It’s time to start thinking about the winter touring squads and there is much at stake for both the selectors and players.
Due to the Champions Trophy cancellation, England’s international season is nearly over. The condensed nature of this summer’s home series – next year’s One Day series with Australia finishes on 20th September – means the players have an unfamiliar break from international cricket.
This window – they begin their three match Stanford bonanza on 26th October – also gives the selectors time to consider their options. They have been out of the firing line since the captaincy change and One Day resurgence grabbed the headlines, but Geoff Miller and his panel will again be under scrutiny, as there are some big decisions to be made.
Of course, picking the squad for Antigua is just half the job; the big money is made by those in the team and it will be a safe cricket bet that there will be no talk of rotation or burnout from the regular players on this short tour.
The Stanford matches are not just about making money; England play only one more Twenty20 match, against West Indies, before they begin their ICC World Twenty20 campaign next June. The selectors will therefore be keen to ensure that the players who cash the cheques in Antigua will be the same ones that commence the quest for England’s first ever global international trophy.
The One Day team’s current success might suggest that that squad picks itself, although it is worth remembering that Tim Ambrose, Ravi Bopara, Dimitri Mascarenhas and Graeme Swann – all currently out of the high-flying 50 over outfit – featured in the last Twenty20 match, against New Zealand in mid-June.
Ryan Sidebottom was missing for that clash and his persistent injuries, combined with Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff’s return to the bowling ranks, have seen him, against the cricketing odds, become a fringe player in the limited over set-up.
However, the all-round abilities of the current 50 over team – nine reliable batsmen and arguably 10 viable bowling options – suggests it will be hard for anyone to break into the team in Antigua.