Monday 28 April 2014 

Is England's Test Side A Closed Shop?

England
Has it become too hard to break into the England Test side?
© REUTERS / Action Images
 
Will Gidman
Will Gidman, who many, this author included, believe should be given a chance within the England set-up
© REUTERS / Action Images
 

It has often been said over the past half-decade or so that the England Test side has been too much of a closed shop.

That honest consistently performing county pros were never seriously considered for promotion to the national side. All that changed, however, during a terrible winter for English cricket, as we saw a number of county players parachuted into the Test and One-Day International sides.

Michael Carberry was given a chance at the top of the order, Jonny Bairstow was entrusted with the gloves and Boyd Rankin, Gary Ballance and Scott Borthwick were all picked to regain some integrity for English cricket. Moeen Ali and Stephen Parry also had chances in the limited overs game after impressive performances for their counties in 2013.

All of this brings me to my main grievance: why then, at a time when English cricket is at its lowest ebb in nearly a decade, is a man who has scored 2,000 first-class runs at an average of over 35 and also taken 169 wickets at just 21 apiece still being ignored from the England set-up?

That’s not to say I think this man should be in the Test team, but he hasn’t even featured in an England Lions squad or one of the many developmental squads deployed around the world apparently at random.

The man in question is 29 year-old Gloucestershire all-rounder Will Gidman. I’m not pushing Gidman’s case on the back of an impressive start to the new season (although 14 wickets in two games and a half-century is mightily impressive) as he has been a proven performer for the county since 2011.

During that season Gidman achieved the rare feat of scoring 1,000 runs and taking 50 wickets; the achievement was largely overlooked.

One of the main reasons for this could be that Gidman is doing all of his damage in Division Two of the LV= County Championship. Over the last few years all the talk is that the gap between the two divisions is wider than it’s ever been, and perhaps this is counting against Gidman in pushing for international honours.

You could counter this however, by the fact that both Carberry and Moeen have plied their trade predominantly in Division Two for the past few years and both have still made their way into England sides. 

Can England really afford to be constantly looking towards the future when the current situation appears so bleak?

Of course, Gidman also suffers from a long-standing issue within the English set-up. Plain and simple, Gloucestershire is not a 'fashionable' county.

They are rarely on TV and if an England selector arrives at the ground would he know where the pavilion is?

Current captain Alastair Cook has also only competed in Division One for one out of his 11 first-class seasons.

A more subtle reason as to Gidman’s continued exclusion could be his age. In the modern era the emphasis is on nurturing young talents and bringing them under ECB guidance from an early age to mould them into international players.

Very few successful England players in recent years have had time to ply their trade in the county game; with Jonathan Trott and Nick Compton the only obvious exceptions. Gidman is still only 29 however and could realistically perform to this level for another five years.

Can England really afford to be constantly looking towards the future when the current situation appears so bleak?

Of course, Gidman also suffers from a long-standing issue within the English set-up. Plain and simple, Gloucestershire is not a 'fashionable' county. They are rarely on TV and if an England selector arrives at the ground would he know where the pavilion is?

Alongside Glamorgan, Leicestershire and Derbyshire, Gloucestershire have always suffered when it comes to their players gaining international recognition.

Perhaps then, Gidman will need to leave his native county to seek out pastures new in Division One; I’m sure Somerset would snap at the chance to sign such a talent. It is however, a searing indictment of the county set up that players need to change counties in order for their talents to be recognised.

There is no need for total despair though, perhaps this year, as the England selectors pay closer attention to Championship performances than ever before, will see Gidman finally earn the recognition he deserves for consistent brilliance in county cricket.

At the very least, if his form holds, Gidman has to be in the Lions squad for the winter ahead.

© Cricket World 2014