England’s decision to leave David Willey out of the final World Cup squad was a “consensus” decision rather than a unanimous one, national selector Ed Smith has revealed.
Announcing the make-up of the squad to contest the tournament starting on May 30, in which left-arm seamer Willey missed out in favour of newcomer Jofra Archer, Smith also said the decision to bring Liam Dawson in for Joe Denly was driven by concerns over a niggle suffered by spinner Adil Rashid.
Willey was outspoken earlier this year in his opposition to a bowler who had helped England become the No.1 one-day side in the world possibly missing out to Archer, who only recently qualified to represent the country. Smith, who told Willey of his omission when he contacted players on Monday, said he had been “honest” and “dignified” in receiving the news.
“That was a very difficult decision, I think the situation we were in as a selection panel, and in consultation with the captain, was we had more players we wanted to fit into the squad than we were allowed to, so it was a very tough call,” Smith told Sky Sports.
“David Willey has been a big part of the one-day side, he has had such a good run, it was a really tough call but someone had to miss out. David was very unfortunate in missing out but he could easily have been in this World Cup squad, he deserves to be in the World Cup squad, but that’s sport. Sometimes there are more deserving people than there are places in the squad.
“He’s an outstanding man. He’s very honest, very, very dignified, very clear to the conversation we had, a very impressive man. He’s a very impressive cricketer, it is extremely unfortunate.”
Smith was reluctant to give detail on the selection panel’s discussions but indicated captain Eoin Morgan had an important role in the final decisions. Asked if leaving Willey out was a unanimous call, Smith said: “I wouldn’t get into that, I’d say it was a consensus decision. I would say that everyone in the room was comfortable with the squad that the selection panel has come up with.
“It was very important for me as a selector, that the captain feels comfortable with the squad he takes into the World Cup, obviously. Eoin has been captain for over four years, the England one-day side has done extremely well, this is the culmination of a long campaign, a lot of planning, the culture of that team has been very strong under Eoin Morgan. He’s very comfortable with the squad, as we all are.”
Smith said that ultimately, Willey fell victim to the fact that England’s pace bowling stocks are strong, and deep. And he did not expect Archer’s inclusion to cause any unrest within the squad.
Meanwhile, it was Rashid’s recent worries with a slight injury that sparked the selectors’ decision to plump for a back-up spinner in Dawson rather than a back-up batsman in Denly. Dawson has taken 18 wickets for Hampshire in the Royal London One-Day Cup at 20.33 and scored 274 runs at 45.66, including a 90-ball century against Surrey last month. Denly only bowled a handful of overs as England experimented with him as a third spin option during the warm-up ODI series against Ireland and Pakistan and took one wicket – a stumping off a leg-side wide – while with the bat he managed 25 runs from two innings, plus an unbeaten 20 in a T20 against Pakistan.
“The first thing to say is with that position of the spinner or reserve batter, it’s a very subtle balance issue,” Smith said. “Do you tend towards someone who’s mainly a batter who also is a very handy bowler in Joe Denly, or do you tend towards someone who’s tilted more towards the bowling side of it but also as a handy batter?
“It could have gone either way. In actual fact, Liam Dawson was always in contention he was in the team in Sri Lanka and then a side injury forced him out of that, Joe Denly came in and has stayed in, limited opportunities even though he’s had.
“Adil Rashid has a little niggle, hopefully he’ll be fine, and it won’t affect him having a full part in the competition. But that’s slightly tilts things towards spin bowling cover as a priority rather than one of your batting reserves.”
Dawson played the last of his three ODIs against Sri Lanka last October.