The international retirement of allrounder Jenny Gunn, confirmed this week by the ECB, means that the England squad have now lost two senior players in the past month, after Sarah Taylor announced her retirement two weeks ago.
For different reasons, neither Gunn nor Taylor were automatic selections any more – Taylor having already essentially opted out of overseas tours and tournaments; and Gunn reduced to a “squad player”, winning just one cap in the past 12 months, in the 3rd ODI against the West Indies.
But having been fixtures of the team for so long – Gunn made her debut in 2004; Taylor in 2006 – they will be missed by the squad, both professionally and personally.
Their retirements, combined with new contracts awarded this summer, reduce the average age of the “fully contracted” squad (excluding rookies) by an entire year, from 27½ at the start of the 2019 season to 26½ now.
Retirements are of course natural and expected – a 20-strong squad would normally see one or two a year – but the cycle had recently been put out by the introduction of central contracts, which allowed some to play longer than they might otherwise have done, whilst also pulling up the drawbridge behind them, as the “chasing pack” of amateurs fell back, unable to compete with the full-time athletes for skills and fitness.
Perhaps this is why the loss of two players in the space of a month, plus Dani Hazell earlier in the year, feels disconcerting – though not as disconcerting as it will feel when Katherine Brunt (34 – a year older than Gunn, and 4 years older than Taylor) also decides to join them on the great balcony in the sky… or at least in the great comms box on Sky, which is where most of them seem to be headed!
But one player’s retirement is another’s opportunity, with Georgia Elwiss perhaps set to take over Gunn’s job as the “squad player”, able to step up as either a late-order batsman or a bowler at a moment’s notice, as needs must in the heat of a tournament; and Amy Jones now secure in her role with the gloves, at home as well as away.
So yes, the next England contracted squad in 2020 will feel different – the times they are a changin’… but only really because that’s what they usually do – we just need to get used to it again!
Who will be the reserve wicket keeper behind Amy Jones? Lauren Winfield is a pick over of Georgia Elwiss in the main eleven for sure?
Reserve wicket keeper = Tammy, in the short term. But if anything long-term happens to Amy J, then England are up the creek somewhat!
As for Elwiss/ Winfield – depends what you need – Elwiss is the perfect “15th” member of a tournament squad, because she can bat and bowl.
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Somebody (it may well have been Raf!) said at the end of the 2017 World Cup Final that there was a serious case to be made for naming Jenny Gunn as Player of the Tournament, and I don’t believe whoever it was got that wrong.
England had three crucial – and close-run – matches in that tournament and she contributed to all of them. In the group game v Australia she scored 39 in partnership with Katherine Brunt after coming in with England 174-6, and was also entrusted with bowling the final over.
Against South Africa in the semi final her 27 not out went a long way to helping overhaul South Africa after England had again stalled with the bat.
And in the Final she made 25 not out in a similar situation, before conceding just 17 runs in 7 overs, much of that spell towards the back end of the Indian innings.
England quite possibly wouldn’t have won ANY of those matches without her, yet conversely it’s entirely typical of her career as a whole that hers was not *the* starring role in any of them either. In fact she’s probably unfairly destined to go down in history as the player who nearly dropped the World Cup!
Worth remembering too that there were more than a few eyebrows raised when she survived the Robinson ‘cull’ that ended Charlotte Edwards and Lydia Greenway’s involvementwith England. She may not have had her career turned around by MR in the same way as Tammy Beaumont or others, but she’s arguably just as much one of his hunches that paid off in that respect.
When you add in Clare Connor’s “constant, caring rock of our dressing room”, it’s not hard to see why one of the least heralded players over the last 10-15 years was one of the most important.
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Oh well, end of another “veteran” who served England well. Chance to blood some of the younger talent. When will the new person in charge be announced, or did I miss something while away? Keeper understudy, the apparently “shelved” Ellie Threlkeld? The squad , when announced, will be interesting.