England have done it again, with their choice of wicket-keeper Tim Ambrose for the tour of New Zealand with uncapped Phil Mustard in support.

Chairman of selectors David Graveney justified the jettisoning of Matthew Prior, despite him scoring over 800 runs at an average of 42 last year, by admitting that his glove work was not up to scratch.

Graveney is right. The nine chances shelled by Prior cost England 1,000 runs, plus the incalculable effect the spills had on the bowlers and the rest of the side.

But for blindly following the same path with Warwickshire's Ambrose and Mustard, Graveney deserves to follow Prior into the international wilderness when he sits his interview this week for the new full time job of national selector.

What a confused legacy Duncan Fletcher has left after he threw out Chris Read from the focal all-round position of wicket-keeper in the West Indies four years ago in favour of Geraint Jones in a vain attempt to follow Australia's choice of Adam Gilchrist as one of the side's leading all-rounders.

Every international side has been seduced by Gilchrist's astonishing career. Perhaps not surprising, bearing in mind that it has been studded with 17 Test hundreds and an all-time record of dismissals. But it has left other countries persisting with glove men whose batting efforts never compensate for sloppy glove work. Prior's brief career is the perfect example. He is almost worth his place as a specialist batsman, but how can you equate the value of his runs when he shells out a top batsman such as Mahela Jayawardene on 45 after which he scores a double hundred? His runs are wiped out in one innings.

Yet still England follow the same downhill selection policy that Fletcher unsuccessfully pioneered with Jones ahead of Read, who was cruelly dropped after a flawless three Tests in the Caribbean, to set England on a stupid policy of 'hoped for' runs compensating for missed chances.

Only six wicket-keepers have managed 4,000 Test runs, the latest being South Africa's Mark Boucher. He has managed four hundreds compared with Gilchrist's 17 and has also missed many chances, including Michael Atherton in the Trent Bridge match famous for Allan Donald's round-the-wicket attack on the England captain.

Starting with the dropping of Read for Jones, England have stubbornly followed the same policy of choosing a keeper more for his batting than his glove work, and have paid a heavy price even when Andrew Flintoff was able to bowl at full bore in a five man attack. Now that Michael Vaughan is lumbered with a four man set-up it is even more important that the keeper misses nothing.

Why couldn't Fletcher and Graveney in the past, and Graveney and Peter Moores now acknowledge that a struggling side must pick the best keeper as the focal point of a team in the field? Prior is the perfect example of a man who gave them with all the runs they wanted at number seven, but still finished the tour of Sri Lanka massively in the red.

Look around the world and see the folly of picking a keeper for his runs. England, Pakistan, West Indies, India, New Zealand and South Africa all follow that policy and that is why they are light years behind Australia for whom Gilchrist delivers in spades with bat and gloves.

Every other Test match played is decided by missed chances behind the wicket that out-weigh the odd useful back-up innings played by the keeper, but still England follow the same flawed strategy. Graveney even went so far as to say that if the tour of New Zealand in February started with a Test match instead of the one-dayers, Ambrose would be the keeper ahead of Phil Mustard, but if the Durham man had a good ODI series, they might decide differently.

What sort of face-both-ways statement is that? Certainly not one to improve Graveney's chance of landing the prized new full-time job of travelling selector. Other than the incomparable Alan Knott and Alec Stewart, England have flirted unsuccessfully with trying to mix and match runs and glove expertise in the last 35 years, and here they go again, prepared to give Ambrose a go.

If Read has burned his boats or had them set alight by others who should know better there is only one contender, James Foster of Essex who has been ignored yet again. Trawl the county grapevine, and his name is top of the shop. The only thing he did wrong was to break his arm in early season practise in April 2002 and re-admit Stewart to an extension of a wonderful career.

He averages 25 for Essex and scored a double hundred last year, but that is not the point. The county pros will tell you that there is not a better wicket-keeper in the country, but Graveney & Co have decided otherwise, and that is why England will struggle hone and away against New Zealand in the next six months.

You just cannot make do with the most important position in the side, yet that is what Ambrose is being asked to do by men who should know better. The management believe that 200 runs in a three-Test series from Prior/Ambrose compared with 100 from Foster or Read is worth the cost of the inevitable extra mistakes by the former pair.

That misconception is nothing other than Fool's Gold two words with which the ECB top brass appear to be obsessed.