The England selectors convene this coming week – two of them via telephone – to forge a squad for the Test series against West Indies in the Caribbean that starts next month.
Alastair Cook, the Test captain, will hope they can furnish him with the strongest possible touring party as some form of compensation for ignominiously hooking him from the stage before the World Cup.
Peter Moores, assured that his head coach position is safe for now after that failed campaign, and the national selector, James Whitaker, will speak to their fellow panellists Angus Fraser and Mick Newell – on pre-season tours with Middlesex and Nottinghamshire in Abu Dhabi and Barbados respectively – to map out plans for the three-Test series and the eye-watering 14 more Tests that follow in the space of nine months. Expect Jonathan Trott to be in their discussions.
The absence of the right-handed batsman was, after all, cited by Moores as one of the reasons England failed so dismally in Australia and New Zealand. Trott has not been involved in the senior setup since leaving the 2013-14 Ashes tour after the first Test with a stress-related illness but a strong second-half to last season – he scored five centuries for Warwickshire – was followed by a spell captaining the England Lions in South Africa in January.
It was on that trip that the 33-year-old demonstrated to the Lions coach, Mark Robinson, he was back to his best, both on and off the field, scoring an unbeaten 211 in Paarl in the first of two unofficial Tests against South Africa.
“Trotty looked happy and hungry, trained well and batted superbly,” Sussex’s Robinson told the Observer.
“That double hundred was made in serious heat and he showed a great appetite for wanting to go big and not give it away – but then that’s the hallmark of Jonathan Trott. He went on the tour, enjoyed it, was happy and played well. In terms of ticking that box, he did it.”
Where he slots into the team remains to be seen. Trott’s berth at No3 was filled admirably by Gary Ballance last summer to the tune of 704 runs in seven Tests against Sri Lanka and India. Will his nightmare World Cup, in which the Yorkshire left-hander failed to pass 10 in four innings, interrupt that flow? If not, Trott could find himself deployed as an opener alongside Cook.
The bowling attack will hope a winter of white-ball woe can turn around once they get a red cherry back in their hands in the Caribbean. Among the candidates to join Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson on the trip is Durham’s Mark Wood, a right-arm fast bowler who caught the eye on the Lions trip and spent last week working at the National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough.
His track record of injury is not great – Wood has suffered back, side, ankle and heel problems and, at 25, has only 23 first-class games under his belt – but he is confident those days are behind him. “Mark was arguably the stand-out bowler for the Lions and probably didn’t get the wickets he deserved,” Robinson said. “He bowls at good pace – the ball really is on to you – and he’s an exciting prospect who would be a fantastic pick. But there is Liam Plunkett and Boyd Rankin who both looked good, plus Chris Jordan and Steven Finn. The selectors have options.”
Wood’s inclusion could depend on the fitness of another right-armer in Chris Woakes, who played the final three Tests against India last summer but finished the World Cup-ending defeat to Bangladesh in Adelaide wearing a protective boot on his left foot with what has since been diagnosed as a third metatarsal stress reaction.
Like Woakes, the spin-bowling all-rounder Mooen Ali missed Friday’s dead-rubber against Afghanistan with a side strain but is expected to be named. Joe Root, originally earmarked for a rest after playing more games than any other player bar the wicketkeeper Jos Buttler in the past 12 months, could yet be included in the search for a convincing series win.
The West Indies tour, which begins with a pair of two-day warm-up fixtures in St Kitts on 6 April, will likely be a final trip as bowling coach for David Saker, who has already told the management he will not be renewing his contract when it expires in September.
Saker was the only member of the coaching setup retained following the Ashes defeat but is now poised to return to his native Australia in a domestic role. Ottis Gibson, the bowling coach under Moores during his first spell as head coach in 2008, has been tipped to succeed him.
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