Ed Smith’s first selection of the England Test team brought to mind a conversation in the summer of 1962. I was on a cricket tour and speculating with Bill Dennis  about the MCC team that would be picked for the Ashes tour that winter. Bill, who had played as a pro in the Yorkshire leagues and for a Minor County – either Durham or Cumberland, I think – was, by then in his late forties or early fifties, the school pro at Glenalmond. He was a cousin of Len Hutton and a very nice man as well as an excellent coach and judge of a cricketer. In short, he was a good example of the sort of professional cricketer whom John Arlott regarded as “the salt of the earth”.

One of the talking points that summer was the possible return to the England team, perhaps as captain,  of the Rev. David Sheppard, the future Bishop of Liverpool. Sheppard had first played for England in 1950, had captained Sussex successfully for two or three seasons before retiring from the game to be prepared for ordination. He had been brought back, after playing a handful of county games, against Australia in 1956 and had scored a century at Old Trafford. But in 1962 he had played no first-class cricket, or almost none, for four or five years when he let it be known that he would be happy to accept an invitation to tour Australia.

Bill was highly indignant. It wasn’t right that someone like Sheppard could swan in and be picked for England ahead of, or rather instead of, a professional batsman who had earned his selection. Indeed the idea of recalling the Rev was an insult to professional cricketers. At the time, being, I’m sorry to say, a young snob –   Glenalmond and Cambridge – I liked the idea of the gilded amateur who, as it were, dropped into the Test team when it pleased him, and I thought Bill’s attitude an example of dog in the manger, closed shop Trade Unionism.

Of course the MCC, or its sub-committee which was still responsible for picking the England team for Tests overseas, handed an invitation to the Rev, though the captaincy went to Ted Dexter.

Sheppard had a fairly good series, scoring a hundred in the one Test England won – it was a drawn series – but dropping several catches, one provoking Fred Trueman to advise him to imagine he was praying and hold his something hands together. This didn’t surprise me.

As captain of Sussex, Sheppard had made himself into a very good close fielder, but I remembered his housemaster at Sherborne telling me that, as a schoolboy he had been one of those players you had to try to hide in the field.

Well, that was a long time ago, and the amateur/professional division was, happily, on the point of being got rid of. So why did Ed Smith’s selection make me think of Sheppard and that conversation with Bill Dennis? Well, it’s obvious really. Smith has recalled Jos Buttler who hasn’t played Test cricket for three years, and who has played precious little county championship cricket either. He has however been making a lot of money as a star in the IPL, where he has been a great success, this year making five 50s in succession.

Smith says Buttler is “one of the outstanding talents in world cricket”. So indeed he is  in the 50-over and T20 versions of the game. But in his 18 tests he averages only 31 – against Australia in 2013 he scored 122 runs in 8 innings; and when he condescended to play four championship matches for Lancashire last summer he averaged only 17. The disparity between his first-class record and his record in limited-overs cricket indicates the different directions in which the two forms of the game have gone.

Buttler has a touch of genius certainly, and if he had applied himself to the first-class game, he might have developed into a batsman capable of playing more than one sort of innings. But he hasn’t. As it is, 18 Tests with a  batting average of 31 and a top score of 85, represent a record which would be unlikely to get another player recalled to the England team after three years’ absence.

He may of course be a success. It would be shabby to hope he fails. And yet I am tempted to be shabby, for I think about Buttler rather as my old friend Bill Dennis thought about the Rev. David Sheppard in 1962.

Buttler isn’t, of course, an amateur choosing to return to cricket and make himself available for selection to the England side. On the contrary he is a richly rewarded mercenary in the IPL, who – understandably of course – prefers the glitter of that competition and the big money to be made there, to the hard slog of the county championship.

But what does his selection say to the players who do turn out for their counties in a wet and windy Spring?  The message is quite clear: we’re not interested in you if Jos Buttler is willing to play Test cricket again.

It’s the same message that made Bill Dennis indignant  fifty-six years ago. Buttler is in and the Hampshire captain James Vince is out. Vince’s Test career hasn’t quite taken off, but in the winter against a very good Australian attack he did just enough to make you think it worth persevering with him – would Buttler have done better than Vince against Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, and Nathan Lyon?

And what are young county batsmen like Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone, Surrey’s Ollie Pope,  Worcester’s Joe Clarke, or indeed Somerset’s James Hildreth, no longer young but a batsman who reels off century after century without ever getting even one England cap, to think when they see someone who can’t be bothered to play county cricket preferred to them?

In short, I can’t but see this as a contemptible selection. This is partly because of my dislike of the IPL which I regard as a perversion of the game I have loved, but it is also because it reinforces  the suspicion that the men who currently run English cricket have no regard for its traditions and view the county championship with disdain. They will doubtless be delighted by Smith’s recall of Buttler who is after all surely destined to be a star turn in the ECB’s latest vulgarisation of cricket, its 100 balls an innings caper.

As for Ed Smith himself, I guess he will be happy because his first selection has commanded headlines. His former colleague on Test Match Special calls the decision to bring back Buttler “a hugely positive move”. I call it deplorable. A player should earn his place in the England team by his performance in first-class cricket, not by bashing a white ball around while loud music plays and scantily–clad girls cavort on a stage.