Worcestershire coach Steve Rhodes believes the England selectors have made a retrograde step in rejecting Gareth Batty in favour of Hampshire veteran Shaun Udal.

By his own standards over the past four years at New Road, Batty had a disappointing summer but Rhodes still admits to being shocked that the county's vice-captain has been left out of this winter's England tour plans.

The 27-year-old off-spinner has, instead, been invited to link up with the England Academy squad but Rhodes points out that Batty's exclusion and Udal's shock call-up after a summer's haul of just 36 County Championship wickets goes against the grain.

"I have to admit that I'm surprised at Shaun Udal's inclusion at the age of 36," said Rhodes. "It's not as if he's got a stack of wickets this season.

"The one thing this England set-up has become renowned for is bringing on youngsters, sticking with them and showing consistency.

"Gareth has not had the best of seasons, for a variety of reasons, but he has still got 31 wickets and nearly 450 Championship runs.

"But they are at least taking him to the Academy, where he's got the chance to work on his game."

Worcestershire also have young wicketkeeper Steven Davies in the Academy squad, while skipper Vikram Solanki showed on Sunday, with a superb innings against Essex at Chelmsford, exactly why England have stuck with him in their one-day squad.

But, on top of the wasted month he spent on international duty in June, Rhodes really feels for Kabir Ali, who has been left out altogether.

"It's a shame for Kabir," said Rhodes. "He's not had the best of seasons, but he's kept ploughing away taking wickets, even when he's not been 100 per cent.

"He may have suffered from playing too often when he has been carrying an injury but I know Kabir and he'll bounce back and take a lot of wickets for us next summer."

Rhodes has had to keep Kabir wrapped in cotton wool for the past two days just to be sure he is fit for the county's final Championship game of the season, starting today against Essex.

Already without Nadeem Malik, who suffered a rib injury at Chelmsford, Worcestershire also have a big doubt over Matt Mason, whose shoulder condition has not improved while they are now set also to be without Shoaib Akhtar.

The Pakistani fast bowler is still in bed with the flu and Worcestershire are concentrating more on having him fit for Sunday's National League relegation showdown against Lancashire.

"It could be me out there opening the bowling," joked Rhodes, who did briefly make it onto the outfield on Sunday.

In all seriousness, Worcester's injury crisis allows David Wigley the chance to impress on his final appearance before joining Northamptonshire in the winter. And it does also allows Rhodes to blood promising teenage left-arm paceman Stuart Wedge, who has taken a lot of wickets of late in the Birmingham League for Himley.

Wedge, 19, stands by for a county debut if Mason does not make it.

"Mase has been struggling for a while with his shoulder," said Rhodes. "But one door closing means another opening up for someone else and it gives us the chance to test out young Stuart. He's done well in the Birmingham League and that's an important yardstick for us."