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All Change Please

This week the subject of rotation has reared its head once more. But is it a serious issue or just a column-filler? Matt Thacker says it’s the latter in The Grubber

In a week when the cruel and untimely death of Tom Maynard should have had us all reflecting that sport is just something with which we fill our days and that there are infinitely more important things going on out there, it has been the non-subject of player rotation that has been taxing the minds and filling the Twitter feeds of fans, players and commentators alike.

England are good, really good. The side is well chosen, well managed, well captained, well drilled. On-field dramas are few and far between – it’s all very un-English and sometimes appears a little soulless, mechanical. And apart from repeatedly marvelling at the feats of very high quality athletes, it gives those who rely on the game to provide talking points very little to go on. Economics dictates that people need to buy newspapers, watch broadcasts, and log on to websites, but a well-crafted victory does little to set the pulses racing and so points of interest and contention have to be teased out.

It was so much easier in the old days. Farcical selection policies, unruly players, fewer media outlets. Talking points were two-a-penny and crises to pore over occurred on an all-too-regular basis. But now English cricket has become synonymous with stability and success. And it appears there’s only so much of that we can take while we’re living in the middle of it. Give it a decade and we’ll find that distance does indeed lend enchantment to the view but for now, we want something to get upset about.

England cricketers Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann
Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann have been rotated for Friday’s ODI at Headingley

Two clinical victories, as in the Test series, have given rise to the opportunity for the management to rest England’s bowlers and this has led to the reopening of the rotation debate. On Tuesday Jonathan Agnew tweeted: “At risk of repeating myself, who will buy advance tickets for final Test/ODI of a series when there is a good chance you won’t see 1st team.”

England’s Twenty20 captain Stuart Broad counter-tweeted: “Would you prefer players careers to finish early through injury by playing every game put in the schedule by people in suits?” leading to Agnew’s threetweet: “We need fewer matches. Not devalued games. I don’t blame Flower, but I take the player/fans view. Best available team.”

All mildly diverting stuff. But at a time when we should be talking about the ODI team’s six successive hundreds (they scored eight in total from 2006 till the end of 2011), I’m left writing about whether crowds would prefer to see Broad or Meaker, whether international caps are being devalued, what the inclusion of Tredwell over Briggs or Borthwick means for England’s 2015 World Cup plans. And most pertinently, whether the people who put together fixtures (that’s not just the ICC, it’s also the national boards – England’s forthcoming ODI series against Oz is part of a bilateral agreement which will see England build up to the 2015 World Cup with a similar series over there), will ever change their spots.

We’ll leave it to Andy Flower to have the last word. After all, he’s in charge. And for a reason. Rarely, if ever, has a manager of a sporting side spoken so much sense so regularly. It’s his job to make England successful not just now but in future and he believes it would be “crazy and naïve” to rely on just three bowlers with the “incredibly heavy” itinerary cricket administrators are piling onto players. He adds: “The days of us playing our players until they are either worn down significantly, or snap physically or mentally, are over. We think it our responsibility to manage things better than that. It is our duty to make decisions in their interests and the interests of the team. We make decisions that make us stronger in the medium to long-term.” Well said.

Click here to read why Phil Walker believes Ian Bell is the right man to open the batting for England in ODIs, in The Grubber last week 

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