their nations in all three formats.
Still, players such as Joe Root, Hashim Amla, Ravi Ashwin, David Warner, and Trent Boult do not play every game in every format given the ever demanding schedule. The difference in England’s current situation is that a global tournament is just around the corner – a tournament they are arguably favourites for. And a competition they have been preparing two years for.
Consistency is Key:
Every member of the team that is likely to walk out at the Oval in less than a month’s time has been a part of their white-ball revolution. Every player will understand what they have been through together as a team and how much a first 50-over tournament title would mean. Yes, many young players are eagerly awaiting their chance to showcase their skills: Tom Curran was acknowledged by his call-up to the recent series in the Caribbean; Liam Livingstone is one of the most talked about players in the country, as is Mason Crane.
However, it would be unfair to rob one of England’s more established players time to prepare for this high-pressure tournament. Jason Roy and Alex Hales have only opened together three times since last summer, Mark Wood is just returning from another long injury, and Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid need to bowl in any international match they can.
England’s desired team for the Champions Trophy has been decided for a long time. While the rapid progress of Livingstone, Curran, and Crane is hugely encouraging, they were never going to be a part of England’s short-term plans. Despite Ireland’s exclusion from the Champions Trophy, all match plans will focus on possible scenarios that England will face. Why include a player if they will not be part of that scenario?
Even England’s fringe players are established. Steven Finn, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings have all stepped in when an injury has occurred. Arguably, only Ben Duckett and Jake Ball have forced their way into the ODI side in the past two years which justifies their selection for the series against Ireland.
One might ask: ‘if the Champions Trophy is so important, why are three of England’s best players partaking in the IPL, as opposed to facing Ireland?’ It’s a valid question.
Indeed, it’s slightly contradictive to place such emphasis on consistent selection ahead of the Champions Trophy at the same time that Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, and Chris Woakes will remain in India while Jason Roy, Eoin Morgan, and Sam Billings return to the squad. Strong arguments can be made for both sides but the majority tend to agree that the benefits of playing in the IPL outweigh the negatives. Perhaps this is why it is important not to deputise anyone against Ireland, given that three regular team members are already missing.
It will be fascinating to see the likes of Livingstone, Curran or Crane in an England shirt before long. However, given the preparation that has gone into the upcoming Champions Trophy, the England selectors are right not to rotate their squad against Ireland.