“I rang Jimmy and Broady on the [Easter] Sunday, just before I got announced,” Key said. “I said look, for my money, you guys are available for selection for that first Test match. Then when I met Ben the other day, one of the first things he said was ‘I want the best team out there and Jimmy and Brody are a part of that, in my opinion. If they’re the best bowlers, then they play. That’s it’. I said I agree. And then we moved on.”
Broad returned to action for the first time this season in Nottinghamshire’s ongoing LV= Insurance Championship fixture at Trent Bridge, claiming a wicket in his third over as Worcestershire were bowled out for 159 on the opening day. Anderson, meanwhile, took two early wickets for Lancashire against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl, having found his groove during an innings win over Gloucestershire at Old Trafford last week.
“They’ve got their plans in place,” Key added. “We don’t need to tell Jimmy and Broady what they need to do, or how they need to prepare for a Test match. If they don’t know now, no one will. And they’ve got to be right and up for selection for that first Test. And I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t and they got a big part to play.”
And though Key insisted he “could not predict the future”, as regards the longevity of England’s senior pairing, he said he saw no reason to maintain the team’s recent policy of rest-and-rotation, especially now that the Covid restrictions that have dominated the last two years are being rolled back.
“We’ll just see how they go,” Key said. “If they play the first Test match and if they’re bowling really well, and England are doing well, then they might play the next, and then on to the next. If they’re tired, then someone else can come in. I don’t think we have to overthink all this stuff. But what we have to do is be flexible on how we do it.
“They are not multi-format cricketers at the moment. With someone like Jofra Archer, it might be a bit different. When he comes back fit, there will be times where it’ll be very obvious when we want our absolute best out there, and there might be a white-ball series that we can sacrifice a bit. And that, actually, isn’t a bad thing because some other players can come in to prolong the success of the white-ball team. I just don’t think we have to overthink it.”
“There’s some good names coming in from English cricket and world cricket,” he said. “I’m trying to find out about the ones I might not know so much about. A lot of it comes not from sitting across a room asking him what sort of coach are you, but actually asking people that have worked with him.”
In terms of team selection, however, Key is currently less clear about the process going forward. Though he is keen to restore the post of national selector – a role previously held by his former Kent team-mate Ed Smith until he was made redundant last year – he admitted he was unsure who to place at the helm of a network that now encompasses a scouting network and a team of data analysts, as well as the as-yet-unknown red- and white-ball head coaches.
“It’s a very, very important job and we won’t rush to get that person in place,” Key said. “Until then, I’m pretty happy with the process that we’ll have in place, with the people that are already involved in selection. If you need someone to point the gun at, you can point it at me, it doesn’t really bother me. But we’ll come up with the best team that we possibly can to win the Test match, and hopefully not make bad decisions.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket