The appointment of Ed Smith to national selector of the England team promises to see a new and revolutionary way to which the national side will select its teams in future. Smith took over at the 11th hour before the two-test series against Pakistan and made a couple of surprise inclusions in the return of Jos Buttler who was as at the time of selection in India smashing bowling to all parts in 20 over cricket in the IPL and by his own admission had no thought in his mind that he would be play a test match any time soon. The other selection of not was the drafting in of 20-year-old spinner Dom Bess with only 16 first class games to his name. Both selections had varying degrees of success with Buttler looking excellent on his return to the fold and Bess showing promise if not the full package yet for test cricket.
Its now after a couple of games and months into his tenure that we could well see Ed Smiths stamp on the side. For quite some time England have struggled in test match cricket, especially away from home – where victories have been scarce and performances not up to scratch. Smith had been brought into shake up the selection process of the side with a more analytics approach to selection with cricketer’s numbers crunched on very specific fields to determine a player’s value such as how batsman have faired on difficult batting wickets and a higher class of bowling as well as bowlers who have performed on flat pitch’s and against heavy scoring batsman in county cricket.
The result of which is a mirroring of the famous book “Moneyball” which documented the true story of the baseball team the Oakland Athletics 2002 season. The story was based on the management team questioning conventional baseball wisdom and going on the “look” of a player on the field and his very basic and simple baseball figures in hitting home runs and striking a batsman out and concentrating on very specific and (in the Oakland’s opinion) incredibly underrated attributes such as the ability to get a walk to first base (and not get out), pitchers records against a very specific style of hitter despite his overall record and many areas that baseball observers and “experts” has chosen to ignore for decades.
This allowed a team with relatively no budget and money to compete and beat the very best and richest baseball teams out there with superior knowledge of data and how to view and value a player who would not be deemed a player of merit or worth in the usual way things were viewed.
England’s record in 50 and 20 over cricket has been very strong in recent years and it will be interesting to see weather this approach will apply to these formats where there has been a suggestion of “it’s not broke, don’t fix it”. It’s in the test arena that could well see most dramatic changes and surprises and will certainly make test sides announcements having more interest than usual to see just what England’s new style selection style throws up.
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