Unlike many of his predecessors as England coach, Andy Flower doesn’t inflict naughty boy nets on his charges. Instead, he has the modern equivalent of punishing poor performers by releasing them to play county cricket in chilly April.
Whilst central contracts have played a significant role in the improvement of England’s fortunes since their introduction and eradicated the ridiculous motorway dash as players scramble to get back to their counties at the conclusion of a Test match, many county cricket fans rightly lament the almost total absence of their England stars from their county line-ups. So, perhaps England’s struggles over the winter have a silver lining after all?
Middlesex and Warwickshire fans will certainly be happy that the winter’s biggest dunces Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell will be turning out for their counties this week against Durham and Lancashire respectively.
Over the forthcoming weeks all of England’s winter squad will feature for their counties ahead of the 1st Test against the West Indies on 17 May – even Kevin Pietersen will have to cut short his stay in India to return for Surrey’s game at Worcester, which starts on 9 May; that’s if he can find his way to New Road as it is an awfully long way from Chelsea.
But is it enough? Whilst one can understand why James Anderson for instance needs a decent rest following his sterling efforts over the winter, it is difficult to understand why Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior (especially if he played solely as a batsman) are being held back longer than Strauss and Bell.
Maybe Flower is indeed punishing the biggest failures over the winter with a longer stint with their county - Eoin Morgan may not be so disappointed to be warming the bench for the Knight Riders after all.
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