Nasser Hussain, speaking on The Cricket Show, reflects on Ed Smith’s departure as England’s national selector, whether his spell was a success, and if it is a positive move for head coach Chris Silverwood to be in charge of picking squads…
I think it was a pretty successful tenure for Smith.
If you go back three Tests matches, when England beat India, in Chennai, they had won nine of their previous 12 Tests, won four series in a row.
They were number one in T20 and 50-over cricket, and World Cup winners. It was a very successful period.
Obviously after that they lost three Tests matches in a row in India and while in general you would say that as a selector Ed was pretty good, he did make some mistakes.
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Twice he left Stuart Broad out, for example – once in Barbados and once, famously, at The Ageas Bowl when Broady then sat in the Player Zone and explained to everybody why he should be playing.
There were also rumours and rumblings about his communication with senior players and when he left players out.
Rumours about his demeanour around the team, rumours that certain players didn’t particularly enjoy his work. But, I’m afraid, as a national selector, you are going to upset a few people. That is your role at times.
I quite enjoyed the fact he tried to do it differently. He was always going to be a bit left field, he used data and analysis.
He was very much horses for courses but what he probably didn’t do was stick to his guns enough with horses for courses because when you are horses for courses it leads to problems.
Sam Curran played in England against India in the summer of 2018 and ended up man of the series – that’s the horse for that course.
England then go to Barbados and where Smith should have been firm and said, ‘Sam, you are no longer the horse for this course. It’s tall bowlers in Barbados, Broad you are in, Curran you are out’, he wasn’t strong. He stuck with Curran and upset Broad.
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Then, at The Ageas Bowl against West Indies last summer, as Mark Wood had bowled so well in South Africa, where you need that extra pace, Smith kept Wood and Archer in and left out Broad again.
If he had gone the other way and left Wood out, Wood would have turned round and said, ‘hold on, I bowled brilliantly in South Africa’.
Smith tried to reinvent the wheel and it caused problems.
Once he had picked the 15 for a squad, say, I think they then changed the rules and said we want the captain and coach to pick the final XI, so I do think Smith would have an argument [about not being totally responsible for bad results].
But there were rumours – we don’t know, we weren’t there – that he was involved in Barbados and at the Ageas Bowl, saying this is the XI you should pick and that’s why this change has probably come about. The captain has to have the XI he wants on the field.
What I will say is that when Smith got sacked – let’s make no mistake, he was gotten rid of – a lot of people said ‘rightly so after the shambles of rotation this winter’ but I think that is a little bit harsh.
Everyone this winter bought into rotation – England director of cricket Ashley Giles spoke passionately on this show about players needing to be rested during a pandemic.
I think it is harsh if Smith has been gotten rid of because of the rotation policy as, if you look back, the two nightmare selections in India were both in Ahmedabad and that was really through captain and coach, Joe Root and Chris Silverwood.
They picked four seamers and just one spinner in the pink-ball Test which spun square and was over in two days and they then went into the next game and picked for the previous Test match.
In that next game, they picked just two seamers yet it did a little bit for the seamers and they were a bit short, and Risabh Pant then smashed a knackered Ben Stokes at the end of a day. Some of the selection issues on the field were driven by captain and coach, not so much by Smith.
Silverwood is the selector now and because of Covid bubbles – he will have seen about 40 cricketers over the last year – and the fact he is just out of the county scene having previously coached at Essex, means he is fine.
If he wants to pick Ollie Robinson this summer he has seen him as a county cricketer and in the bubbles, James Bracey exactly the same.
In a way, it is all on Silverwood now. Is that a good thing or not? In a sense it is good as there is clear accountability but if England are going through a bad run, someone says ‘who is to blame?’ In the past, you haven’t been sure as you are not sure who has picked the team, the blame was shared out a little bit. Now it’s very clear. You can expect a few coconuts being thrown in his direction if things don’t go well.
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The first couple of years you know about players – Duncan Fletcher and I knew about Michael Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick, Steve Harmison, Andrew Flintoff.
But then a couple of years down the line, when you are on the treadmill of world cricket travelling the world, and a name comes up, how much would Root or Silverwood have seen of him recently to know about what he does well? That’s when you need your scouts.
You don’t want the England cricket team to become a closed shop which you can’t get into because everyone in there is looking after each other.
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