Friday, September 24, 2010

The future stars of the England cricket team

Selecting players with an eye on the future rather than winning in the present is a devilishly tricky business. Other criteria tend to apply such as promise and potential, and there is a willingness to experiment or back a hunch which may not be affordable when the stakes are higher.

Thus, the Performance Programme Squad which was announced yesterday as a shadow unit for the Ashes, may be the England team somewhere down the line. But it probably will not.

For instance, there were no fewer than 41 players named in the Performance Programme last year (you had to be a real dud not to receive the nod) split into categories. Of the 15 in the top two loists A and B - that is, judged to be closest to the England team - eight are absent from yesterday's list, presumably consigned to international history. Of the 22 in list C only two have earned promotion.

But there are undoubtedly some exciting names and in choosing them the selectors are not only sticking a pin in the donkey's tail.

Jonny Bairstow

Two years ago he was the first Wisden School Cricketer of the Year after an astonishing season for St Peter's School, York. This summer he played enough swashbuckling, mature innings for Yorkshire to suggest that such future plaudits may have a wider base.

He is the son of the late Yorkshire and England wicketkeeper, David, and like his dad has the nickname, Blue (because he has red hair obviously). Yet to score a first-class hundred, there were eight fifties in his 29 innings this year and a willingness to ensure that he took the responsibility.

He has also been tried as a wicketkeeper, a role at which he may not excel. In an exciting Yorkshire side, ably led by Andrew Gale, Bairstow's assurance at the crease regularly caught the eye. England are clearly keen now that he be part of the next generation.

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