Since the winter’s Ashes debacle, there has been much discussion and change around the England team. In a surprise move to some, Peter Moores has been reappointed for a second shot at the England coaching position he held from 2007 to late 2008, before the well documented breakdown in his relationship with then captain, Kevin Pietersen.
Pietersen himself has been a hot topic since the team’s return from the disastrous Ashes tour Down Under, with the ECB deciding to move forward without the mercurial batsmen amid claims from the ECB’s newly appointed managing director, Paul Downton, that he had become ‘disengaged’ from the team.
So much has been said about this controversial move that it seems no one has spent any serious time considering his potential replacement, or indeed how the England side will look come the start of the first Test at Lord’s on 12 June. Understandably, with the enforced departure of their star player coming on the back of an Ashes whitewash, there is a lot of negativity surrounding England at the moment, the appointment of Moores doing little to quash this since many saw his first spell in charge as a failure.
The main question now is; can England put together a fresh, vibrant side capable of rising to the top again? We are only five ODI’s into the new so-called new era, with one of those against Scotland, so it is too early to read into things too much yet, but there have been signs of promise from some of the new faces introduced.
Indeed, the most eye-catching has come from Barbadian born Sussex quick bowler Chris Jordan. Capable of bowling at 90mph with genuine hostility, he couples this with powerful lower order hitting as the Sri Lankan’s have discovered, his 38 off 13 balls in the first ODI was then followed by his maiden international five wicket haul in the third.
The wicket-keeping position, held so firmly recently by Matt Prior, is up for grabs, with Prior having suffered a loss of form in Australia and then an Achilles injury at the beginning of this season. Jonny Bairstow replaced Prior for the last two Tests Down Under, but he did not do anything to claim the job. With the innovative and talented Jos Buttler unlikely to be considered following captain Alastair Cook’s comments following his swashbuckling fourth ODI ton against Sri Lanka about him not being ready for Test cricket just yet, it remains to be see who will be donning the gloves should Prior not recover in time.
Two of England’s finest servants over recent years will not be available come 12 June either, with Jonathan Trott indefinitely unavailable due to a stress related illness and Graeme Swann having announced his retirement. Both will be hard acts to follow – Joe Root moved up to three in the Ashes, but doubts remain about his ability to deal with the new ball at the top level.
England need an opener after Michael Carberry suffered a wretched Ashes series and Sam Robson fits the bill having started the season impressively. England’s best hope could be to move Ian Bell to three as England’s most technically gifted player and this could leave Root to bed in at four while another debutant in the Ashes series, Gary Ballance could bat at five after looking comfortable in his international appearances so far in 2014.
Swann’s replacement looks less easy to decipher. James Tredwell has let no one down in his ODI appearances, but his record in the longer format is moderate at best and he has been dropped from Kent’s Championship side early this season. Scott Borthwick struggles to get any meaningful overs at Durham and is currently sidelined with a finger injury, Simon Kerrigan’s Test debut at the Oval last year did not go according to plan and Monty Panesar has fallen foul of the selectors after some off-field incidents last year. His recent time-keeping issues at Essex will only have served to compound this.
Certainly in the early season, England could do worse than not picking an out and out spinner. Ben Stokes is nearing full fitness after a wrist injury sustained whilst trying to fight a changing room locker and he could slot back in at number six and offer a fourth bowling option, while Root, or potentially Moeen Ali, an opening batsman by trade, could take or even share the spinning honours.
England are far from void of world class talents and it is the job of Moores to find the correct blend between experience and the raw ability of the new kids. There will be ups and downs, but the public want to see an energetic, exciting England team standing toe to toe with the best, and there is enough potential in the English game for this to become a reality.
The likes of Stokes, Jordan, Ali, Ballance, Robson, Buttler and forgotten men such as James Taylor, Eoin Morgan, Finn, Kerrigan and Chris Woakes are challenging to prove themselves this summer and the future may look brighter than originally thought.
By Niki Williams