What it's really like to be picked for an England cricket tour – and then be told you're 12th man

 
Chris Tremlett
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Players will need to be kept hydrated in the stifling heat if the Middle East (Source: Getty)

All the focus will be on the XI selected by England to take on Pakistan this morning on day one of the first Test in Abu Dhabi, but what about the players who did not make the team, what happens to them?

During my career I spent time on tour but out of the side and while it’s always better to be there than not to be it can be extremely frustrating, especially if you fancied your chances of securing a spot in the team for that first Test.

In those circumstances you also know that unless things go badly wrong or there is an injury you’re probably unlikely to feature in the second Test neither as it would harsh to drop someone who has been given just the one chance.

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But that’s sport. It’s a cut-throat business at times and all you can do is accept it, bide your time and work hard on your fitness and in the nets, and then when your opportunity comes, take it.

When I got my chance in the third Test in Perth in 2010, having been left out of the opening two, I was thinking ‘I’ve got to make an impact here’ and fortunately I did and earned a run in the side.

So over the next five days, what will the guys left out be doing? During a day’s play, two or three players will be designated the 12th man, which is not what you came on tour to do but unfortunately you have just got to get on with it.

It’s actually a pretty hard job, especially in the stifling heat of the Middle East, as you’re constantly having to re-fill the drinks and concentrate fully on the match to make sure everyone is being looked after appropriately in those conditions.

Those who are not 12th man will have a slot to work in the nets, perhaps an intense 30-45 minute fitness session in the gym. It’s vital to keep your skills and fitness up so if the call does come you haven’t completely shut down for a week or whatever it may be.

Over the years I have been a member of various squads and the tighter that squad is then the more you do feel part of it when left out. A good team environment means those guys who are not selected are still included in everything.

At times you can feel like a spare part, particularly if you’re likely to go the whole series without playing. Left-arm spinner Monty Panesar, for instance, was highly unlikely to feature on an Ashes tour and he would know that.

He was only likely to play if Graeme Swann broke a finger or England opted to play two spinners on a dry Sydney wicket in the fifth Test.

There can be a feeling that you’re there for the sake of it so that sense of inclusivity is vital. England have been good at that in the past.

In other news, the appointment of former New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori to work with the country’s young spinners as part of the England Performance Programme is a massive positive.

Guys like Vettori, who has taken more than 350 Test wickets, bring with them a huge amount of knowledge and, similar to batting consultant Mahela Jayawardene, he is a real coup for England.

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