London:The return of Matt Prior is the major surprise in England's 15-man World Cup squad after he was preferred to Steve Davies for the wicketkeeper's role. Davies was the original glove man in the one-day squad against Australia, but won't be travelling to the subcontinent as England make another change behind the stumps.
The rest of the squad was as expected with Ajmal Shahzad securing the final fast bowler's slot and James Tredwell, the Kent offspinner, named as back up for Graeme Swann and Michael Yardy. Paul Collingwood was included despite his recent omission against Australia, Luke Wright retained his spot as the spare allrounder and Stuart Broad is on track to recover from the stomach injury that kept him out since the second Ashes Test in Adelaide.
The last-minute switch to Prior was unexpected and meant England changed their one-day wicketkeeper for the third time in less than a year. Prior last played against Bangladesh, in Chittagong, in March before being replaced by Craig Kieswetter, who held the position until the series against Pakistan in September, when Davies earned a chance.
Davies scored 197 runs in five matches against Pakistan and when he was retained for the current series against Australia he appeared set for the World Cup. He made 42 in the opening ODI in Melbourne but it was a scratchy innings which included four let-offs. The selectors were not convinced he was the right man for subcontinent so Prior, who has been playing in the Big Bash for Victoria since the end of the Ashes, got another chance at the top of the order. He will link up with the squad in Hobart ahead of the second ODI, where he will open with Andrew Strauss.
"Matt Prior returns to the England ODI squad after a brief absence and given his recent form and his batting style, which is very well suited to the subcontinent conditions, we believe his inclusion is warranted," Geoff Miller, the national selector, said. "Despite some strong performances both with the bat and behind the stumps by Steven Davies, we feel that Matt's game will be better suited to the conditions in Bangladesh and India, the venues staging England's group matches."
Prior has played 55 one-day internationals and averages 25.38 with a strike-rate of 74.80, while his record in India, where England will play five of their six group matches, is unflattering with 158 runs in 11 matches at an average of 17.55. However, he did finish the Ashes series in strong form with 85 in Melbourne and 118 in Sydney, and has since hit 51 off 29 balls for Victoria on his Big Bash debut against Tasmania.
Prior is guaranteed his place in the starting XI but the same can't be said of Collingwood after he was dropped for the opening match against Australia so he could "clear his mind". He is expected to be given some match time towards the end of the one-day series and has been backed to be a key part of the World Cup.
"Paul Collingwood may not have scored as many runs as he would have liked so far on the tour of Australia but he has been a consistently strong performer for England in limited-overs cricket for a long period of time," Miller said. "His experience, ODI knowledge and skills across all three facets of the game make him a valuable member of the squad and he'll be looking to make a big impact at another global event."
Miller was also confident the squad had the depth to cope with all the challenges that will be put forward during the tournament. "With spin bowlers set to play a prominent role in this World Cup we feel we have quality and depth in Graeme Swann, Michael Yardy and James Tredwell who have all shown their capabilities at international level," he said.
"We believe we have selected an extremely exciting World Cup squad that offers balance with several options across the entire squad. With this tournament being staged on the subcontinent the conditions will require a specific style of cricket and we feel that we've selected a squad that can prosper in these conditions."
Squad: Andrew Strauss (captain), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Eoin Morgan, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Ajmal Shahzad, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, Jonathan Trott, Luke Wright, Michael Yardy.