On the latest episode of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, Test Match Special commentator Dan Norcross, Wisden Cricket Monthly magazine editor Jo Harman and host Yas Rana discussed the group of 55 players picked in England’s training group for the summer.
While not a squad as such, the large group allows England to have a pool of players big enough to prepare for the potential scenarios posed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. For Jo, that meant that this would be an especially tough pill to swallow for those cricketers excluded.
“This is a big group,” he said. “There’ll be some demoralised English cricketers around today. If you’re not in a squad you can think ‘Well I’m just two or three picks away’. If you’re not in 55 then clearly for whatever reason they don’t rate you particularly highly, at least at this moment.”
It will be a blow particularly keenly felt by Essex’s Jamie Porter, who has taken 236 wickets in the last four seasons of the County Championship, more than any other bowler in that period.
“In terms of bowlers, Jamie Porter is the one that stands out, [having] taken a stack-load of wickets for Essex,” said Jo. “Lovers of county cricket will see this as another slap in the face, that county performances don’t really count with England selectors. That certainly does seem to be the way, particularly when it comes to seam bowlers and seam bowlers of his type.”
What perhaps makes the seamer’s non-selection all the more puzzling is that he has featured in England Test squads before, in the 2018 summer against India. He just missed out on a debut then, and though his numbers have hardly dipped since then, the two-time Championship winner has seemingly fallen a long way down the pecking order.
“He’s more of a Jimmy Anderson-style bowler, who’s done pretty well as it happens in Test cricket,” said Jo. “So that will be a real kick in the balls for Jamie Porter. And also he’s been part of a really successful team, and while that shouldn’t be the be all and end all, it should matter. He knows how to win matches, he knows how to win trophies. I think he can count himself very unlucky to not be in there.”
Dan agreed that Porter would be right to feel aggrieved, citing the Essex home surface as another factor in his favour.
“I really feel for him,” he said. “I’ve seen him play a lot, and he plays on a pitch at Chelmsford which, it does assist bowlers, but it assists [off-spinner] Simon Harmer a lot. He’s taking a lot of wickets bowling seam in the driest county in the country.”