In light of the recent Ashes series result, a number of people responsible for aspects of England’s performance resigned their positions. These included coaches Chris Silverwood and Graeme Thorpe, while director of cricket Ashley Giles also moved on.
As an interim measure, Andrew Strauss was made managing director of men’s cricket. He made the decisions on who should tour the West Indies for a three-Test series.
He announced the squad last Tuesday and there were some interesting inclusions in Matt Parkinson, Alex Lees and Matt Fisher, but there were two glaring omissions – James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Strauss talked with both players prior to the squad being announced, and here’s a sample of his comments.
“I’m not going to say anything other than they were disappointed and I wouldn’t expect anything otherwise. They take great pride in representing England and they both wanted to be on that tour.”
“We know there’s going to be a lot of interest in the decision, but we feel like we’re doing it for the right reasons and this is going to help the England team to develop at a time when it really needs to develop quickly.”
“They were very hard conversations. All I can say is I hope they understood the thinking behind it and what we’re trying to achieve here, and also that they got the message very strongly that this isn’t the end for them, because we want them fired up and ready to go in the summer.”
In short, Strauss sees the West Indies tour as a chance to bring new players into the squad and give them the chance to gain some experience.
Strauss probably assumed both players, while disappointed, were on board with his decision, but clearly Stuart Broad is not, judging by recent comments he made in an article for the Daily Mail.
This is how the first part of his article appeared online: “I’m waking up more confused and angrier each day… I could take being dropped if my standards slipped but I feel gutted that all I’ve had is a five-minute phone call and nothing else.”
Broad continues on this issue for another 28 paragraphs, which makes for some grim reading. He clearly feels aggrieved and as one of England’s best bowlers for the past decade, he probably has a case. According to Wisden, either he or Anderson have been England’s leading Test wicket takers over the past nine years.
He also has a point if, as he claims, he has only received a “five-minute phone call” to tell him he was not touring and to explain why he was left out. I’m guessing the truth lies somewhere between Strauss’s version of events and Broad’s.
We have to bear in mind the decision to leave out Broad and Anderson is not the only tough call Strauss has made.
No Rory Burns or Haseeb Hameed, Ben Foakes confirmed as the England Test keeper, Jack Leach confirmed as England’s first-choice spinner and Joe Root moving up the order to No.3, are all strategic decisions he believes are in the best interests of English cricket.
What has to be a concern is public condemnation by Broad of the decision to exclude him from the tour.
There’s no doubt Stuart Broad is a very popular figure in English cricket, and rightly so. He’s been an outstanding player in all formats for such a long time. The question is, does that give him the right to not only question Strauss publicly, but to openly condemn this call?
Strauss has made it very clear he still expects Broad and Anderson to figure prominently in the international matches England has scheduled for their summer.
That could be problematic if the new attack has a lot of success in the West Indies. What does Strauss do if Matt Fisher, Mark Wood and Ollie Robinson all have the sort of series Scott Boland, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc had in the Ashes?
I’d also assume Strauss must be furious to be reading about this rather than having a behind-closed-doors discussion with Broad. Will that cloud his judgement if he’s still in a position to affect who is chosen for the Tests against New Zealand later in the year?
What also has to be problematic is Broad’s attitude. Publicly condemning a decision made by the current strong man in English cricket can hardly be considered a career-enhancing move.
He no doubt thinks he can get away with it, given his long service to England, but as many cricketers have found over the years, the game can move on pretty well without them.
There’s no doubt English Test cricket is not in a good place and the only way it’s going to improve is by working in a united manner to achieve improvement.
Strauss wants that improvement to happen quickly, hence the radical overhaul of the Test squad, but obviously he and at least one senior player don’t see eye to eye on this.
It begs the question how many others feel the same as Broad and also what can Strauss do to make sure any rifts between players, selectors, and coaches are addressed quickly.