Out with the old and in with the new seems to be the protocol for English cricket. As England look to a new era after their dismal World Cup display and an irregular half a year in test cricket, Andrew Strauss aims to have “a situation where we have 11 world-class players” before too long. The question that looms over all our minds is who are these 11 world-class players?
It seems obvious that Joe Root and Jos Butler are destined for greatness, I’d even go as far as saying that Joe Root (injury forbid) could become England’s top run scorer and will without a doubt be the future captain. Ben Stokes and Gary Ballance have both shown glimpses that they could be great too, but have not shown the consistency that Root and Butler have. Luckily all four of them are 25 and have the luxury of time on their hands.
Moeen Ali is simply not a world class spin bowler and although he is one of the most fluent batsmen you’ll ever see I don’t think he has done enough to threaten to be world class. Chris Jordan is an extremely talented all rounder, he can hit a long ball, he’s one of the best catchers England has ever seen but his strong suit, his bowling, is wayward, he tends to drift to the leg side and doesn’t have natural rhythm.
Liam Plunkett has done a good job since being given another chance at an England career, but he’s 31 and again hasn’t done enough to danger ‘world-class’ status. Steven Finn, who is still only 26, looks to have found his form in the one-day arena again and should be aiming to lead the test attack once Anderson has retired, he’s one I’d hope will be knocking on the world-class door before too long.
If we dip deeper into county cricket and those that have played a few times for the national team, to look at the less obvious contenders there are a few standouts.
Alex Hales has an immense amount of talent; he’s proven his worth in the one-day scene as one of the most destructive players in the world and is one of the leading scorers in the county championship. England desperately need another opener to bat alongside Cook, could a Warneresque switch from one day to Test cricket for Hales be the solution? James Taylor had a good World Cup, but is yet to really stamp his authority on international cricket.
Jason Roy is another exciting prospect who is starting to score heavily in the longer format too. Alex Lees of Yorkshire is 22 and averages 40 in first-class cricket, if his good form continues it won’t be long before he is given a chance at the top of the order.
The boy wonder Sam Northeast has been given the captaincy at Kent and is finally starting to flourish, his T20 form could well see him picked this summer. Then the real youngster’s of Shiv Thakor and Dominic Sibley must get a mention.
The one player who’s averaging 156.33, that’s 71.33 higher than anyone else who’s played the same number of innings as him in county cricket, who the ECB continue to overlook is Kevin Pietersen.
I’m all for the new guard, but ignoring the most talented player available for selection and not trying to forget about whatever he did wrong, may well be one of the biggest mistakes the ECB ever make. Any team with KP in it is a better team and I can assure you the Australians would much rather see any of the other English batsmen walk to the crease this summer than the man who won us the Ashes in 2005, the T20 world cup in 2009, has scored more international runs rather than any Englishmen and can singlehandedly win you game in a session. At 34 there is no reason why he shouldn’t be a part of England’s future for the next few years.
On the bowling front England urgently need a quality spinner. Tredwell did a great job of filling the gap left by Swann, but is now 33.
A lot of pressure lies on Rashid’s shoulders; he has a brilliant googly, if he becomes more consistent and confident he could be the spinner England need for the next seven years. He’s also more than useful with the bat. Mark Wood is a spritely bowler and character, but he lacks the accuracy a world-class bowler needs, he’ll pick up wickets but will be expensive. It’s always handy to have the option of a left arm over and David Willey who swings the ball in late and hit’s it as clean as anyone in the country, could well prove handy.
He’s also incredibly competitive, he got banned from youth cricket for shoulder barging a young Ben Stokes in a county match, a fiery quick could be just what England need. At last since moving to Middlesex, James Harris has found some serious form, he’s taken 38 wickets so far this season and has bowled with potency. Yet most excitingly for the selectors and fans of English cricket are the 21 year old Overton twins, both are blessed with natural pace and a huge amount of talent, but it’s Craig (the elder of the two) who’s leading the way. He’s taken 79 first class wickets at 26 a piece and looks set to debut for England soon enough.
The truth is that no matter how well these youngsters play in county cricket, the international game is a completely different ball game. Other than the likes of Pietersen, Strauss and Trott who were all world class at their best, very few players take to the international game with such ease and only time will tell until we know who will form the next generation of world-class cricketers. If Root, Butler, Stokes, Finn, Rashid and Balance all turn into the players they have threatened to be and are surrounded by very good international cricketers England will be a force to be reckoned with in years to come. However, for the time being who these very good players might be is a bit of mystery.