Wish you were here


The World Cup has finally shown some semblance of life, with England just failing to better India in a run-strewn clash as the tournament shapes up to be mind-numbingly boring dominated by the bat. But maybe if selectors had been more prudent we’d be better off (yes, Luke Wright is in the England squad). Here’s a choice XI of some who didn’t make the cut, for various reasons.

Hershelle Gibbs

His autobiography may have been a gripping read, but its vivid depiction of the cliques in the South African dressing room helped end his international career. Which is a great shame, because, even at 36, Gibbs’s panache and audacity at the crease, best illustrated in his 111-ball 175 against Australia, have the capacity to thrill – as does his fielding.

Marcus Trescothick

For a man often described as ‘stand and deliver’ in his style, Trescothick is remarkably nimble on his feet. Of all the examples of his clean striking in the opening overs of ODI innings, perhaps the best was against Glenn McGrath in the Champions Trophy in 2004: Trescothick, happy to charge virtually any quick, drove McGrath for four consecutive boundaries. If he made himself available, there is no doubt Trescothick would have been opening for England.

VVS Laxman

Too orthodox for ODIs? Perhaps, but tell Australia, against who he’s scored four centuries at an average of 46. If Hashim Amla can become the top-ranked one-day batsman in the world, it seems strange that there is no place for Laxman in India’s side. His classical style looks incongruous in Twenty20, certainly, but a man with his range of shots and ability to accelerate could be invaluable in ODIs.

Brad Hodge

Despite seven centuries in his past 20 Australian domestic one-day games and a limited overs know-how few batsmen can match, there’s no place for Hodge at the World Cup. Labelled the “hard-luck story of the century” by Matthew Hayden, it’s pretty hard to argue – rumours that he never fitted into the Australian dressing room are one potential explanation.

Owais Shah

Overly intense and a shoddy fielder he may be, but Shah has a six-hitting ability England appear to lack in their middle-order. That much was epitomised by an 89-ball 98, with six maximums, against South Africa in the 2009 Champions Trophy. And his ease against spin helped him average 59 in England’s last one-day series in India. In the absence of Eoin Morgan, could Shah have been England’s finisher?

Zulqarnain Haider

Remembered for fleeing mid-series against South Africa last year, promising to blow the whistle on match-fixers, Haider retired from cricket aged just 24. Those who saw his superbly gritty 88 on Test debut last summer will know he should be in south Asia now, rather than England.

Albie Morkel

The ‘next Klusener’ will not be appearing in the World Cup. For a fifth bowler, he was always too liable to be expensive with the ball. Nevertheless, South Africa may long for him when chasing eight-an-over: Morkel can exploit the batting powerplay like few others, most notably when looting Australia for 40* (off 18) and 40 (off 22) in two match-winning innings down under in 2009.

Mohammad Nabi

Afghanistan’s skipper will rue the change in the format from 2007: if 16 teams were permitted as they were then, he would be appearing in the World Cup. An off-spinning all-rounder who also has a first-class hundred to his name, Nabi is a useful cricketer who, with 13 wickets at 10 in the World Twenty20 qualifiers last year, did more than anyone to secure Afghanistan’s place in that tournament.

Mohammed Amir

Yes, yes, we know why he won’t be playing, and that is right. But there’s no denying the sight of Amir’s mastery of the left-arm craft would have added to the tournament. Facing him under lights is not a prospect any opener would relish.

Simon Jones

The notion of a fit Jones may seem ridiculous, but his performances in the Carribbean Twenty20 competition, including claiming 4-10 in four overs, served as a reminder of his reverse swing mastery of ’05, as well as his oft-ignored subtleties. Still capable of touching 90mph, could he yet play for England again, if used in a manner akin to Australia’s Shaun Tait?

Shane Bond

A slight cheat of a selection in that he’s retired, but what a shame it is. His last series – nine wickets at 21 against Australia last year – suggested Bond still possessed a genuine threat at international level. With express pace and canny use of bouncers, yorkers, cutters and slower balls alike Bond, even at 35, would have provided New Zealand’s attack with the cutting edge they are conspicuously lacking.