Tough on counties but ECB right to rest England players for final Championship fixtures

Chris Tremlett
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England v Pakistan: 4th Investec Test - Day Four
Bairstow was unavailable for Yorkshire's final County Championship match (Source: Getty)

I fully appreciate how disappointing it must be for counties and their supporters that their international players are not playing in the final round of Championship fixtures but on balance I believe the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) are right.

Of the eight Division One teams in action this week, six have something to play for and while title and relegation issues will be resolved on either Thursday or Friday, some sides are doing so without their England players.

Perhaps there needs to be a level of flexibility as Jonny Bairstow, who last played on 4 September in England’s one-day clash with Pakistan, really wanted to play for Yorkshire in their potential title decider with Middlesex but was declared unavailable.

I can see both sides of the coin. When you’re a county player, you know your schedule is going to be pretty brutal during the summer but then you’ll always have a couple of months off and time to refresh.

For the international players, it tends to be an all-year round schedule. As well as having pockets of time to get over little niggles, it’s important to to get away from the game and be able to rest mentally.

We’ve seen with players such as Jonathan Trott and Marcus Trescothick that the constant pressure of touring and preparing can get on top of players. It’s important to get away from the game when opportunities arise.

Someone like Joe Root, for instance, will be practising in the nets ahead of next month’s tour to Bangladesh, but he isn’t contending with the intensity of game and will be that much more refreshed when it comes to a tough winter in the subcontinent.

There’s a heavy schedule coming for England’s players because after Bangladesh they head to India for a five-Test series, while limited-overs clashes follow in the New Year.

Playing for your counties and winning County Championships is important, but there is a bigger picture and it’s vital to be ready to play for England.

I understand the frustration. Jos Buttler, for instance, has only played one red-ball match for Lancashire this season due to Indian Premier League commitments and injury, yet he is in the Test squad for Bangladesh. It is a legitimate point to suggest he might be undercooked if asked to play the first Test in Chittagong, which starts on 20 October, although there are a couple of warm-up matches beforehand.

I see value in the arguments which have been made in favour of England’s players, in general, and certain players, in particular, being made available for this final round of fixtures, especially with plenty still at stake, but from a selectors’ and management point of view, I do think the ECB have got it about right.

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