The announcement that Andy Flower is stepping down as England coach after a shambolic and embarrassing 5-0 whitewash down under, represents a clean slate for the start of the English international summer when Sri Lanka and India come to tour the UK.
The golden era of English cricket is over and is entering a period of rebuilding, yet this should not be seen as depressing, but rather an exciting new chapter.
Flower and his backroom staff have done a wonderful job with the team, but the purple patch England found themselves in for several years has faded and it is time for a change in management.
One group who might quietly have enjoyed the sorry performances of England’s test team are those county players who now see the start of the 2014 County Championship season as a window to audition themselves for one of the spots in the test lineup. With the first test of the summer not until 20th June, when England line up against Sri Lanka at Lord's, the domestic season will already be a couple of months in.
An opener’s spot might be available should the selectors decide against promoting Joe Root to partner Alastair Cook, looking to put the Yorkshireman at three or six. Michael Carberry’s brief test career looks to be over as he did not take his opportunities in Australia so Nick Compton might be presented another chance or some younger options like Sam Robson at Middlesex or Varun Chopra at Warwickshire could be considered.
With Jonathan Trott unlikely to play test cricket again, the number three spot will be contested between Joe Root and Ian Bell with Kevin Pietersen at four, assuming the new coach will want to give him the benefit of the doubt at the beginning. England might continue with Gary Ballance at number five although he may face competition from Eoin Morgan should he start the new season well. James Taylor seems to have fallen off England’s radar for now.
It will be interesting to see who the gloves go to come June although I suspect Matt Prior will be given another chance, but his performances for Sussex at the start of the season will be crucial. Jonny Bairstow has not really taken his chances so he might face competition for the back up role with Jos Buttler and maybe even Ben Foakes.
In the spin department, England will most likely look for a long term successor to Graeme Swann so Monty Panesar and James Tredwell’s test careers look to follow Carberry’s. Options include Scott Borthwick, who had an encouraging debut in the fourth Ashes test, offering something different with his leg spin, or Simon Kerrigan, who had a less than impressive debut in the final test of the home series, albeit unfairly rushed into the side for the dead rubber.
James Anderson and Stuart Broad will lead the seam attack with Ben Stokes as the all-rounder, so there will be plenty of competition for the last one or two spots. Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions will be vying for a place as will a hopefully resurgent Steven Finn.
England might take a punt on a young seamer like Tymal Mills or Reece Topley both at Essex. Chris Tremlett is unlikely to play a test again and Boyd Rankin might be the latest addition to the ‘one-test wonder’ club.
The humiliation that England’s test side have faced in Australia offers a fresh start and a chance for a new generation of players to stake a claim in the side, so the competition can only be healthy and a positive sign for the future.
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