Ashes 2013/14: England Selectors Don't Know Their Onions

27/09/2013 11:13 BST | Updated 26/11/2013 10:12 GMT

Bigger is better, at least in the minds of the England selectors.

The squad for the return Ashes trip this winter - or their summer - includes four towering seam bowlers in Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, Chris Tremlett and the as-yet-uncapped Irishman Boyd Rankin.

Broad is the shortest of the four, standing at a mere 6'6". One wonders how Jimmy Anderson, at around 6'2" must feel in this company, so it's probably for the best that Notts batsman James Taylor - 5'6" - didn't make the trip.

It is easy to see why England have chosen this route: the pitches in Australia do tend to offer extra pace and bounce, providing greater assistance to the tall fast bowlers, while there'll be memories of Tremlett's impressive form last time out.

The danger is that there is much of a muchness about them, an identikit of bowlers interchangeable without anyone really noticing the difference.

That's perhaps harsh on Broad, who has proven himself a quality Test bowler with more to his game than just pace and bounce from up high, but taking all of the other three seems like excess; why order a glass of wine when you can have the bottle?

That thinking will leave them drunk and stumbling outside for their keys if - and it doesn't bear thinking about - Jimmy Anderson was to pick up an injury. For all he's the smallest seamer, he's also the best and the leader of the attack.

He offers swing and consistency that the others don't, and the lack of cover for him shows the selectors don't quite know their onions, or should that be Onions. The Durham man has far and away been the best English bowler in county cricket over the past couple of years - taking 69 wickets at an average of 18.41 this season to star in Durham's remarkable title win.

His brand of line-and-length has never quite seemed fashionable enough to make a mark on the Test arena; a man turning up to a swanky dinner in jeans and t-shirt, slurping a pint while everyone else sips champagne.

That, though, is exactly what's required as back-up for Anderson. Indeed, back in England there's an argument that he should actually be starting games, so to not take him Down Under is an oversight, albeit hopefully not a costly one.

One Durham man who has gone is Ben Stokes, whom the selectors have suddenly decided represents a more viable option as a genuine Test all-rounder - something they've not had since Freddie Flintoff - than Chris Woakes, despite the latter (slightly inexplicably) being chosen to bat at six in the final Ashes Test of the summer.

Stokes is clearly a talent, whose average with the bat is increasing as that with the ball decreases, but even someone with his confidence may doubt how much he'll actually play. Rather, this has earmarked him for the future, and is the opportunity to prove not just his ability but his character and discipline, after one or two misdemeanours with the Lions.

He is the only representative of Durham's title-winning side, while the team they pipped to the crown - Yorkshire - have three players in the squad, with a fourth - Tim Bresnan - travelling out as well.

They say a strong Yorkshire makes for a strong England, so the national side should be well-equipped. Gary Ballance, like Joe Root before him, had been identified some time ago as one to make the leap from Lions to the Test arena, and he may now find himself battling with friend, teammate and another fellow Yorkshireman - Johnny Bairstow - for the number six spot.

Ballance looks like Rob Key if he went on a diet, the hope will be that he can carry his county form over in a consistent way the Kent man never quite managed.

The other extra batsman taken, Michael Carberry, can feel slightly fortunate. He hardly set the world alight in the ODI series, while Nick Compton has scored more runs, at a better average this season, and in Division One while the Hampshire batsman plied his trade in the second tier. The selectors have, however, decided the Carberry's face fits and Compton's, evidently, does not.

Overall, it's a squad that lacks balance, which is somewhat ironic given the inclusion of the aforementioned Yorkshire batsman, and the series will certainly be closer than the 3-0 this summer, although the sides were closer than such a scoreline suggests.

The men in charge have decided that size does matter. They must hope the performances are as big as the bowlers.