Pundits and fans alike will debate endlessly over whether James Foster's name should have been thrown into the ring more in the process of selection.
Most fans seem to prefer the option of the more accomplished batsman, Matt Prior, over Foster's highly rated wicket keeping credentials.
However, this kind of attitude is what is leading to the death of the specialist keeper in this age of cricket and it really is a sorry sight.
There in no doubt that the England selectors have largely ignored James Foster since the beginning of his career. Some people will argue that his batting acumen has never been high enough to put him ahead of the likes of Geraint Jones or Matthew Prior in international matches despite his undisputedly superior wicket keeping ability.
In fact not only has Prior been keeping Foster out of the England side for years but he has also regularly failed to even make it as a second string consideration (Chris Read, Steven Davies and Tim Ambrose have all held this spot ahead of him).
Now if Foster was horrendously bad at batting then I would excuse the decision to leave him out of the selection process altogether. However, with a first class average of 36.80 it is a wonder why he hasn't been considered for Test matches more often than in the handful of appearances he has made.
In ODI's he has been given somewhat of an opportunity (and failed with the bat at an average of 13.66).
This might be considered more of a legitimate overlook but you only have to compare his seven stumpings in 11 appearances with Priors eight stumpings in 68 appearances to see just how valuable his highly superior keeping skills are.
These wickets would have transferred to the Test format and saved more runs than a batting average difference of four or so that separate the two in first class cricket.
It is also ridiculous that people seem to play off Foster's ability with the bat if he is some form of tail-ender. Yes his batting average might not be remarkable but the man can bat and there are no two ways about it. An average of 36.8 over a long career with Essex is highly respectable for someone who, in my opinion, has been the best specialist keeper in the country, if not the world.
His average in his handful of Tests of around 25 might be considered a good amount below par but, in reality, he is a far better batsman than those figures suggest.
Even with this fairly poor average he would still be worth a longer-term gamble, or at least consideration, on the basis that the runs he saves with the gloves may well make up the difference between him and his peers.
If James Foster had been selected for test match duty I have no doubt that he would have contributed less runs than Matt prior but his athleticism as a keeper would have saved far more than this difference in batting ability.
It is, quite frankly, a complete shame that James Foster was never given more of an opportunity in Test match cricket and unfortunately now the time for that has passed. Treating specialist keepers in this way rightfully deters budding young cricketers from putting on the gloves and this is really sad. I solemnly hope that the art of wicket keeping doesn't die out due to this kind of selection behaviour but I am sad to say that it might.
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