Such is the life of an international cricketer nowadays that not all of the England touring party to Bangladesh will return home together to cooler climes. Two of their number, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood, instead head off to Bangalore and Delhi respectively for lucrative assignments in the IPL. They will join Ravi Bopara, Owais Shah, Michael Lumb and Eoin Morgan from the 30 man provisional England squad who are already in India; Dimitri Mascarenhas having left the tournament early with injury.
And it is the shortest form of the game that is the next assignment for England with the World T20 in the Caribbean starting on April 30th, where they find themselves in Group D with the hosts and Ireland. So whilst most of the players will be recuperating and getting ready for the English domestic season, the selectors will be gathering in the coming days to pick the XV for the tournament. It is unlikely that the selectors will look outside the provisional squad named on March 1, which means that potentially useful players like Ian Blackwell and Samit Patel will miss out along with Alastair Cook who failed to make the cut despite being captain for the Bangladesh trip.
It is to hoped that the selectors are tuning into ITV4 to watch the IPL as they will see that Bopara has rediscovered form and confidence in a format that he excels in. He should open the batting with Craig Kieswetter, who made such a good impression for England A and then the 1st XI over the last few months. The selectors should also use the opportunity to give Matt Prior a rest and give the Somerset keeper the gloves in order to pick an extra batsman. Prior has not really shone in T20 and others, notably the unorthodox Shah and Lumb rather than Jonathan Trott or Ian Bell, can offer England more with the bat. The other batting places are straightforward with Pietersen, captain Collingwood and Morgan seemingly nailed on for the middle order spots.
The absence of Andrew Flintoff and underrated Hampshire captain Mascarenhas hands a reprieve to Luke Wright who will likely bat at number seven and be used as a fifth bowler. Tim Bresnan has also done enough to be selected in the XV having shown that he can offer useful runs with the bat and control with the ball. It may come down to a straight choice between the two for a place in the final XI.
This leaves six bowling spots. If the IPL and last year’s World T20 in England teaches us anything it is that spin, extreme pace and the ability to bowl yorkers tend to hold the sway in this format. For instance the best bowlers in the last World T20 were Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis and Shahid Afridi. With the pitches in the Caribbean likely to be slow, England should play two spinners in each match and name three in the squad. But are the selectors brave enough?
Graeme Swann, inexplicably not playing in the IPL, picks himself and James Tredwell, who has proved to be a good T20 player with Kent, will also go. That leaves one more spot for a spinner. Adil Rashid has been messed about so much by the selectors, but he did well in last year’s tournament and deserves another chance. The other Yorkshire spinner in the provisional squad David Wainwright, looks a good prospect but surely Rashid should get the vote ahead of him?
If fit, Stuart Broad and James Anderson will be in the squad, which leaves one place open. Assuming that the selectors don’t have a brainstorm, Sajid Mahmood will not be picked and Liam Plunkett’s winter of drinks carrying suggests that he is not at the forefront of Geoff Miller’s mind either unless he wants a gin and tonic. With Graham Onions injured, that leaves Ryan Sidebottom, Ajmal Shahzad and Steve Finn to fight it out. Shahzad deserves to go for me.
So my squad with first choice XI in bold is:
Bopara, Kieswetter, Pietersen, Collingwood (C), Morgan, Shah, Wright, Swann, Broad, Tredwell, Anderson, Lumb, Bresnan, Shahzad and Rashid
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