In times past, England selectors could generally be relied on to make at least one howler a summer. Alan Wells, Aftab Habib and Alan Igglesden are all examples of county makeweights plunged without warning into the limelight and shunted mercilessly and remorselessly back out of it soon after.
Since the central contract era, however, we like to think that the more erratic selectorial decisions have rather been purged; thereâ€™s been the odd hunch thatâ€™s gone wrong (step to the front of the class, Anthony McGrath), but by and large the new slim-line committee has unearthed some cracking talent. Vaughan, Trescothick and Sidebottom certainly wouldnâ€™t have got a look in had they been around a decade earlier. None of this, however, will be much comfort to Ed Joyce.
Joyceâ€™s performances during the CB Series in Australia were solid, excellent in places, and he was by no means the most culpable of Englandâ€™s World Cup donkeys. But he fell victim to the general call for cull after the Caribbean debacle and hasnâ€™t been mentioned in the same breath as the England team since. Joyce wasnâ€™t even selected for the England Lions teams to face Pakistan and India, a privilege granted to such stellar young talent as Alex Gidman. He appears to have fallen silently but ruthlessly from view, like the myriad Mike Smiths and Warren Heggs before him.
Fair enough, you might say. Ed Joyce is no PowerPlay demon, still less middle-overs innovator. But a man who scored two fifties on the biggest one-day stage really deserved better than to be lumped in with the likes of Andrew Strauss (who really did have a stinker in the West Indies, by the way). And besides, Joyce has always been more of a five-day cricketer. He was selected as Marcus Trescothickâ€™s replacement on the Ashes tour, but didnâ€™t get a chance. Now, incomprehensibly, he has been leapfrogged by Owais Shah, Ravi Bopara and, very possibly, Rob Key. Perhaps Joyce might soon be lugging his kit bag back to Dublin in search of an international game.
Joyce hasnâ€™t exactly helped his case with some ho-hum county performances this summer. But his anonymity speaks of a more worrying trend â€“ the tendency to judge Test potential on the basis of one-day form. It happened to Chris Read, Kabir Ali and even Jonathan Trott, who may never be seen in England colours again. Joyce deserves a better fate than these, for on his day he can be one of the most effective batsmen in the country. A bumper start for Middlesex next season might swing him back into contention; on the other hand, perhaps heâ€™d be better off perfecting his reverse sweep this winter instead.