After the completion of the Wisden Trophy, the eyes of the cricketing world have now moved to the white-ball game as England take on Ireland in a 3-game series. This also marks the start of the new ICC World Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League.
The aim of this new Super League is to bring a regular sense of meaning and context to the many bilateral 50-over series played around the world, with the overall purpose of achieving qualification for the 2023 Cricket World Cup in India.
It involves 13 countries: England, Australia, New Zealand, West Indies, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ireland, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, South Africa and the Netherlands, and will track their progress on the international stage over the next 4 years with a points system. India will qualify automatically as the host nation alongside the top seven nations, with the bottom five and five more associate nations battling it out for the final two qualification places.
As quoted by Geoff Allardice, the ICC General Manager for Cricket Operations, said “The league will bring relevance and context to ODI cricket over the next three years, as qualification for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 is at stake. The Super League gives cricket fans around the world even more reasons to watch as the drama of league cricket unfolds.”
This is only England’s second series since they were crowned World Cup winners in 2019 and they appear to have taken a steady approach in their selection process. The main talking point surrounding the selection for this series is the lack of players from the test side, who are unable to move between the bio-secure ‘bubbles’. This means that players such as Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, and Jofra Archer, who had such an impact in the World Cup last summer, are not included in the squad.
This does not, however, seem to be a problem due to the sheer depth of English white-ball players as England selector James Taylor remarked nonchalantly, “We are developing excellent strength in depth in white-ball cricket. Even though a number of Test players are unavailable, there is great competition for places, as we have seen during the intra-squad matches and the England Lions warm-up match.” This has opened the door to the fringe players, which makes for an interesting squad.
The most notable inclusions amongst the bowlers are the return of the two left-arm fast bowlers David Willey and Reece Topley. Having been a regular in the ODI team up until 2019, Willey was dumped rather unceremoniously from the team on the eve of the World Cup for the force known as Jofra Archer. In an interview earlier this month with ESPNcricinfo, Willey even admitted that he thought his international career was over, so one hopes he makes the most of his return.
Reece Topley, on the other hand, hasn’t played a game for England for 4 years due to a slew of injury setbacks, the most recent resulting in a 40-millimetre pin in his back. Standing at 6’7” and with a respectable record in his first 10 games for England, a bowling average of 25, he’ll be looking to make a statement in what could be his first ODI appearance since Valentine’s Day 2016, clearly one for the romantics.
Amongst the batsmen, a notable inclusion is Joe Denly, who having been dropped from the test side has been allowed into the white-ball setup. Not only does he score runs for England, but if you cast your mind back to the South Africa series where he averaged 76.5, you’ll know he will also add age and experience to a batting line-up consisting of James Vince, Tom Banton, and Kent team-mate Same Billings, whose combined ODI appearances are less than Denly’s.
It appears that England have resisted the appeal of the younger, uncapped batsmen such as Sam Hain who averages 59.78 in List A (higher than anyone to have batted at least 50 times in List A cricket), and Phil Salt who scored a 58-ball century against Ireland on Monday. Instead, this squad contains no uncapped players and gives off an air of rationality and sturdiness as the tried and tested players are handed the baton, a remarkably different attitude to the Test squad which is backing youth.