Selecting teams is perhaps the hardest part of being a coach or captain.
Over the last decade I've selected many teams from junior club level up to international level with Iceland and disability level with Deaf teams, and it's never easy deciding who to omit.
Leaving players out of semi-finals and finals is one of the worst things I've had to do. But you can only take 11 onto the pitch so someone inevitably has to be left out and players certainly differ in the way they take bad news. I have to admit it's been tempting in the past to leave out players who will make less of a fuss on being dropped, especially when it's a close call between them and others.
At clubs it's amazing how often senior XIs become "closed shops" with players refusing to play for lower teams, or even higher teams, and youngsters being selected to bat in the bottom 3, not bowl and run around in the field all day. We're starting to see young cricketers generally treated better in adult cricket but then there's the additional challenge of whether to play the talented 15 year old in adult cricket or the 50 year old who is available every week and has been playing for the club for 30 years! There is no single right answer to that one.
The England cricket team has had its fair share of selection challenges recently with a freak scenario of many keepers (Bairstow, Buttler, Foakes, Pope and even Burns!) and many all rounders (Bairstow, Buttler, Stokes, Moeen, Woakes, Curran) all trying to be shoehorned into a first choice team to get all the "best" players on the pitch at the same time.
This highlights the important of team balance too. Where do you start when selecting your team. I generally work from the bowlers, assuming your keeper picks themselves. You know you'll need 5 bowlers for limited overs matches, so they will usually be my first 5 after the keeper. I'll slot those 6 into their ideal batting positions and see what we need. Opening batsmen tend to come next and then I flesh the team out from there. Sometimes I'll be thinking about whether we have a 6th or even 7th bowler just in case the main 5 don't fire.
Ahead of the 1st Test match in South Africa on Boxing Day, England have another challenge looming.
With the return of Jimmy Anderson and breakthrough of Jofra Archer, they now have 3 fantastic fast bowlers with Stuart Broad too, but none of them can realistically bat above number 9. If they also want to play Jack Leach as their spinner, there's a problem. Who gets left out? Of course Broad has been left out on recent overseas tours so that may well happen again but you don't really want to be leaving out players of his experience if you can avoid it.
My view on this is that Joe Root is a good enough spinner that he could easily bowl you 15-20 overs in an innings and be effective. We haven't really tried that as an option. I am guessing as captain and number four batsman he doesn't want to be saddled with another responsibility but, in countries where spin isn't generally going to win you games, playing a front line spinner ahead of one of three exceptional fast bowlers seems an unnecessary risk.
That then probably means no place for Curran or Woakes as you have Stokes as your fourth seamer. That has to be some team when you are leaving out talent like that.