Sunday, 21 December 2014

Footitt Lions omission a big mistake

When I saw that the England Lions squad had been announced, I had every expectation of seeing the name of Mark Footitt among those named.

After a summer in which he blew away one batting side after another and proved himself adept in fifty-over cricket as well as the four-day game, there was no logical reason for Mark to be omitted. If the country was awash with hundred-wicket bowlers of massive potential I could understand it.

The truth is, it isn't. I'm unsure what more our selectors need to know about Boyd Rankin (31), who has played international cricket of different types since 2007 and not really looked at home. That he is an improved bowler, largely due to the efforts of Graeme Welch when he was at Warwickshire, is undeniable. Is he quick, accurate or good enough to get into the national team on a regular basis? I'm less sure.

The same goes for Liam Plunkett. He is 30 in April and has over forty international appearances. If we need to know more about him, surely people haven't been paying enough attention? Again, he's a decent bowler, a good all-round cricketer, but there's little to learn from his involvement in such a tour.

Then there's Jack Brooks, another bowler I really like but who, at 31 next summer, is unlikely to improve further. I think he's a good player and has been a key member of Yorkshire's attack, but am unsure whether his pace is enough for the international arena, or that he has quite enough for that level. By the same token, I can't really argue the merit of trying him overseas, in much the same way that Footitt should have been tried.

Craig Overton is a talented young cricketer and fully deserves his place, but the waters appear muddied by the selection of Matt Dunn of Surrey and Mark Wood of Durham. Both have potential, but the former's record of 64 wickets in 21 matches at a cost of 32 runs each suggests he needs more cricket at his current level, rather than demanding elevation to a higher one. Wood has 70 wickets in the same number of games, at eight runs per wicket better average. At 25 next month, I'd say he had a better case, though critics will suggest that bowling at The Riverside gives seam bowlers a chance to impress.

Mark Footitt is recently 29 and consistently the quickest English bowler in the country. No one likes fast bowling, not even those who play it well. There's always the danger of the quick one that is simply too fast for ordinary reflexes, as Mitchell Johnson has shown recently and plenty of others have done through the history of the game.

In making a case for Brooks and Wood, on the basis of their potential and recent feats, it is hard to ignore those of the most prolific bowler in the country. I don't accept that Mark only took them in division two, because the previous summer he bowled exceptionally well in the top tier. If you are using that argument, then Matt Dunn's record should also be questioned.

The Aussies are coming next summer. I am sure that Michael Klinger went back home with his broken arm last year and told people about a lightning-quick left arm bowler who did that. The ball that got Jacques Rudolph, another player of proven international pedigree, at Derby last year was nigh-unplayable. Fast, hostile, awkward - Mark has it all. The radar can sometimes go awry, but it can for most bowlers. You take the rough with the smooth and last year Footitt was a smooth, well-oiled machine that cranked it up to eleven on a regular basis (Spinal Tap reference there...)

I can't help thinking that in the omission of Mark Footitt from the Lions tour, the selectors have missed a trick. A major problem of the England attack is its 'sameness', a battery of right-arm seamers broken up by an improving but realistically only adequate off spin bowler. We have a party of right armers heading to South Africa this winter, those concerned presumably next in line for if things go wrong against the oldest enemy.

If they select Mark next summer, it is without prior international experience and is an admission of a mistake in the selection of this tour party. For Warren, Copson, Pope, Jackson and Rhodes read Footitt. In my opinion, the lad has had poor treatment and deserved better.

All he can do is pick himself up, again go through county sides like a whirlwind next summer and keep his fingers crossed.

For the time being, England's loss is very much Derbyshire's gain...


Pete said...

It's hard to know why they overlooked him but maybe he just didn't impress as much as the others in South Africa?

GarethH said...

I fully agree with everything you say here Peakfan. I can't believe the ECB's decision on this. It seems to further demonstrate the 'Old boys Club' mentality that has long existed there.

I really hope the Derbyshire squad use this as ammunition to fire them in the new season to really show the people who pick the national squads that they can no longer be ignored due to weight of runs/wickets and high level performances.