‘Disappointed is an understatement’ – Liam Plunkett hits out at white

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Sep
21

3:36 PM ET

Liam Plunkett says that “disappointment is an understatement” after he was surprisingly overlooked in England’s list of centrally contracted white-ball players for 2019-20.

Plunkett played a key role in England’s maiden World Cup triumph this summer, including three wickets in their victory in the final against New Zealand at Lord’s, and has claimed a total of 96 ODI wickets at 28.01 in the four years since the last World Cup in 2015, more than any other England white-ball seamer.

However, at the age of 34, Plunkett has been considered by the ECB management to be past his prime as they begin to gear their white-ball squads towards next year’s World T20 in Australia and ultimately the defence of their title in India in 2023, by which stage he will be 38.

Explaining the decision at Lord’s on Friday, Ashley Giles, England’s director of men’s cricket, praised Plunkett’s contribution as a “fantastic servant” to the white-ball team, but pointed out that his pace had dipped in recent seasons and that a team with an eye to the future had a duty to prioritise a new generation of bowlers – not least Tom Curran, who was a non-playing member of England’s World Cup squad, and the Lancashire paceman, Saqib Mahmood, who is expected to be named in England’s T20 squad next week, for their five-match tour of New Zealand.

“Plunkett has been … one of Eoin [Morgan]’s go-to men,” said Giles. “But moving into a new cycle of four years, before the 50-over World Cup and two T20 World Cups, he probably didn’t fit those future needs for the next 12-24 months, which is tough.

“He’s one of the most physical men we have in our line-ups. He’s incredibly fit and strong, but in terms of the numbers, I guess his paces have been down a little bit for some time.

“His best came in that role in the World Cup, and the World Cup final. He should be really proud of that achievement, and what they did as a team, but everything moves on for all of us.

Writing in his Independent column after the World Cup win, Plunkett conceded he had “definitely” played in his last 50-over World Cup, but had vowed to “stick around in the game for a little longer”.

He took to Twitter on Friday afternoon to express his disappointment at the decision, although he later clarified: “I am really happy for all the boys who got contracted. I am not having a pop at anyone just disappointed I didn’t get one.”

“We’re not saying that the door’s closed, but just in terms of the core of that team, which is where those contracts are offered, he probably just misses out,” said Giles. “It’s difficult to be the person who puts that pen through the name, but that’s cricket.”

Another player on whom the door is not closed is Alex Hales, despite being stripped of his white-ball contract in the wake of the positive tests for recreational drug use that led to his sacking from the World Cup squad.

Hales has a prominent opportunity to make his case for an England recall on T20 Finals Day at Edgbaston on Saturday, where Nottinghamshire take on the defending champions Worcestershire in the first semi-final.

Joe Clarke and Tom Kohler-Cadmore, who were stood down from England Lions duty following inappropriate off-field behaviour, were also given a clean slate as Giles cited the recent example of Ben Stokes to show that players who make career-threatening errors of judgement can earn themselves second chances.

“The door isn’t closed on Alex, or certainly those other guys,” he said. “They’ve served whatever time they had to serve. It will come down to performance, and there is always an element of culture and team cohesion.”

In the short term at least, Hales might find his path back to the England squad blocked by the captain, Eoin Morgan, who was scathing in his assessment of Hales’ character when explaining the reasoning behind his World Cup axing.

“Eoin talked about that element of trust, and has there been enough time to make up for that?” said Giles. “Maybe, maybe not … that’ll come down to Eoin and the selectors, but the door is still open. He’s a fantastic T20 player and, you know, a mistake shouldn’t haunt you for life. As we’ve seen very good other example this year.”

After a period of reflection in the wake of the World Cup win, Morgan recently confirmed that he was ready to carry on as England captain, a development that delighted Giles, especially given that the concurrent departure of the coach Trevor Bayliss would have left the white-ball squad rudderless in the interim.

“We met about a month after the World Cup final, and he wanted some time to consider his future, which is just the way Morgs operates,” said Giles. “He’s very sensible, very logical. And thankfully, he rang me a couple of weeks after that, and said, I’m absolutely fully committed to going forward. And I’m looking forward to it, refreshed.

“That first month was probably a bit of a haze for him anyway,” he added. “But he’s probably dried out a bit and come around, and I’m delighted. He is a fantastic leader of men in that dressing room. And with us losing Trev, it’s important we maintain some consistency and that leadership going forward.”

Morgan’s role in moulding the England team post-2015 has been well documented. But Giles believes that, even if he is unable to take the side all the way to the 2023 World Cup (by which stage he will be 36), the groundwork already laid is such that Jos Buttler (or AN Other candidate) would be well placed to take over at shorter notice.

“To give Jos that responsibility now, I think, is a lot for him, given he’s playing across all three formats. But is he a future leader? Quite possibly. And given where the white-ball team is, perhaps we can manage that transition better.

“But just because we’re world champions, we can’t just keep doing the same stuff. When the new coach comes in, his relationship with the captains is going to be important. And we will need different things in both environments, because the white-ball environment is probably more mature in how they play their cricket than the Test environment. But both are really exciting opportunities.”

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