101 Ways How Not to Treat a Professional Athlete Feat David Willey

Fired. Dropped. Left Out. Mismanaged. Ignored. Neglected.

These are some of the worst feelings to have. I’m sure all of us have suffered something similar at one time or another in our lives. As Irish poet Oscar Wilde once reflected,

“There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

Today we discuss the curious case of David Willey, who announced that he will retire from international cricket at the age of 33. Unlike Quinton de Kock, Naveen-ul-Haq, Alastair Cook, or AB de Villiers, Willey’s case is not dictated by the influx of franchise leagues or overkill of cricket.

His career is a study of how NOT to treat a cricketer or any professional athlete for that matter.

Ignorance, But Not Bliss

The retirement call might have been hastened by ECB’s careless choice of announcing new central contracts amidst a tumbling World Cup campaign.

These contracts are said to be worth between £130,000-£800,000. These are multi-year contracts with additional scope of £70,000 for any County commitments. Why did the ECB need to take such drastic actions?

Well, cricket is changing and 2023 has been a watershed moment with SAT20, ILT20, and MLC offering more income and additional options to IPL, BBL, CPL, and PSL. With IPL franchises owning teams around the world, there were murmurs about franchises offering year-long contracts to players, thereby threatening the last remaining bits of international cricket.

The English administration had to act fast. And act they did.

27 England players were offered a central contract. Every member in the World Cup squad except for one was offered a central contact.

And that one was David Willey.


England’s 2023 World Cup Debacle

The decision would have made sense had Willey been out of favor for a few months or had a dip in form or was out of his prime, but let’s look at the facts.

  • In England’s derailing World Cup, who has the best batting average? You guessed it right, David Willey — 42.00 (yes he bats in the bottom and may have not-outs to boost him up but so what…let’s not go in the details here)
  • Willey is also England’s third-highest wicket-taker despite only playing 3 matches so far — 5 (the only more unfortunate player than Willey is at the top of England’s bowling charts — Reece Topley, who has gone back home with yet another freak injury).
  • 2nd best bowling average — yep Willey again (behind Topley)
  • 3rd most sixes…behind Malan and Mark Wood (which tells you everything you need to know about England’s listless World Cup)

But I know what you must be thinking — these are stats after the contracts were announced, but what about the statistics leading up to the World Cup?

  • Between the 2019–2023 World Cups, David Willey was England’s second-highest wicket-taker and the highest wicket-taker for a pacer (37 wickets in 21 ODIs compared to 41 in 27 for Adil Rashid).
  • 37 wickets, 22.35 Average, 5.2 Economy, best of 5/30, 4/5 fers: 1/2

Those are stellar figures. In the absence of Jofra Archer & Mark Wood, Willey often led the attack alongside Topley & Saqib Mahmood.

The Horror of 2019

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Imagine taking 52 wickets in 45 wickets and being a consistent member of the side for FOUR years before being dropped on the eve of the World Cup (after being initially selected)…for someone who had taken 3 wickets.

Well, that happened to Willey. Now of course, it’s another story that the person he was dropped for was none other than Jofra Archer, waiting for his residency period to complete after immigrating from Barbados. Archer would end up playing an instrumental part in the World Cup victory a month later and bowled THAT Super Over.

Anyway, back to Willey.

What’s more depressing is that deep down, Willey predicted that he would be the one to be cut. He said a few days earlier to Archer’s inclusion,

“It’s an interesting dilemma for the captain, coach, and selectors. It’s a group of players that have been together for three or four years now that have got us to No.1….Whether someone should just walk in at the drop of a hat because they are available, whether that’s the right thing. I don’t know.

I am sure Willey would have been crushed.

What did Ed Smith, England’s selector back then, have to say?

“He deserves to be in the World Cup squad. But that’s sport.”

Broken Cricket Dreams.

The Hope of 2022

When there is disappointment, there is always a glimmer of hope.

Willey did enjoy some good memories over the years.

In domestic cricket, he gained a reputation for batting in the top order and hitting some gigantic sixes. He was England’s leading wicket-taker in the 2016 T20 Final and had a stunning all-round performance of 21*(14) of 4–0–20–3 in the Final (could have been a player of the Final…but unfortunately, Marlon Samuels & Carlos Brathwaite had other plans).

Then the 2019 World Cup happened.

He made another comeback and was selected in the 2021 & 2022 T20 World Cup squads but would not end up playing a single game (at least he finally lifted the T20 World Cup Trophy with the team).

Forever on the Sidelines

First, there was Archer. Then another player picked out of thin air, Tymal Mills.

With Topley & Sam Curran around, there was always competition in the left-arm pace department. In the all-rounder category, England was blessed with Stokes, Woakes, and Moeen Ali.

Willey had to prove to the selectors every time he took the field in an England jersey because his spot was never confirmed. He was always in the scheme of things but only on the edge. As a substitute, an injury replacement.

But once another shining player was found or conditions did not favor swing, Willey was the first to be dropped.

In this case, he was the only one not among 27.

England lost out on Willey, not the other way around.

David Willey — Forever on the sidelines.

Originally published at https://brokencricketdreams.com on November 2, 2023.



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