The English cricket team has endured a tumultuous few months. Ever since Mitchell Johnson steamed in at the Gabba and destroyed the English top order in that fateful morning in the first Ashes test, something hasn’t been quite right with them. Just when it looked like the scars of the Ashes had healed with a thumping victory over India at home, a disastrous world cup showed English cricket in grim light again. The change at the helm of the ECB hasn’t helped either. The incoming chairman Colin Graves has openly contradicted the previous stance that Kevin Pietersen would not be considered for selection. This has led to Pietersen cancelling his IPL contract and rejoin Surrey in a bid to regain his place in the English team. Quite what will happen if Pietersen’s batting starts demanding selection, only time will tell. The undoubted friction that comes with him returning to a side captained by Alastair Cook won’t help matters either. It is believed that Cook played a key part in Pietersen’s sacking after the Ashes. The problem arises due to the fact that Cook has not been among the runs for over a year now and fans are clamouring for the inclusion of Pietersen even if it meant Cook being out of the side. It is quite a pity that it has come to this, as both batsmen sit atop the list of highest ever run scorers for England in tests.
The other issue to be considered is whether returning to the 34 year old Pietersen is really a step in the forward direction. While Kumar Sangakkarra proved that age is just a number in the world cup, Pietersen’s selection would mean excluding either Gary Ballance or Moeen Ali which would be unfair on both players given their incredible summer exploits against India. A key factor that has been lacking in the England side since the Ashes is the presence of a lead spinner. Ali’s wicket taking spree against India notwithstanding, England are really lacking in the spinning department ever since Graeme Swann decided to call it a day. The domestic circuit is not overflowing with spinning talent either and this is evidenced by the presence of James Tredwell in the squad despite the 33 year old being supplanted by young Adam Riley for his county. The second spinning option is the leg spinning all rounder Adil Rashid who is yet to make his test debut. Rashid is a talent but far from the finished article. He is far from being able to rip through sides on a wearing fifth day wicket which is the quality of spinner that a top side like England should possess.
There are several other new faces in the English squad. This includes the opener Adam Lyth. The southpaw was stellar for Yorkshire in last year’s championship winning campaign and is possibly Cook’s fifth new opening partner in as many series. Durham’s Mark Wood is the third potential debutant and has been brought in to test new talent in the pace bowling department. The tour started on a positive with Cook scoring a century, albeit against one of the most mediocre domestic sides. Ben Stokes who is also returning to the side bowled a superb spell. With a grueling test match schedule ahead of them – after the West Indies, they face New Zealand and Australia at home followed by away series against South Africa, Pakistan and India, England need to find a good pool of players and need to put aside all sorts of personal conflicts if they are to regain the glories of the Strauss days. Lest we forget, England, when they turn up, are one of the best test sides in the world. The last time they left the field from a test match, they had folded the mighty Indian batting line up to 94 all out at the Oval. Alastair Cook would be dearly hoping for more days like those.