Ashes 2013-14: Nick Compton, Graham Onions’ strong County performances merited call-up

Nick Compton (left) and Graham Onions were surprise exclusions from the 17-man England squad for the 2013-14 Ashes series in Australia © Getty Images

The England selectors threw in a few surprises when they announced the squad for the upcoming Ashes series in Australia. Aayush Puthran explains why Graham Onions and Nick Compton would be disappointed with their exclusions and why getting back into the national team won’t be all that easy for the duo.

Mediocrity is a luxury that the current England team can’t seem to afford. While looking back at the exclusion of Nick Compton and Graham Onions, contemplation, as Dodie Smith would say, is the only luxury that costs nothing.
Taking a quick analysis of the 17-member squad announced by England for the upcoming Ashes Down Under, one would have to give it to the two players, who sit pretty on their efforts over the last one year, putting in a value that deserves an inclusion in the squad.
If one purely has to go number crunching, Onions bagged 66 wickets at 17.68 to help Durham win the County Championship. Compton, on the other hand, scored 889 runs at an average of 46.78 for Somerset.
With Onions, the case has been rather tragic. It is not really a problem of being mediocre; it is about not being exceptional in a land that is seeing a sudden re-burst of brilliance in the art of fast bowling. While injury diced him when opportunity stood knocking at his door, bad luck struck when everything seemed in place and steady.
One really wonders, what made the England selectors opt for Chris Tremlett or Steven Finn ahead of Onions, or more curiously the inclusion of Irishman Boyd Rankin ahead of the Durham pacer. Even as their coach Ashley Giles spoke about England’s fancy for having tall fast bowlers for the Australia tour, Onion’s 6 ft 2 inch frame can’t prove to be such a big disadvantage. Undoubtedly now, Onion’s frustration seems justified as he quickly got down to make it public on Twitter.

Compton, on the contrary, didn’t come out as expressive this time around after being surprised over his exclusion during the last Ashes series. There were no “crack of whip” statements flying around this time. Probably he has understood the conundrum of the English selectors. Despite the fact that the batting, except for Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen, isn’t in as good a touch, it will be hard for Compton to realise that it is not easy to displace most of the players in the line-up. The fact that selectors have persisted with Joe Root and that Gary Ballance and Michael Carberry have leapfrogged him, will probably be hard to accept.

Even as it is easy to take jibes at the decision of the selectors to ignore the two and question the inclusion of a few, it must come with a disclaimer that there was a better balanced squad that could have been picked.

It is too ambitious to be in England right now with the qualities of the Comptons and the Onions and dream of a chance to play the Ashes. Like many ill-fated players across sports throughout the world, the brilliance of talent cannot overshadow the bad timing of birth. All that they can do, and realise, is to keep working hard and hope for their turn of sunny days.

(Aayush Puthran is a reporter with CricketCountry. Mercurially jovial, pseudo pompous, perpetually curious and occasionally confused, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of filter kaapi!)