SWANNY’S WORLD OF SPORT: Blame the system as much as the selectors

England skipper Joe Root (left) with coach Paul Farbrace.
England skipper Joe Root (left) with coach Paul Farbrace.
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That rumbling noise coming from Down Under has been caused by Australian cricket fans laughing their heads off at England’s Ashes squad.

It has to be one of the weakest travelling parties England have sent abroad for decades and yet I can’t blame the selectors too much, other than for the pointless recall of captain’s mate Gary Ballance, a serial failure at the highest level and one who has as much chance of scoring runs in Australia as Henry Blofeld.

Ben Stokes.

Ben Stokes.

England may well have wasted the last 12 months in terms of finding a squad capable of retaining the most important cricket trophy of them all, but they have been ill-served by a weak, poor quality County Championship that boasts teams interested in serving themselves rather than the national team that effectively funds them.

Yorkshire employed West Indian Kraigg Braithwaite for a few weeks to boost their bid to avoid relegation and Worcester hired Indian star Ravi Ashwin to bolster their promotion bid, rather than give young and promising Englishmen the chance to prove themselves under pressure.

The County Championship is a rubbish competition which enables the likes of Ballance to grind out runs without changing a technique constantly exposed by Test players as inadequate.

It has forced the selectors to back hunches. They have picked half of this squad more in hope than expectation.

Eoin Morgan.

Eoin Morgan.

How else do you explain the selection of James Vince, a batsman with a far lower average this season than ageing England coach Paul Collingwood? Or leg-spinner Mason Crane, who rarely gets picked by Hampshire for County Championship matches?

Add in a money-making obsession with an overlong Twenty/20 competition in the middle of the summer and you have a perfect storm certain to wreak havoc on a national Test team.

England are going to try and win the Ashes with an eight-man team and there even suspicions about a declining Alistair Cook and the ability of Jimmy Anderson to swing the ball in Australia.

Moeen Ali won’t be an effective spinner on Aussie pitches either and if skipper Joe Root stays selfish and bats at four rather than three he will be coming in at 20-2 every game.

And if Ben Stokes is charged with whatever he apparently did in a Bristol nightclub in the middle of a one-day series and his presence is required in court, England may as well just fly the Ashes urn to Australia now to save some time.

Stokes is England’s vice-captain, a position that apparently didn’t come with any need to improve his laddish, loutish behaviour. He shouldn’t have put himself into a position where trouble could present itself, especially so close to the biggest tour of them all.

Mind you holding the England one-day captaincy doesn’t mean you can’t drop out of certain tours, or have to sing the national anthem or have to play any sort of cricket unless there’s a bag of money in it for you. Eoin Morgan’s continued presence as skipper confirms the game has gone in this country.