Ollie Robinson could be in contention for a Test debut against New Zealand © Getty Images
Ashley Giles, the managing director of England men’s cricket, has hinted that the upcoming Test series against New Zealand will be used to look at “some new faces”.
While England have the unexpected availability of some players they had anticipated would be at the IPL to consider, Giles suggested there will be no hurry to rush such players back into action.
The England management are also mindful that, with a busy schedule of cricket ahead of them and a working assumption that players will have to remain in bio-bubbles for long periods of time, they may require a larger squad than normal to ensure they can rest and rotate as required. To that end, they want to ensure fringe players who could well have a role to play later in the year have an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the environment.
That means England are likely to use the two New Zealand Tests to provide opportunities for Ollie Robinson and James Bracey, who are both uncapped at international level, and recall Craig Overton, who has played four Tests and an ODI. All three have impressed in county cricket over a sustained period. Ben Foakes could also win a first Test cap in England.
“What we do know and what’s not going to change is that given the weight of cricket, given the Ashes series, and we don’t know what conditions that’s going to be played in with regard to a Covid environment, we are going to need a bigger group of players,” Giles said. “We may also choose against New Zealand to look at some new faces.”
Several of England’s Test prospects, notably Chris Woakes, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali, are currently serving a quarantine period which ends at the weekend, while a few more – Ben Stokes, who is definitely out of the series, Dom Sibley, Olly Stone and Jofra Archer – are injury doubts.
Sibley has just about recovered from the broken finger that he sustained in mid-April (he was considered fit to bat but not field in Warwickshire’s recently concluded match against Worcestershire), but will have been unable to play a first-team game before the squad for the Test series is picked.
Stone, meanwhile, has an infection in his big toe for which he is taking antibiotics, while Archer made a cautious return from minor hand surgery and a long-standing elbow problem in second XI cricket recent days. Given his importance to England in all formats and the fact that the New Zealand series does not form part of the World Test Championship, it seems unlikely he will be rushed back into service. Stone is expected to be fully fit within days and has a good chance of inclusion within the Test squad.
Jofra Archer made his comeback from injury for Sussex’s 2nd XI last week © Getty Images
But it is, perhaps, those players currently in quarantine who require the more careful management. Some of them spent more than four months in various bubbles over the winter and are expected to be given time to see their families before they return to cricket.
“All these guys are currently in quarantine and have had a number of spells in quarantine and bubbles in this last period,” Giles said. “Some of it’s their choice, I get that. We need to look after them, with the amount of cricket they’ve got coming up. We’re not going to rush or force them back into cricket.
“Chris Silverwood will work with each and every one of them, as will our medical teams on what’s best for their progress. On the matter of playing cricket, they are all different. We know historically that Chris Woakes, for example, likes to get more overs under his belt with the red ball before he’s up to speed. Others react differently to that, so it’s a case by case basis. We have got an awful lot of cricket coming up.”
Even without the IPL players or injuries, the competition for places is tough. Stuart Broad and James Anderson are both expected to be fully fit for the series but the absence of Stokes may make balancing the side problematic. Woakes or Curran could, therefore, come into the equation. The Test squad is likely to be announced on May 17 or 18 with the players entering a bubble about 10 days later.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo