In the most surprising of today’s announcements surrounding the players selected for the Stanford Super series and the One Day Internationals against India, former England captain Michael Vaughan has been handed a central contract despite only averaging 9.66 for Yorkshire since returning to the county after resigning as England’s skipper. The England selectors and Kevin Pietersen obviously still have a lot of faith in the 33-year-old’s ability to perform at the highest level, writes Thomas Rooney, Freelance Sports Writer, exclusively for The Village Cricketer.

I say it was the most surprising announcement of the day because all other centrally contracted players were more or less as expected. Matthew Hoggard – who hasn’t played for England since the tour of New Zealand – misses out on a contract and is replaced in the list by the ever improving Stuart Broad who looks set to be at the centre of England’s future. Ryan Sidebottom will be a relieved man after he retained a central contract despite an injury hit summer and the return of fast bowlers Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff to the side. Other than that, it’s pretty much as you were.

So, back to the main topic of discussion – Mr Vaughan. It must be a weight off his shoulders knowing that he is still in favour with the national team and perhaps this will relax him during his final few games for Yorkshire this season. Having just resigned from the captaincy, the pressure was on for him to show he could still perform with the bat and he didn’t exactly prove his doubters wrong. Scores of 10, 0 and 19 meant that he still only averages 24.50 in the County Championship this season. Hardly a record of someone that is ready to turn it on for his country is it? I’d certainly like to see the cricket odds on how he would fair should he return to the international fold for the first test match against India in November.

Overall, I don’t think Vaughan should have been given a contract. Something a central contract does is restrict the amount of times England players turn out for their county. This isn’t what Vaughan needs. He needs time at the crease and he needs to rediscover his best form. The amount of times I have heard him say ‘I’m feeling good in the nets’ is ridiculous and needs to stop. It is out in the middle he needs to perform. England couldn’t consider him on current form. He has to score runs in the county game first.

Perhaps Vaughan should have been handed an Increment contract along with Tim Ambrose, Ravi Bopara, Samit Patel, Matt Prior, Owais Shah, Graeme Swann and Luke Wright. These players are awarded points for when they play in one-day internationals or test matches and if a certain amount is reached, they qualify for a full central contract. This would have given him something to work for and would have meant that he didn’t feel like he could relax as he is going to be paid by England for another twelve months – regardless of his form.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a Michael Vaughan fan. I admired him as a captain and I am aware of his talents with the bat. I just don’t like it when players are picked on past glories.

The other main issue that came to light today as far as I am concerned is that neither Tim Ambrose nor Matt Prior were awarded central contracts. This highlights that the selectors are still undecided about which of them will be the permanent test match keeper going into the India tour. I’d have put a lot of my cricket betting money on the fact that Matt Prior had done enough in the one-day games against South Africa to be awarded a contract, but perhaps it is best he still has to fight hard for his place.

So, despite having a horrific time with the bat, Michael Vaughan is to remain as a centrally contracted England player. Is this right? Should he have been made to earn his money from England by showing signs of form? Who would you have given a contract to instead? Let me know your thoughts.

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