Ask The Spider #133

What was the players selected to games played ratio for each of the eight top teams (against other top-eight teams) between the 2002/03 and 2007 World Cups?

Taking the starting point as the triangular in Sharjah played a couple of weeks after the end of the 2002/03 tournament (which begun on the 3rd of April 2003) and the end point as the 2007 final (28th April 2007), the figures read thus:
Australia: 36 players in 101 ODIs (2.8)
England: 44 players in 77 ODIs (1.75)
India: 38 players in 96 ODIs (2.5)
New Zealand: 38 players in 88 ODIs (2.3)
Pakistan: 36 players in 90 ODIs (2.5)
South Africa: 35 players in 82 ODIs (2.3)
Sri Lanka: 40 players in 85 ODIs (2.1)
West Indies: 44 players in 83 ODIs (1.9)

And 1999 to 2002/03? And can you give it for 2007 to 2010/11 when that tournament is finished?

I shall certainly do. As for 1999-2002/03 – again, taking the starting point as the brief triangular Aiwa Cup in Sri Lanka early in 1999/2000 (starting on the 22nd of August 1999) and the finish as the final of the 2002/03 Cup (23rd March 2003):
Australia: 28 players in 85 ODIs (3)
England: 39 players in 52 ODIs (1.3)
India: 50 players in 101 ODIs (2)
New Zealand: 39 players in 86 ODIs (2.2)
Pakistan: 41 players in 95 ODIs (2.3)
South Africa: 38 players in 92 ODIs (2.4)
Sri Lanka: 33 players in 97 ODIs (2.9)
West Indies: 40 players in 68 ODIs (1.7)

I was quite amazed to read in your last column that only three people have led England in more than one home Ashes series! Is this honestly true?

Well, that wasn’t quite what was shown – there have been several captains who have led for part of one series and all of another. But there have only been three who have led for more than one full series. Thinking about it, yes, that does seem fairly remarkable, especially as England have had a decent few reasonably lengthy captaincy tenures, and Ashes series’ have long had a traditional four-year cycle (that dates back to 1926, though there have been several aberrations in that time). But yes, the only men to have been appointed for and seen out two full home Ashes series’ were David Gower in 1985 and 1989 (here, too, the latter saw him brought back as captain having been sacked less than a year after his 1985 triumph), Archie MacLaren (1902 and 1909) and the ubiquitous WG Grace (1890, 1893 and 1896). Several others have come quite close, and as mentioned in the previous column Andrew Strauss appears to have a better chance than anyone for a fair while. One factor which has often hampered the likelihood of dual leaderships is the fact that Ashes series’ are seen as the “peak” of English cricket: skippers have regularly elected to stand down and finish their captaincies with Ashes series’ (both home and away); not-irregularly a dreadful Ashes performance has seen selectors elect for a change in leadership either immediately or very soon; and there is a fair reluctance to put a new skipper in place just before an Ashes. Strauss is relatively rare in being appointed captain just before an Ashes, rather than just after or during the latter phases of one.

Since the end of the 2007 World Cup, how many times have England made unenforced changes to their ODI side?

It’s not easy to give an absolute answer to this, because sometimes players have come in due to injury and stayed in the side after the player who they nominally came in to replace has regained fitness (either in preference to them or in preference to someone else). However, if one counts purely the in and out, it might be possible to give this as a list:
In the opening game of the 2007 summer: Alastair Cook for Andrew Strauss, Matt Prior for Paul Nixon, Ian Bell back for Jamie Dalrymple (who he had been dropped for in the last World Cup game), Stuart Broad for Michael Vaughan. (4)
Michael Yardy for Monty Panesar, and immediately back again, in the next two. (2)
Chris Tremlett for Panesar in the summer’s second series. (1)
Graeme Swann for Panesar in the opening game in Sri Lanka in 2007/08. (1)
Dimitri Mascarenhas for Swann, and Luke Wright for Ravinder Bopara, in New Zealand the same winter. (2)
In the opening game of the 2008 summer, Swann back for Mascarenhas, Bopara for Cook, Tim Ambrose for Philip Mustard (who had only come in as an injury replacement for Prior but then was picked in preference to him). (3)
Tremlett for Mascarenhas (this is debateable, because had Ryan Sidebottom been fit neither would have appeared in their games).
Prior back for Ambrose, Samit Patel for Swann, in the summer’s second series. (2)
Bopara back for Wright in the opening game in India in 2008/09. (1)
Swann for Stephen Harmison that same series. (1)
Cook for Bell, Harmison for James Anderson. (1)
Strauss for Cook, Mascarenhas for Patel, in the opening game of the series in West Indies in spring 2009. (2)
Wright for Mascarenhas, Adil Rashid for Tim Bresnan, in the opening game of the 2009 summer’s second series against Australia. (2)
Bresnan back for Rashid. (1)
Graham Onions for Sidebottom. (2)
Wright for Bopara again in the opening game of the 2009/10 winter. (1)
Sidebottom back for Onions, and back again. (2)
Jonathan Trott for Joe Denly and Sajid Mahmood for Onions, at the start of the bilateral series in South Africa. (1)
At the start of the 2010 summer, Yardy for Trott and Craig Kieswetter for Prior. (2)
Steven Davies for Kieswetter, Bopara back for Wright yet again, and Trott for Pietersen (whether this was a rest or a drop is debateable) at the start of the summer’s second series. (3)
Bell for Bopara. (1)
Pietersen for Collingwood (again, this could be described as either a rest or a drop depending on your viewpoint) and Ajmad Shahzad for Anderson (this was irrefutably a “rest”), at the start of the ongoing-as-of-this-column series in Australia. (2)
Prior back for Davies. (1)
Chris Woakes for James Tredwell (this again is debateable, as Tredwell was only playing due to Swann’s injury).
Woakes for Yardy earlier today. (1)
So, that could be construed as either 39 or 41 depending on whether one views an injury replacement’s being replaced on preference as enforced or unenforced. The chances are there’ll be a few more before the World Cup is over – that’s just England’s way, really.

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