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Balance of power

England must find perfect equilibrium to mount World Cup challenge

Bob Willis Posted 18th January 2011 view comments

It's time for England to bring Ravi Bopara back into the one-day fold.

Along with Eoin Morgan, I believe he is one of the best finishers in the English game.

We've certainly seen plenty of evidence of that in domestic one-day cricket, where he has turned in some outstanding performances, and it would be harsh if he were to miss out on this World Cup.

Controlled aggression: Woakes has proved a hit with the bat - and is accurate with the ball

Controlled aggression: Woakes has proved a hit with the bat - and is accurate with the ball

England must pick one-day specialists if they are to have a chance of winning this trophy for the first time and I think Bopara fits the bill perfectly.

He's a natural stroke-player who can dominate attacks but he is also capable of adapting his game in the middle-order and could send down some handy overs too.

Somewhat unfairly, his demise at Test level didn't help his one-day credentials - neither has Ian Bell's magnificent return to form nor Jonathan Trott's rise to prominence for that matter.

England already have plenty of stroke-makers at their disposal; now the selectors must ensure that they strike the right balance between the harry caray hitters and those players who can bat properly if the pitches get difficult.

Bob Willis
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It's that high level of competition for squad places that should keep England's performances in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh honest.

There are plenty of in-form players around the fringes who can put forward a strong case for inclusion - Alastair Cook and Matt Prior amongst them on the back of their Ashes deeds - but this is about getting the balance right within the squad and Bopara's all-round game means he is better suited than most.

Impact

Several people have emailed in to question whether Trott (who, incidentally, has a one-day international strike-rate of 74.65 in comparison to Bopara's 73.45) is too methodical to have an impact on the tournament.

Personally, I think he's worth a squad place because every side needs a steadying influence in 50-over cricket - someone who can bat through the innings if their side gets in a spot of bother.

England already have plenty of stroke-makers at their disposal; now the selectors must ensure that they strike the right balance between the harry caray hitters and those players who can bat properly if the pitches get difficult.

The selectors must have reservations about the technique of someone like Steven Davies they but are willing to gloss over them because they know how important it will be to score quickly in the opening powerplay overs when the ball is hard.

Davies is certainly well-equipped to do that but should he, or the rest of the top-order fail, then Trott is the ideal man to help dig England out of a hole.

It is extraordinary that every England wicketkeeper that comes along seems to end up opening the batting and I'm happy to see Davies get his chance, not least because Craig Kieswetter and Prior have both had opportunities in 50-over cricket without fulfilling their potential.

Tough

When it came to finalising my 15, I had a tough time choosing between Samit Patel and Paul Collingwood, but I think England will stick with their Twenty20 skipper.

What opportunity he will get to rediscover his batting form, though, remains to be seen. Are England prepared to slot him into the side to give him that chance? I honestly don't know.

Patel is an extremely talented, resourceful and gifted cricketer but his profile doesn't seem to fit well with the Strauss-Flower model at present and England must avoid the mistake of going for players who rush into a bit of temporary one-day form.

They've been guilty of that too often over the years, 1999 being a prime example when they preferred Nasser Hussain at the top of the order over Nick Knight, one of the best one-day cricketers we've ever had.

When you look at his career as a whole, Collingwood is a proven performer who has got runs in all parts of the world and his vast experience is a major asset, so he just edges it for me.

Control

Likewise, it's a tight shout between Chris Woakes and Ajmal Shahzad, but I'm going for the Warwickshire seamer.

While reverse swing will be a factor in the tournament, I don't think Shahzad currently has the control needed for one-day international cricket.

Australia have made a mistake with their pace bowlers in 50-over cricket; the quicker you bowl the ball in the sub-continent, the quicker it will disappear.

You need people like Tim Bresnan and Woakes to provide you with the necessary control and if they can bat too that's a definite bonus; Woakes' form was something of a revelation in the one-dayers against Australia.

Surprise

The format of this World Cup - two groups of seven teams - would suggest that the ICC hasn't learnt much from the debacle of 2007 but that's down to their broadcasting and sponsorship commitments to the right-holders, who want hours on TV for their money.

We will have to wait until 2015 - when Australia and New Zealand co-host - to see a very different competition.

The ICC has already said there will be fewer teams and that the competition will be staged over a shorter period of time; we'll have to wait and see whether the matches will be played over a fewer number of overs.

The decision to focus on fewer teams in 2015 confirms my belief that the format for 2011 is far from ideal; indeed, it's hard to see how a competition that lasts for the best part of six weeks can grasp and maintain hold of the cricket world's attention.

I'm sure in the opening weeks many people will only be interested in seeing which order the top four teams in each group finish in. Once again, it will be a great surprise if any of the minnows reach the quarter-finals.

We now have the perfect vehicle for up-and-coming sides such as Afghanistan, China and the United States to showcase their skills - Twenty20 cricket.

Bob's World Cup squad: Strauss, Davies, Bell, Pietersen, Morgan, Bopara, Trott, Collingwood, Tremlett, Yardy, Swann, Broad, Anderson, Bresnan, Woakes.

Comments (4)

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Chris Duckett says...

I agree with you Bob on Chris Woakes I think there is a lot to come from him but bopara cant understand your resoning there England have tried so many times already with bopara and he has let them down. good county player but thats it

Posted 11:48 24th January 2011

Simon Meadows says...

Major mistake not taking Bopara to the sub continent I mean what exactly is Luke Wright going to do on those wickets where as Bopara is used to them having played in the last 2 Indian Premier Leagues.

Posted 10:04 22nd January 2011

Geoffrey Single says...

As aWarwickshire fan i nearly always agree with a fellow bear and this is no exception.Woakes has the ability to turn problematic situations around both with bat and ball.He show's enterprise proficiency and potency with the ball,with the bat he can win matches from near impossible situations.Bopara also has a certain x factor with the bat car'nt wait till the world cup live on sky sports i think England will do very well

Posted 20:18 18th January 2011

Paul Wood says...

I dont think its the number of teams thats the main issue i think its the way the world cup is arranged. There should be more games on a day and i dont understand why there isnt 3-4 games a day which could still be played at times to keep the sponsers and tv men happy. Also if we limit the associate nations to just t20 cricket then i dont think that really helps them develop. Maybe there should be a lesser number that make it from the associate nations but everyone enjoys a good shock so that shouldnt be taken away.

Posted 20:16 18th January 2011

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