England’s leading wicket-takers James Anderson and Stuart Broad have been dropped for the upcoming Test series against West Indies as the ECB’s red ball reset following the 4-0 defeat to Australia claims its highest-profile casualties.
The fallout from the disastrous Ashes tour was never going to be restricted to administrators after the departures of director of men’s cricket Ashley Giles, head coach Chris Silverwood and assistant Graham Thorpe. But Anderson and Broad are comfortably the most contentious axings so far.
A selection panel of interim managing director of men’s cricket Sir Andrew Strauss, interim head coach Paul Collingwood and head scout James Taylor, with inputs from captain Joe Root and his vice, Ben Stokes, have come to the decision to do without Anderson (39) and Broad (35) for the Caribbean. That of course could change if a permanent coach comes in to manage the Test side and rows back on this decision. For now, the pair who have bowled in tandem in 126 Tests, are seemingly not deemed part of the future.
In a statement released by the ECB, Strauss, said: “In respect of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, I want to emphasise this does not mean the end for them as England players. We feel that it is important to look at some exciting new bowling potential and give some added responsibility to other players who have featured previously. No one doubts the quality and experience that James and Stuart bring to the England set-up. It will be up to the new managing director and permanent head coach to decide on whether they will be involved this summer and beyond.”
There was already a sense the great double act of English pace bowling, with 1,177 victims between them, was not long for this world. Since the start of 2021, only six of the 17 Test matches England played featured both Anderson and Broad in the starting XI.
Few, however, expected both to be discarded. Anderson certainly had the stronger case for staying put with 40 wickets from 13 appearances since the start of last year, along with an average of 23.40. He proved especially effective overseas in 2021: he averaged 15.87 across three Tests in India and 23.40 across three in Australia. By contrast, Broad has played just nine times in the same period, with 23 wickets at 31.13. Despite the changing tide, both were unequivocal in their belief they had plenty more to offer.
The call to drop both is reminiscent of the decision taken by Strauss back in 2015 when he was full-time director of men’s cricket presiding over the team’s “white ball reset” after a disastrous World Cup campaign. England went on to win the 2019 ODI World Cup and move to number one in the ICC Twenty20 rankings. Quite whether a similar turn of fortunes is forthcoming with the red ball remains to be seen, but it seems counterproductive at this juncture to do away with two heavyweight performers from a team whose batting has been the main cause for concern.
It is understood there is some consternation within the set-up at the omissions of Anderson and Broad, particularly the former who had shown no signs of dimming even at the age of 39. The sense is that after a year and winter of underperformance, the scope should be on picking the best team to win right now, something Broad reiterated during interviews in Australia.
There have been several other notable omissions, with Jos Buttler, who returned home early from the Ashes with a broken finger, and Dawid Malan, whose form tapered off during that series, both left out.
Dom Bess, Sam Billings, Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed have also missed out on selection, with Durham opener Alex Lees and Yorkshire seamer Matthew Fisher receiving their maiden call-ups.
England Test squad for West Indies,
Joe Root (Yorkshire), Jonathan Bairstow (Yorkshire), Zak Crawley (Kent), Matthew Fisher (Yorkshire), Ben Foakes (Surrey), Dan Lawrence (Essex), Jack Leach (Somerset), Alex Lees (Durham), Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire), Craig Overton (Somerset), Matthew Parkinson (Lancashire), Ollie Pope (Surrey), Ollie Robinson (Sussex), Ben Stokes (Durham), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire), Mark Wood (Durham).