On Friday England’s squad will head off for Australia as their preparations begin to heat up ahead of the Ashes’ campaign.
It will be an interesting experience for the team, rekindling old, unhappy memories for some, better ones for others, and for the newcombers it will offer them a personal, cricketing experience on a whole other level to what they are used to.
Andrew Strauss’ “Rabbit in a headlights” description of their last campaign perhaps sums up what the Australia experience did to some of the team in 2007.
As England set off to try and retain the Ashes in Australia for the first time since 1986/87 it is worth remembering those who for whatever reason can’t be there in this squad, yet have somehow played their part in England’s progress over the past 2 years and in their preparation for this tour.
But for injury, Onions would probably have been a Test match regular this summer, and we may never have even seen Steven Finn, except playing for Middlesex. The Durham man, who has been out injured since the tour in South Africa, had made quite an impression during his brief Test career.
Taking wickets against the West Indies, Australia and South Africa, showed that he could mix it with the best and his accurate, pacey and economical bowling-allied with a tricky bouncer-could have been of great use in Australia. Hopefully he can return sooner rather than later and avoid the same fate which befell the last England bowler to be plagued by injury, Simon Jones.
Suffered the rudest of rude awakenings at the hands of Mitchell Johnson and his slower ball variations which ruthlessly exposed the weaknesses in a technique which has already been sharply dissected during his brief Test career. It’s not to say his chances of returning are non-existent, but his progress has certainly stalled.
It’s easy to forget that Bopara is 25, boasts 3 Test Centuries-though all against the West Indies (god it’s sad to have to qualify Test match runs), but he is well out of favour in terms of Test selection having watched a resurgent Ian Bell, a methodical Jonathan Trott and the mercurial Eoin Morgan charge past him in the queue. He has time on his side to return, but until solves his technical issues, it won’t be coming anytime soon.
Whether he would have been on the plane or not is debatable. Shah’s forte was always the limited overs game rather than Test Cricket where he effectively got a batsman’s version of the yipes and turned into a version of Nasser Hussain in that he frequently ran out partners.
Yet Shah’s fall from grace has been both painfully horrible to watch but also hard not to sympathise with. He was jettisoned from the ODI team just two innings after making a magnificent 98 against South Africa in the Champions Trophy. Plus, along with Paul Collingwood and Eoin Morgan, he revolutionised England’s ODI form in that tournament-hitting big and embracing the brave new era the two Andrew’s were trying to instill.
Sidebottom is another English bowler whose career has been affected by injury. Prior to his injury in 2008, Sidebottom was effectively half the England bowling attack on his own, and he bore the load well at first, but eventually become overburdened and eventually injured.
He has never quite recovered since then, and eventually announced his retirement from international cricket this year. But the Roger Daltry lookalike, and inventor of the best non-cricketing shot around.
Yet he was popular, probably would have been in the squad, remained a key part of England’s T20 squad-which beat Australia in the final-and he was vitally important that day too with two key early wickets. He was the best English left-arm pace bowler since Alan Mullally, and could be missed in Australia.
English cricket’s own messiah has retired from cricket after failing to recover from long-term injury. It’s tempting not to class Flintoff as a forgotten cricketer because he will seldom be forgotten due to a) his starring role in defeating the Australians in 2005 and b) a burgeoning media career and a larger than life personality.
For so many reasons this is a crying shame, but in particular given the car crash nature of his previous tour of Australia, he’d probably have loved to answer a few of his critics with a big final tour before he finished.
Honorable Mentions and outside contenders: Adil Rashid, Craig Kieswetter and Luke Wright.