By Martin Johnson
The England selectors sit down over the luncheon table today
to pick a team for their first encounter with Australia, and if
the meal takes the same shape as the international season, they
will start with the cigars and finish with a bread roll.
The Texaco Trophy series is, as usual, placed at the start
of the season, when deeds of derring-do clutter up the issue for
the more important trench warfare ahead. The one-day inter-
nationals, the first of which is at Old Trafford next Wednesday,
would be no less high profile as an end-of-term fireworks display,
and the early pre-occupation with one-day cricket means the
England captain will have played in only two Championship games
before the first Test match.
However, at least the three one- dayers occupy their own
separate compartment, which in theory means that the selectors
ought to be less confused than they were the last time they sat
down together in September. On that occasion, they picked rather
a decent one-day squad, which would have been a good deal more
perspicacious had they not appeared to have forgotten that there
were also four Test matches on the winter agenda.
In the event, not only were England whitewashed in the Tests,
they failed to win either one-day series. An inquest into the
former produced the startling revelation that it was more a
sartorial disaster than a cricketing one, and that a swift trans-
formation from Goochie's men to Gucci's men should be more than
enough to see off the Aussies this summer.
Privately, though, the post mortem on the one-day perfor-
mances led the team manager, Keith Fletcher, to the conclusion
that it was not so much the length of beard that let England down,
as the sort of fielding that would only have been barely toler-
able in W G's day. Ergo, when England's 13-man squad is announced
tomorrow, the ability to save 15 runs in the field will have been
a bigger qualifying factor than the ability to slog 15 at the end
of the innings.
Regular employment of the razor being a lesser case for
career advancement in the context of close shaves with authority,
Mark Ramprakash was ignored for the India- Sri Lanka tour despite
more impressive credentials against spin than one or two of those
selected, but his brilliant fielding suggests that he will have
found his way back into an England squad by lunchtime tomorrow.
Likewise, Naser Hussain must come into the frame, as does another
class fielder, Surrey's Graham Thorpe.
All of these qualify for a likely vacancy down the order at
No 5 or No 6, given that Mike Gatting last week finished runner-
up in an altercation with a dressing-room door, although he may
not have been considered in any case given the accent on agility.
The selectors could choose from any amount of batsmen not
selected for India (Ramprakash, Hussain, Thorpe, Lamb, Lathwell,
Gower, Maynard, Brown, Fordham, and Broad, to name a few) but
there is no such glut when it comes to bowlers. Angus Fraser and
Neil Foster are not fit enough for consideration, and only Paul
Jarvis and Chris Lewis could be pencilled in straight away with
any degree of confidence.
However, with both batting and bowling, the selectors would
be well advised not to inject too much fresh *** for a competi-
tion that neither allows any leeway for L plates, nor is
important enough to risk interference with either confidence or
technique. Keep the likes of Lathwell, Caddick, and Ilott pure
and innocent for the moment, and stick to the older lags.
. This, naturally enough, brings us round to Ian Botham. The
ageing warhorse has made his own booking for the knacker's yard
in September, but still has the knack of getting people out, and
would certainly be in my squad for these three matches. However,
when Lord Ted was canvassed about his chances on the radio a week
ago, half the audience of Radio 5 scuttled off to see their GPs
about acquiring a hearing aid. Botham himself has been making his
customary bullish noises, but I think we can take it that Dexter
will be***ing another deaf 'un.
My 13 would be:
Gooch, Stewart, Smith, Hick, Fairbrother, Ramprakash, Lamb,
Lewis, Botham, DeFreitas, Reeve, Illingworth, Jarvis.
TEXACO TROPHY ONE DAY SERIES: England v Australia:
Wednesday 19 May: Old Trafford; Friday 21 May: Edgbaston;
Sunday 23 May: Lord's.
Thanks ::: The Independent
UMass, May 14, 1993