For the past few years we have swapped and changed the batting line up with players picked because they are averaging x, y or z. But it has not worked.
Fifteen years ago Duncan Fletcher unearthed players based not on numbers but by spotting they had the game for Test cricket even if their County scores did not stack up.
He picked Marcus Trescothick and myself even though we averaged low 30s in county cricket. Simon Jones was not even a regular in the Glamorgan team but Duncan knew he had something. Later on Paul Collingwood was given a chance by Duncan. All of us had good international careers.
The first few weeks of the championship season will be important. Yes every player needs a number to be picked but don’t just choose the guy who scores the most runs. Pick the one who does it with the style and method needed at this level.
It takes a clever cricket brain to pick those players. It cannot be done off a laptop or statistics programme. I plead with the England selectors to use Graham Thorpe. He has massive expertise from playing 100 Tests. He spends his winters around the Lions team. He can spot a player. He knows what it takes to step up and has got a great eye for a batsman.
A player such as James Vince is an example. He has not been massively consistent at county level. But he looks to me the kind of classy player with the right mental attitude to succeed. We saw a bit of that in the Twenty20 series against Pakistan. He does not take himself too seriously and the more you know your own game, and have a bit of fun with it, the more of a chance you have at recovering after bad days. If failure gets you down then you have no chance. To be a Test player you have to have a thick skin and be able to take criticism, and bat well on good pitches against consistent fast bowling under the pressure of scrutiny.
Alex Hales is fortunate he opens in the one-day team giving him a chance to show to everyone he can play before the start of next summer. Four matches is never enough to prove yourself at Test level and he should start the series against Sri Lanka.
But I have just not seen enough from Nick Compton to convince me he is a Test cricketer. He is so intense. His batting is rigid with no trigger movement to help him get in a better position to play quick bowling that little bit earlier.
His mind also looked scrambled in this match. The quick run to get off the mark that nearly ran out Alastair Cook, and then review of the snick behind, was a sign of panic.
At the start of the series he helped win the Test in Durban but his batting has declined since then. He is intense and it looks like he cannot cope with four games in five weeks. His mind will always be drained by the end of a series.
I am also not sure his style of play suits this England team. They like to attack. Sometimes they do it too much but it is the mindset they have adopted. I like it. Compton is the odd one out. There are better players out there. I just do not think he is in the top five batsmen in England.
We should not be too downcast on this team. Overall winning 2-1 in South Africa is a fantastic achievement but they must not dismiss losing a dead rubber. Good teams don’t do that.
We have learned in South Africa that this is a very good England team but at Centurion we realised talent alone is not enough. They have to play with fight and spirit too.
There are always excuses at this level. The toss, the pitch, the media, or bad luck but England cannot have any excuses after this performance.
It was disappointing. The team is on the right path and I have praised them highly but I don’t want to see this lack of fight again.
Losing seven for 49 was not good enough from this set of players. They need to be told that. You can’t just take all the plaudits and then produce a performance like that and not be criticised.
I set the bar high for these guys because I think they are talented. I think that because in Ben Stokes they have the best allrounder in the world. He has everything. He will play stupid shots like he did in the fourth Test but he has the ability to take the game away from the opposition in an hour or so at the crease. With the ball he can bowl devastating spells. England have a ‘go-to’ player who can change the course of a Test with bat and ball.
England have experience in Stuart Broad and James Anderson. Alastair Cook had a blip with the bat in this series but his movement at the crease is fine. He will score runs in the summer. Joe Root makes batting look so easy against all bowlers in all conditions. The spine of the team is there. They just need to sprinkle a bit of gold dust around that spine and pick players who have the mentality for Test cricket.