James Anderson, Stuart Broad ‘available for selection’, says new England director Rob Key

James Anderson and Stuart Broad will be considered “available for selection” for the first Test of the summer, against New Zealand at Lord’s on June 2, according to Rob Key, the new director of the England men’s team, following their controversial omissions from the recent tour of the Caribbean.

Despite their combined haul of 1177 Test wickets, the futures of both Anderson, 39, and Broad, 35, had been up in the air ever since England’s 4-0 Ashes loss, especially in light of Joe Root‘s comments about the “positive” team environment that a new-look squad had fostered during their subsequent 1-0 series loss in the Caribbean.

However, Key – speaking for the first time in his new role at a press conference at Lord’s – said that he had taken soundings from Root’s newly appointed successor, Ben Stokes, with both men agreeing that if Anderson and Broad are fit and in form come the start of the international season, then they will be back in the frame.

“Before I was announced in this job, I rang Jimmy and Broady and said ‘For my money, you boys are available for selection for the first Test of the summer’,” Key told the BBC. “That’s fine, but I’m the managing director. What they want is the captain to go with that. One of the first things Ben Stokes said was ‘Jimmy and Broady are coming back’ and I agree. It might’ve been a different story had we not agreed. But it wasn’t up for debate.”

Broad returned to action for the first time this season in Nottinghamshire’s ongoing LV= Insurance Championship fixture at Trent Bridge, claiming a wicket in his third over as Worcestershire were bowled out for 159 on the opening day. Anderson, meanwhile, took two early wickets for Lancashire against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl, having found his groove during an innings win over Gloucestershire at Old Trafford last week.

“They’ve got their plans in place,” Key added. “We don’t need to tell Jimmy and Broady what they need to do, or how they need to prepare for a Test match. If they don’t know now, no one will. And they’ve got to be right and up for selection for that first Test. And I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t and they got a big part to play.”

Speaking in the wake of his five-wicket haul at Sydney during the Ashes, Broad had voiced his frustration with the previous England regime’s tendency to plan for future engagements rather than focusing on the here-and-now – an issue about which he had been similarly outspoken in a Sky Sports interview after being dropped for the first Test of the 2020 home summer.

And though Key insisted he “could not predict the future”, as regards the longevity of England’s senior pairing, he said he saw no reason to maintain the team’s recent policy of rest-and-rotation, especially now that the Covid restrictions that have dominated the last two years are being rolled back.

“We’ll just see how they go,” Key said. “If they play the first Test match and if they’re bowling really well, and England are doing well, then they might play the next, and then on to the next. If they’re tired, then someone else can come in. I don’t think we have to overthink all this stuff. But what we have to do is be flexible on how we do it.

“They are not multi-format cricketers at the moment. With someone like Jofra Archer, it might be a bit different. When he comes back fit, there will be times where it’ll be very obvious when we want our absolute best out there, and there might be a white-ball series that we can sacrifice a bit. And that, actually, isn’t a bad thing because some other players can come in to prolong the success of the white-ball team. I just don’t think we have to overthink it.”

Although the timeframes are tight, with just over a month to go until the first Test against New Zealand, Key added that he was “optimistic” that a new head coach can be appointed before the series gets underway. Simon Katich is believed to be among the frontrunners, with Graham Ford and Gary Kirsten also in consideration, but with Stokes – “the best person to lead England forward” – now installed as captain, Key is confident that the team’s new framework will take shape quickly.

“There’s some good names coming in from English cricket and world cricket,” he said. “I’m trying to find out about the ones I might not know so much about. A lot of it comes not from sitting across a room asking him what sort of coach are you, but actually asking people that have worked with him.”

In terms of team selection, however, Key is currently less clear about the process going forward. Though he is keen to restore the post of national selector – a role previously held by his former Kent team-mate Ed Smith until he was made redundant last year – he admitted he was unsure who to place at the helm of a network that now encompasses a scouting network and a team of data analysts, as well as the as-yet-unknown red- and white-ball head coaches.

“It’s a very, very important job and we won’t rush to get that person in place,” Key said. “Until then, I’m pretty happy with the process that we’ll have in place, with the people that are already involved in selection. If you need someone to point the gun at, you can point it at me, it doesn’t really bother me. But we’ll come up with the best team that we possibly can to win the Test match, and hopefully not make bad decisions.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

(With Inputs from ESPN)

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