sport news Ed Smith opens up on his time as England national selector... and where it ... trends now
Ed Smith chooses his words carefully when asked if he took the decision by Ashley Giles to axe both him and the role of England national selector personally.
‘My understanding is at that time they wanted to invest all selection in one person, in the head coach,’ says Smith. ‘That was the position. So my reaction was, ‘‘Good luck, I’ll give you some distance and space’’.
‘I didn’t want to do any interviews and I didn’t want to be commenting on selection in those first months after my exit.
Ed Smith (above) enjoyed a largely successful three-year stint at the helm of England selection
‘I cracked on with my life and now by complete coincidence the national selector role has been advertised again on the day my book has come out and here we are talking about it. It is amazing timing really.’
The book Smith talks about — Making Decisions: Putting the human back in the machine — is his verdict now 18 months have passed since his departure after three years at the helm of England selection together with a wider look at decision making.
There is no attempt by Smith, either in his book or while probed by Sportsmail, to seek revenge on Giles or the England set-up for a departure that came after a largely successful period, at least until Covid and the ill-fated rest and rotation policy.
‘There was some sadness when I went because I really enjoyed working with that team,’ he concedes. ‘I think I’m perceived as being quite detached, perhaps more so than I am, but maybe one of the things I wasn’t good at showing was how much I cared about the England team and the individuals in it.
‘Yes, to go from waking up thinking, ‘‘How can we help England win more?’’ to something completely different was a change.
Smith's tenure coincided with the high of England's 2019 World Cup triumph at Lord's
‘But life outside cricket is full. The selector job was never something I sought. It was a very interesting three years but I quickly picked up on writing and my academic institute and I find those challenges fascinating as well.’
Smith, 45, smiles wryly when talking about the return of his old role after Giles’s decision to give all selectorial responsibility to Chris Silverwood proved to be the downfall of both of them.
The former Kent and England batter has been impressed with the way his old team-mate Rob Key has picked up the pieces and, with his appointments of captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum, transformed England’s Test side.
‘Even before the selector job was advertised again it had been done very well by Rob Key this summer,’ he said. ‘He’s a very shrewd judge of a player and as acting head of selection he has combined that and his job as managing director well.
‘I do agree with the ECB’s decision to reinstate selection. There is the question of independence. Cricket teams spend an awful lot of time together and a football manager, say, doesn’t live in the dressing room to the same extent as a cricket coach does.
‘Yes, you definitely need input from captains and coaches. But we’ve got a very good scouting network and a very good data team and then selectors can balance and reconcile all that information. Selection is a team effort but ultimately it’s a judgment.’
Selectors were right to call up Jofra Archer immediately after he qualified to play for England
So how does Smith view his time in charge? It started well with success against India at home and Sri Lanka away in 2018, the national selector displaying his bold approach in being the driving force behind the return of Jos Buttler to Test cricket and advocating players, like Sam