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Five challenges facing the England selection team

Luke Wright of Trent Rockets looks on before the Hundred Match between Trent Rockets and Southern Brave at Trent Bridge
by Katya Witney 4 minute read

England men will face a home Ashes series and World Cup title defence in 2023 with a new selector on board. Here are the key questions facing Luke Wright and the fully-formed panel of selectors.

Turn the clock back 10 months and the situation of English cricket looked dire. Another away Ashes series drubbing, their head coach sacked and the captain hanging by a thread. Even the white-ball team were knocked out of the T20 World Cup before the final, an underperformance by their standards. By the time England left the West Indies earlier this year, they had won just one of their previous 17 Test matches.

Fast forward to Jos Buttler lifting the T20 World Cup trophy on the outfield of the MCG and there haven’t been many more rapid or dramatic transformations. England are now the first men’s side ever to hold both World Cup titles at the same time and the Brendon McCullum-Ben Stokes combination has brought wins over three high-quality Test sides over the summer in awesome style.


As Luke Wright joins the panel of selectors, the focus shifts to long-term sustainability over short-term turn-around, and while Wright is not in the Ed Smith mafia boss position of solely hiring and firing he is part of a selection panel which needs to find answers to several key questions.

Who to fill into the ODI middle order?

There were few positives to take from the 3-0 trouncing from Australia. The only mitigating factor can be the farcical situation of starting a series four days after a T20 World Cup final. But, it did expose genuine weaknesses and long-term issues in the all-conquering 50-over outfit.

Jason Roy’s position is one of those under threat. Phil Salt, Alex Hales and Dawid Malan are the obvious options to look at if Roy’s extended run of lost form continues, with the latter having scored two centuries in ODI cricket this year.

However, shunting Malan up to the top of the order further weakens the middle after the retirements of Stokes and Eoin Morgan. The players who have filled in when rest and rotation has demanded over the last two years showed in Australia that their fitness for a regular spot in the side when all options are available is questionable.

To find an answer, Wright and the rest will have to contend with the relegated status of List A cricket in the current domestic set-up. With very little opportunity for those who show the most promise to prove their form in the fifty-over format, selectors will have to find answers to both short-term selection issues and long-term shortages of experienced fifty-over players by alternative means.

How to fill the gap Adil Rashid will leave?

When Adil Rashid calls time on his international career he will pose the biggest question England have had to face in their post-2015 white-ball era. The 34-year-old has been such an ever-presence in the squad for so long and delivered with such certainty that it’s wishful thinking a like-for-like will emerge to slot into the gap he leaves.

If Test selection is anything to go by, the selectors may turn to Rehan Ahmed as an answer. The 18-year-old leg-spinning all-rounder who was tipped for a career at the top at 12 years old by Shane Warne, showed what he could offer with the white ball earlier this year in the U-19 World Cup. Three wickets in the penultimate over against Afghanistan turned the game on its head for the England youngsters, and since then Ahmed has had success both in The Hundred and at first-class level.

Matt Parkinson is also an option Wright and co could go down but his omission from the T20 World Cup squad could be an indication they are looking elsewhere.

As always, where are the Test match openers?

The question every England men’s selector has faced over the past decade, who fills the top two positions in the Test side? Unless Zak Crawley’s form improves in Pakistan he could find himself confined back to the County Championship with the other tried and tested openers. Both of the other options England have gone with for their first Test assignment this winter have already been dropped at least once before. Beyond those who have already been tried and tested, the cupboard looks fairly bare.

Wright’s appointment could see a path for two promising Sussex young guns. Tom Haines and Ali Orr both impressed last summer and, with Wright straight out of the Hove dressing room, they could benefit from a friendly face in the selection room over the coming months and years.

The Anderson-Broad transition

Earlier this year, England’s two best bowlers may have felt they were being pushed into a not-so-early retirement after being left out of the squad to tour the West Indies. Now though, there’s no question that both will retire on their own terms after taking 59 wickets between them in seven Test matches apiece in 2022. But, with an eye to the long-term and a hefty pile of injured fast bowlers currently in rehabilitation, there is some planning to be done to ensure that when the transition comes it is as smooth as possible.

Jofra Archer’s return to bowling in international colours this week will be a welcome one and after concerns about his fitness in Australia, Ollie Robinson’s successful return in the summer is also a positive step. There may also be room for a Test match return for Sam Curran after a player of the tournament-worthy T20 World Cup performance. His speeds looked competitive in Australia and it’s hard to imagine a better-suited player to McCullum’s ethos.

Ben Stokes

As tempting as it is to pose Stokes as the answer to every problem England faces, if they are to get the best out of him for as long as possible they must find a way to manage his workload, mental and physical.

He could still fulfil an all-format role if the selectors can coax him out of ODI retirement, but it would have to be in a reduced capacity. One option would be to keep him as a World Cup specialist, joining up with the teams for a series or two before each tournament and then playing solely in the Test arena in between. The balance between Test captaincy, white ball brilliance, injury and exhaustion must be found.

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