James Anderson and Stuart Broad, England’s two leading test wicket-takers of all time, were the headline names in a ruthless post-Ashes cull for next month’s tour of the West Indies.
The fast-bowling greats received no assurances that they still had test careers, either.
England, on the heels of an off-field clear-out that accounted for the head coach, assistant coach and director of cricket, also dropped eight players following the 4-0 loss in the series in Australia.
As well as Anderson, Broad and vice-captain Jos Buttler, the following players were also omitted: Dawid Malan, Sam Billings, Dom Bess, Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed.
“With the start of a new cycle, it has allowed the selection panel to refresh the test squad with a particular focus on competing away from home,” former test captain Andrew Strauss, who is acting as the interim director of cricket following the firing of Ashley Giles, said on Tuesday.
There were some telling words for the 39-year-old Anderson and the 35-year-old Broad, too.
“I want to emphasize this does not mean the end for them as England players,” Strauss said. “We feel that it is important to look at some exciting new bowling potential and give some added responsibility to other players who have featured previously.
“No one doubts the quality and experience that James and Stuart bring to the England set-up. It will be up to the new managing director and permanent head coach to decide on whether they will be involved this summer and beyond.”
The use of the phrases “draw a line” and “the start of a process and a journey” in the squad announcement hinted there might be no going back on some of the big decisions, though, with Buttler having also had a tough time Down Under.
Anderson has taken 640 wickets in 169 tests and Broad is second on England’s all-time list of wicket-takers, with 537 in 152 matches.
Paul Collingwood will lead the team in the West Indies in place of the departed Chris Silverwood, whose assistant, Graham Thorpe, has also left his post.
As part of what is being labeled a “red-ball reset,” seamer Matt Fisher is a direct beneficiary of the rebooted bowling attack while opener Alex Lees was also called up for the first time in the 16-man squad.
Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes returns to the squad for the first time in nearly a year, when he played the fourth test against India in Ahmedabad in March.
England’s squad leaves on Feb. 24 for the three-test series.
Joe Root (captain), Jonathan Bairstow, Zak Crawley, Matthew Fisher, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Alex Lees, Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.