England's winter leaves the men in command with a headache (©GettyImages)
England's winter leaves the men in command with a headache (©GettyImages).

England need changes before an important summer

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The first problem that England need to get over, is the issue of the opening partnership. I think that Alastair Cook should maintain his role at the top of the order because that is where he has made his runs, and will make his future runs.

Who opens with him is a question that many people will ask and very few will be able to give an answer that isn't Michael Carberry or Joe Root. Carberry performed solidly during the winter, and as much as I would like to see him stay there, I believe that Root is the right man for the job. The Yorkshireman has a great temperament and has proved himself a good opener in English conditions. He is also likely to be the spearhead of future England teams, meaning that he needs the time to be able to bed in.

People say he should be nowhere near the team after his poor recent performances, but if this knee-jerk reaction had always been the way, then we would never have seen Ian Bell again after the 2005 series, and where would we be then?

As for Bell, he should bat at number 3 as we need the best players facing as much of the toughest spells of bowling as possible. But, if Jonathan Trott is to return to the fray, then he would certainly slot back in at the crucial 3 spot. However, I predict that Trott won't play for England for a while, if ever again, so contingencies need to be organised. This leaves Bell at 3 and Kevin Pietersen at 4, he is too good a player to be got rid of quickly. Note to the England staff, settle your differences with Pietersen and then get on with watching him make huge contributions.

The number 5 spot should go, on current form, in my opinion, and to change the style of English Test cricket, to Eoin Morgan. The left hander is our best One-Day player, bar none, and would have a positive impact on the Test side. Players like Ballance and Taylor will be England players of the future, but need a little more time in Championship cricket to hone their skills, leaving the spot open to Morgan. But, if Morgan wants to pursue a Test career, he needs to give himself a chance by ditching the IPL for a season or two, and making big runs in Domestic cricket, otherwise he will be seen as a money-grabber not a cricketer.

Ben Stokes has to bat at 6 after being the only silver lining of the winter, Matt Prior returns at 7, as Jonny Bairstow is clearly not good enough for Test cricket yet. Like Taylor, Ballance and also Sam Robson, Bairstow needs time away from the England set up to play as much cricket as possible in order to stake a proper claim.

I think that the choice of spinner should be between the youngsters. Monty Panesar is well past his best, and is also a hugely one dimensional cricketer. If he's not bowling well, which is more often than not, he offers the side nothing as he needs hiding in the field and the batting order. This leaves the choice between Scott Borthwick, Danny Briggs, Simon Kerrigan and Adil Rashid. Kerrigan needs to forget Test cricket for a while, Rashid is too much of a loose cannon whose form is massively up and down. Of the remaining two, Briggs is the better bowler but Borthwick offers a better all round package. In the future I can see both in the England side, with Briggs the front line spinner and Borthwick in the Steve Smith role as a batsman who bowls some slightly above average leg-spin. For the time being, Borthwick is clearly the man that England see as their spinner, and should thus be persevered with.

Stuart Broad bats at number 9, with Jimmy Anderson at 10 which now leaves us with one slot to fill. After multiple winter dramas, it is my view that Graham Onions should be given this spot. He will carry none of the baggage that this winter has brought, and will probably have benefitted from his time in South Africa, rather than being in the England dressing room. England's second choice for the 11 spot is Steve Finn, he may be 'un-pickable' according to Ashley Giles, but he offers what none of the other England bowlers do. Pace, aggression and a knack of getting wickets. Let him at the opponents, don't just give him over after over of bowling in the nets.

My Test XI: Cook (c), Root, Bell, Pietersen, Morgan, Stokes, Prior, Borthwick, Broad, Anderson, Onions.


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