One more month

As of today it is exactly one month until England play the first Test against India in Ahmedabad. Of course, really it is a bit less than one month because I’m writing this late in the day on the 15th and the time difference means that the match will be starting about 16 hours before this on the 15th of next month. (It will actually be the 14th for me.) But never mind that. I am, of course, greatly looking forward to it. Although England have not had a good year in Test cricket so far, India are far from their peak and England are very much in with a shout. But there are a few things to be settled over the next month.

The first is the Pietersen matter. He is now being reintegrated into the team and although it seems likely that he will be added to the touring squad (likely as a 17th member rather than displace one of the current 16) it is not guaranteed. I can see the logic behind this; Flower wants to have Pietersen back in the side, but will rightly not compromise the reintegration process if it is not completed in time for the Test series. But I think it would be better for the team if the matter could finally be put to rest. As I have stated before, Pietersen is of very limited utility in the subcontinent and England lose very little by not having him. I would therefore lean toward leaving him out. But if he is not to be left out then he should be added to the squad as soon as possible. The uncertainty about Pietersen is not yet a problem, but the longer it is left the more it damages the pre-tour plans.

A less important matter is that of Cook’s vice-captain. Stuart Broad seems to be the next in line, being the T20 captain, but he has yet to demonstrate any qualities that suit him even to that role, let alone the vice-captaincy in Tests. In fact, it is almost hard to think of a player less suited to the role than Broad. Much better candidates for the role would be Graeme Swann, Ian Bell and Matt Prior. Swann is possibly the first choice as he did a good job as T20 captain when Broad was injured, though I might just prefer Bell. In general I prefer to have a batsman captain as it rules out ego playing a role in bowling changes and fielding reviews. Matt Prior is another possibility, but his habit of considering every single appeal to be out is problematic. I would go with Bell in the end, but it is something at which Flower will probably have to look. Of course, England might go back to the practice of a few years ago and not have an official vice-captain at all. But a deputy would still have to be nominated if and when Cook goes off the field.

The other matters to be sorted are the more commonplace ones of team selection. Specifically Cook’s new opening partner is yet to be determined and neither is the final balance of the side. These are probably both matter which will be settled during the warmups however. Right now I’d have Root open and play three seamers and two proper spinners, but I might change my mind based on performances in the warmup matches.

Of course, all those matters take a slight backseat to trying to find a way to keep the batsmen from losing their heads whenever a spinner comes on.

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