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Rob Smyth: England do without razzmatazz for Stanford

September 9th, 2008 by Rob Smyth in England, Stanford Twenty20, Twenty20 and tagged , , ,

The spirit of cricket, and the frequent contravention thereof, is a regular topic of conversation among the cricket fraternity. It is even a formal part of the laws of the game. The spirit of Stanford is mercifully less entrenched and defined but, whatever it is, England’s announcement of their Super Series squad today was certainly against it.

Stanford stands for ostentatiousness, razzmatazz and affluence, but none of that was on show at Lord’s. There was just an everyday squad announcement, delivered by Geoff Miller with all the zest of a bingo club manager announcing who had made the team for next weekend’s fixture away to the Grimsby Septuagenarians. There was no showbiz: dancing girls, no boxing-style nicknames for the players. And no surprises among the names.

In view of the England’s recent short-form form, it is hard to argue with that. The 15-man squad for both the Stanford matches and the one-day series in India is the same as the squad for the recent NatWest Series with one exception: Tim Bresnan, who did not get a game anyway. The fact that England have won their last four ODIs and their last three Twenty20 games made selection pretty straightforward.

Or at least it would have done under normal circumstances. With so much money at stake, these are anything but normal circumstances. As Lawrence Booth noted this morning in his Guardian column, “There can be no planning for the future, no experimenting with batting line-ups, no sentiment, no fun - all of which take place even in Test cricket.”

That means legitimate consideration should have been given to ageing Twenty20 experts like Mark Ramprakash, Graeme Hick and Azhar Mahmood – a level above the so-called Twenty20 specialists who flopped in South Africa last year – although this probably was not the case. England have enough on their plate managing the financial divide between the one-day and Test players without the consequences of giving venerable outsiders a second, bumper benefit.

Three players from the most recent Test XI miss out: Andrew Strauss, Tim Ambrose and Monty Panesar. Never mind the Stepford Wives; what about the Stanford bridesmaids? None can really complain on purely sporting grounds, but in the current climate they might want rather more than a penny for their thoughts about someone like Luke Wright, who has 337 runs and four wickets in international cricket to his name, potentially earning such a life-changing sum. Similarly Dimitri Mascarenhas, who played in all three of England’s Twenty20 victories this year and who hits sixes at will, might wonder what Wright has that he doesn’t, apart from a Sussex contract.

Overall, however, it is a squad with which it is difficult to find too much fault. England have picked a team for a cricket match rather than a showbiz event. The spirit of Stanford may have been compromised, but the spirit of cricket has had a decent day.

Rob Smyth is a freelance journalist

Posted in England, Stanford Twenty20, Twenty20 | 4 Comments »

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