OPINION: Throw The Kids Into The Commonwealths – It’s The Tournament We’ve Prepared Them For

In the aftermath of England’s World Cup final defeat, I provoked a fair bit of debate by arguing that England now face a difficult choice between prioritising the up-coming Commonwealth Games or the next World Cup in 2025.

Many of the responses suggested that we didn’t have to choose – we could give the old stalwarts a swansong at the Commonwealth Games and then look to the future going forwards from the India series in September. I understand the emotional pull here – it is a unique tournament, on home turf, which the players are desperate to be part of.

But the key issue for me is that if you choose do this, you really are still choosing: you are prioritising the Commonwealth Games over the next World Cup. There are 3 English summers remaining before the World Cup – if we want to be in with the best chance of winning that World Cup with a younger team, we can’t afford to throw most of one of those summers away.

More than that though, the Commonwealth Games is an opportunity to bring the youngsters into exactly the kind of tournament we’ve prepared them for via the Hundred – a high-profile, intense tournament, in a short, sharp format, played on a familiar, English pitches. (Well… “a” familiar English pitch, as it is all played at Edgbaston.)

I’m not suggesting that we debut 11 players at the Commonwealths though!

The South Africa series which kicks off the summer will be a long one, including a Test, and gives us the opportunity to build somewhat incrementally, if more rapidly than might be ideal. Importantly, the ODIs are not part of the ICC Championship, so there are no World Cup qualification points on the line.

One thing we don’t want however, is a repeat of what happened to Emma Lamb – given just one game to prove herself at the end of the Ashes series. If we give someone a shot in either the ODIs or the T20s against South Africa, it must be for all 3 games of that series.

None of this is an exact science, but an approach against South Africa could be to “re-debut” Freya Davies (as a proper opening bowler) and Emma Lamb (opening) in the Test, add Lauren Bell and Bess Heath (a bit of a wildcard, but we need to start thinking about cover for Amy Jones) for the ODIs, and then Alice Capsey, Bryony Smith and maybe Dani Gibson in the T20s.

This then gives you a bit of a platform to select an explicitly younger side for the Commonwealths, including up to 5 or 6 players who were not in the 2022 World Cup XI, but could be part of things in 2025.

Would this be our “best” side right now, to win the Commonwealth Games?

No, no, and thrice no! It’s not ideal, but we’ve got ourselves into a less than ideal situation by a total lack of succession planning with the batting and fast bowling.

So given where we are, would taking this opportunity give us a better chance to prepare players to win the next World Cup?

In the immortal words of Churchill: Oh yes!


12 thoughts on “OPINION: Throw The Kids Into The Commonwealths – It’s The Tournament We’ve Prepared Them For

  1. In essence, what you are saying is that the Commonwealth Games, which will be held in England’s second city, Birmingham, is to be treated by the ECB as if it were no more than a series of practice matches.

    As an Aussie some of whose ancestors emigrated to Oz more than a century and a half ago from Edgbaston of all places, I disagree.

    I am also very confident that Cricket Australia will not be treating the Commonwealth Games as nothing more than an opportunity for some practice.

    On the contrary, CA has already arranged to tour Ireland to play some warm up matches prior to the Commonwealth Games, and that gives you a strong indication of CA’s attitude.


    • I don’t necessarily disagree with you about the ‘look’ of the ECB treating this comp anything less than 100% seriously, but I’m not sure a comparison between England and Australia is particularly useful or valid.

      Australia are in a fantastic position right now. They have the best team in the World by a street and then some, and they have a pathway which is readying both relatively established players (eg. King) and youngsters (eg. Brown) to step up seemingly without any difficulty adapting to the big stage.

      England have neither of those things – yet. Their imperatives are totally different, and that will – should – shape their approach.

      I’m far from comfortable with England using a prestigious home tournament, particularly one on free-to-air TV so likely to attract a less knowledgeable audience potentially new to the game and the team, as an experimental thing, but if that’s the route they decide to go down then so be it.


  2. Another thing to bear in mind is that England only have 6 T20 internationals, plus the 3/5 in the Commonwealth Games, to prepare for the T20 World Cup in South Africa in February 2023. Now is also the time to prepare for that competition, with the CWG ideal preparation. Time to look ahead!


  3. There’s always another tournament just around the corner – the CG this summer, then the WT20 next February, and so it goes. There’s always a reason to say “not right now”. But somewhere along the line, the future has to begin. As Syd rightly says, England’s progression planning has been woeful at times, and the Ashes and the early stages of the World Cup carried distinct elements of chickens coming home to roost.

    If England feel they have no options in these matches other than to throw the new ball to Brunt and Shrubsole, then they really only have themselves to blame. There has been ample time and opportunity to give more chances to Davies and Farrant, or to blood Wong or Bell, or even Arlott last summer, and to give them the new ball, not just ‘hide’ them at first or second change.

    I’m a little less critical with the batting as – Dunkley excepted – obvious candidates have been thin on the ground. It was only really last summer that serious calls for Lamb or Eve Jones began to be heard.

    I really do not feel at all comfortable with the notion of England not selecting their best squad (whatever any of us may think that is) for ANY home tournament. And a huge part of me feels that it’s just one competition and in the scheme of things it won’t hurt to wait until after this ‘swansong’ to perform surgery on the squad. But it’s not just one comp, because the early part of the summer – the bulk of the International programme – needs to be used in prep. England’s squads for the South Africa series must be selected with at least half an eye on the CG, and that almost makes it the whole summer gone if we stick to the tried and trusted.

    And that’s another point. How ‘trusted’ are some of these players? Really? Brunt and Shrubsole – though it pains me to say it – are not the bowlers they were, Winfield-Hill is what she is, and she’s not going to start churning out the 50s and 100s she hasn’t been doing for the last six years. Amy Jones just doesn’t score the runs her sheer talent promises, not consistently at any rate. For all her undoubted talent with the gloves, in men’s cricket (spurious comparison alert!) she would have been ‘rested’ long ago in favour of a more consistent batter who knew enough about keeping to get by.

    When Syd first mooted this a couple of days ago, I was instinctively of the sentimental view that players deserved to go out in a fanfare, at home, big occasion, packed crowds, etc. The more I think about it the less I feel that way.


  4. Richard Clark: England already has a pathway both for established players (eg Eve Jones) and for youngsters (eg Wong) (eg both Jones and Wong played in the WBBL recently).

    England Fan: What’s to stop England from organising some more WT20I matches between now and Feb 23? It’s even possible to play two such matches in a single day – other teams have already done that. Possible opponents for more WT20 matches include Ireland, Scotland (which beat Ireland recently), the Netherlands (which similarly beat Ireland recently) and even Germany … and that’s just the most obvious possible European opponents …


    • You can’t seriously think that England thrashing Ireland / Scotland / Netherlands / Germany is good preparation for facing Australia in future World Cup finals? 😕


      • What makes you so sure it would be a thrashing, especially if England were fielding some debutantes? During the World Cup, England was beaten by the Windies and RSA, and defeated NZ by just one wicket. Australia will be warming up for the Commonwealth Games by playing against Ireland, which was recently defeated by Scotland and the Netherlands in WT20s. If Ireland is good enough for Australia to play against for WT20I warm up matches, why would Scotland or the Netherlands not be good enough for England? Wouldn’t the main alternative be warm up matches against England A?


    • The point I was making about Australia’s pathway is that it is visibly working. England’s is getting there, and is certainly more robust than previously, but the acid test will come over the next three or four years as to the long-term effectiveness. Eve Jones and Wong (to quote your two examples) are yet to prove themselves on the big stage. Indeed Jones may never get the chance to do so. Likewise, Lamb and Bell. Bouchier has had a taste but is still in the fledgling category. Dean – tentatively – looks like she might be the real deal.

      But Australia throw in youngsters and they invariably thrive. (A) Because temperamentally and skills-wise they look ready, and that’s a symptom of a robust pathway, and (B) because they come into a strong, successful team which allows them to bed in under less pressure. The same cannot be said for England, for many complex reasons.


      • I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: England is a good team. So are South Africa, India and the Windies. It’s pointless comparing any of these teams with Australia, because the latter is an exceptional team, like the Windies men of the late 1970s and the 1980s.

        In the last year or so, several experienced players (ie Cross, Farrant) have returned successfully to the England team, Dunkley has established herself, and Wyatt has finally found a place in the 50 over team. I would have thought that that’s progress. Bouchier, Davies and Dean may do something similar in the next 12 months, and maybe Wong (who impressed in the WBBL) and one or two others as well.

        By contrast, there hasn’t really been all that much change in the Oz team. Kimmince has been replaced by a returning McGrath, and Brown has become a regular, but King and several others came in or returned only as as ostensibly temporary injury replacements.

        To bring in new batters to the England team, the management would have to drop someone. Now that Winfield-Hill has been dropped, who would it be? Obviously not Beaumont, Knight or Sciver. Wyatt has just scored a century, Dunkley has been impressive, and Jones is the best wicket-keeper.

        Once you add Ecclestone, Dean, Cross and the two fast bowling veterans, there’s no place left. And that’s a team good enough to beat every other team, except Australia, most of the time. Why drop any of these players merely to give experience to a younger player not shown to be clearly better?


      • @Jeremy Ludlow – without checking the numbers I’d say that is spot on. Aus dont debut a lot of players, but the ones they do bring in already have a lot of experience (and in Aus that is higher ‘quality’ experience than elsewhere). Its not about debuts, its about pathways


  5. For what it is worth, an obsession with debuting/giving experience/developing/call it what you will, has been a feature of the White Ferns for the last 7-8 years. And they have gone backwards at every world tournament over that time. Make of that what you will. (My take: it’s madness. Jonas and Plimmer only got good seats to watch games, while genuine class of Kasperek and Ebrahim was left at home. Disastrous for all concerned – the 2 young girls rushed in must be hurt by the disbelief of the public).

    England came 2nd at the World Cup, and actually quite comfortably in the end. Make of that what you will.

    Australia’s strength is not bringing in new players – it’s how a new player is ready, when they do get a chance. Instead of debuts, preparation might be more important. A past White Fern strongly argued that globally, women’s cricket needs an ‘A team’ programme (or at least the countries outside Aus do). (CricInfo had a very good article on the role an A team programme had helping get the mens’ teams of India and NZ to the WTC final).

    And as part of that – the ICC should look to have the Commonwealth Games as an under 25/under 23 tournament, just as football is at the Olympics.


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