Moeen Ali going home and James Anderson being rested show how rotation policy is undermining England in India - Chris Waters

Got him: Rishabh Pant stumps Dan Lawrence.Got him: Rishabh Pant stumps Dan Lawrence.
Got him: Rishabh Pant stumps Dan Lawrence.
ENGLAND are disrespecting Test cricket and they are disrespecting their supporters.

That is the blunt reality of a rest and rotation system that puts neither first.

England left out their best bowler, James Anderson, for the second Test and lost by 317 runs, their heaviest defeat in India.

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Anderson bowled magnificently in the first Test, which England won by 227 runs, taking 5-63 in 27.5 overs across the two innings.

Top-scorer: Moeen Ali on his way to 43 at the Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. Pictures:  Pankaj Nangia/ Sportzpics for BCCITop-scorer: Moeen Ali on his way to 43 at the Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. Pictures:  Pankaj Nangia/ Sportzpics for BCCI
Top-scorer: Moeen Ali on his way to 43 at the Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. Pictures: Pankaj Nangia/ Sportzpics for BCCI

As Sir Ian Botham tweeted: “Rotation policy… really? Too tired after one Test which you’ve won at a canter?”

The legendary all-rounder was not alone in wondering why England had changed a winning side.

England left out arguably their second-best batsman, Jonny Bairstow, for both Tests as part of the rotation system, despite the fact Bairstow only regained his Test place in Sri Lanka and batted well at No 3.

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It meant that when Zak Crawley went down on the eve of the India series, spraining his wrist after slipping on a marble floor, England had to find a new No 3 because Bairstow was back at home.

Well done: Virat Kohli is congratulated by Joe Root.Well done: Virat Kohli is congratulated by Joe Root.
Well done: Virat Kohli is congratulated by Joe Root.

Bairstow can expect to play a full part in the rest of the four-match series, which continues with the day/night Test in Ahmedabad on Wednesday, the subsequent white-ball games and, of course, the Indian Premier League, the elephant in the room.

England dropped Bairstow’s Yorkshire team-mate Dom Bess for the second Test despite the fact that the off-spinner had taken 17 wickets in three Tests this winter and scored useful runs.

Moeen Ali, his replacement, bowled indifferently in very helpful conditions this week (understandably so given that it was his first first-class game for 17 months) and surely no better than Bess would have done.

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Now Moeen is going home to rest after one game, rendering the decision to drop Bess even more bizarre. What on earth is going on?

As with the Crawley/Bairstow situation, which meant that Dan Lawrence has had to bat at No 3 (his scores in this series are 0, 18, 9 and 26), when Jofra Archer was ruled out of the second Test with an elbow problem, Mark Wood, the obvious replacement, was not available as he was rested too.

Although Olly Stone came in and did a good job in Archer’s place, there is no flexibility within this rigid, pre-arranged system, just as there was none when Jos Buttler, despite playing well in the first Test, was unable to stay on for a few more days to play in the second game at the same ground as England sought to take an unassailable 2-0 lead. Buttler is missing the last three Tests to be ready for the white-ball matches and, of course, the IPL.

Notwithstanding the fact that England are building towards the World T20 later this year, I say again – and whether they realise this or not – that they are disrespecting Test cricket and disrespecting their supporters who want to see them win this second-biggest Test series outside of the Ashes.

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That England could still win the series – especially with a pink-ball Test to come, which should favour more their pace bowlers – is not the point.

Nor is the principle of players having breaks from biosecure bubbles due to mental health/family reasons, although I do smile to myself when I think of what all those people living in high-rise flats in some of our most deprived urban areas during lockdown, also unable to see their family, must think about that, people who most likely have no money in the bank let alone hundreds of thousands of pounds to cheer themselves up a bit.

The problem is the intransigence of a system that takes no account of individual form or the particular circumstances of the series/tour. The capacity for the system to go wrong – as it went wrong this week – is obvious, even if India were palpably the better team.

To me, it speaks of various truths – the extent now of player power in a world of IPL/franchise cricket; the fact that Test cricket is not really England’s priority no matter what they claim (white-ball captain Eoin Morgan is more likely to get the players he wants than Joe Root); the almost complete ineffectiveness of national selector Ed Smith (one might as well have a potted plant in the position, or no one in the position), and the fact that England’s supporters come well down the pecking order.

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Granted, the opposition are allowed to play well, to borrow the old cliche, but England gave India the best chance to play well.

Surely the people watching on television, or listening in on the radio, deserve better.

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