Originally Posted by sanskritsimon
That's been more or less explicit England policy ever since that Windies tour, and probably at various times before. It's a shame in a way, because it would be nice to have at least one person in the team for whom fielding is a specialist skill relevant in selection. In any case, the chap at one end of the catching line gets to wear gloves. And it would be bad luck for any fielding team to have to have a newish glovesman as well as a largely newish line. (And of course because many in our line didn't used to be there, we are missing some of them elsewhere too.) One factor is that there are few old heads in our team. Even if a player (batter or bowler) begins his career as a brilliant quick outfielder many will retire to the slips at some point and then get their eyes in there over some period. But we have lost alot of folk young of late. Our wise old braves are mostly out grazing somewhere. Also there is catching practice. I know there are other things to practise too and only so many hours even in a well-paid day, but a slip cradle is one of the finest inventions known to man and homage should be paid. Anyway, because catches (like persons innit) come only and ever in ones, it is all really about "luck" or "fate", and these things above are only some of the ways one might imagine twisting fate's arm* if such a luxury were to be afforded.
*there may be some kind of colonial jinx we need freeing from
A fairly whimsical and whimsically fair summary. The problem is that it's almost impossible to see how on an individual selection basis fielding can be anything more than a tie breaker for an otherwise exceptionally close decision. This can leave a situation where a side is well short of fielding skill, however and this seems to be what has happened to England recently.
Your point about fielders retiring to the slips as they age a bit is an interesting one. As you point out, the old men of the England side don't appear to be in the England side. Vaughan is the only cover fielder who might have retired to slip and frankly his catching couldn't possibly justify a position there. Having not a single specialist slip is a pretty poor state of affairs. I think you've mentioned the irony that Shah wasn't picked, perhaps partly on Bopara's superior fielding, when a slip fielder would have been more use than even the most dynamic cover / backward point in the world. Bopara did drop one today too, albeit a tough one.