England’s white-ball captain Jos Buttler has hinted that Harry Brook could yet force his way into the final squad for their World Cup title defence, but emphasised that the “dynamic” of selection was “changed” by Ben Stokes’ comeback to ODI cricket as a specialist batter. With Stokes coming out of retirement and a bunch of other experienced, multi-skilled middle-order batters in the group, Brook was edged out in the World Cup squad. Test captain Stokes was chosen as a specialist hitter after reversing his ODI retirement, leaving Brook out of the running and omitting him from the preliminary squad to fly to India. England have until September 28 to finalise their 15-strong group.
After being unexpectedly left out of England’s 15-man squad last week, Brook replied by scoring 105 runs off just 42 balls for Northern Superchargers on Tuesday night at Headingley.
“There’s still a long time before everyone is meant to get on the plane, so we’ll wait and see what happens,” Buttler was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.
“We all know Harry’s a fantastic player and we saw what he can do the other night. It’s not like it’s a surprise: we know what a brilliant player he is, he’s just the unfortunate one at the moment to not be in that squad at the moment. Of course, Ben Stokes coming back and being available just as a batter sort of changes the dynamic a little bit. Ben’s a fantastic player to be able to welcome back, so it’s a really tough selection,” he added.
There is no obvious like-for-like replacement that would keep the squad’s balance despite the fact that other players of England’s provisional squad had subpar performances in the Hundred, including Liam Livingstone, who may be Brook’s closest power-hitter counterpart. The success of England on Indian surfaces may depend on Livingstone’s ability to bowl both off- and leg-spin.
“There’s been [a lot of] players performing really well over a period of time. That’s where we’re at the minute. We’re blessed with a lot of strength in depth, and talent. [There are] excellent players not in that provisional squad at the moment. It’s been the nature of England squads in the white-ball teams over the last few years really, which is a great sign for us. They’re good problems to have,” Buttler said.
With 298 runs scored in eight innings, Buttler leads all batters in the competition and is the only one to have scored more runs than Brook. He has a strike rate of 143.26 and occasionally plays within himself to counteract the early swing that has been a hallmark of the competition.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good and enjoying my batting. It’s certainly swung about a little bit more than sometimes it does, so I’ve been just trying to adapt. I’m a pretty experienced player now. You always want to get off to a fast start and take advantage of the Powerplay, but some days it might be that that’s the hardest time to bat,” he said.
“Even in such a short game, there’s still time to do that. In a Test match, it might be [that you] soak it up for an hour or something, but in a T20 or the Hundred, it might be just three or four balls that you need – and that’s okay. Something I’ve learned over time is you can still have those little phases of getting in,” the England captain said.
England’s provisional squad for the World Cup: Jos Buttler (captain), Moeen Ali, Gus Atkinson, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Curran, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Reece Topley, David Willey, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes.
England’s World Cup campaign begins on the opening day on October 5 when they take on New Zealand at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.
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