Matt Prior’s cheeky smile and encouraging and enthusiastic remarks behind the stumps have brightened the England dressing room since 2007 but is it now time for the 32-year-old to step aside?
The England cricket team are a side currently in transition after their abysmal Ashes adventure and group stage elimination at the World T20 in Bangladesh.
Peter Moores has now returned for his second stint in charge but will he opt for continuity, or a fresh squad?
Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Graeme Swann are all senior players who have recently departed the international stage, and there could be more to follow.
Prior has thus far survived this experienced English exodus, but his Test form has been called into question in recent times.
Since being named England player of the year in 2012, the wicketkeeper has suffered a slump in form with the bat. Continuing to average over 40 in Test cricket is an achievement, considering the solitary ton that’s been recorded since that accolade was accepted.
The pool from which to pick a successor at the stumps isn’t too expansive though. In the county game there are plenty of capable wicketkeepers, but the jump to Test cricket is large.
Craig Kieswetter and Jos Buttler are two men who have already donned the three lions in limited-overs cricket. These specialist batsmen have proven they are capable of contributing considerably and explosively in One Day cricket.
Advancing their four-day form could well see either handed a Test bow. Another alternative – who wouldn’t need adjusting to the purists’ game – is Jonny Bairstow.
The Yorkshireman has already set about establishing himself in the England fold. The 24-year-old was entrusted with the gloves for the final two Ashes Tests down under. Continued practice in the specialist position could see him become one of the most prominent wicketkeeper-batsmen of his age.
Lower down in the county game there would probably be considerations of Chris Read, Tim Ambrose and James Foster, but all three are less likely to be recalled to the national side.
Buttler’s recent move to Lancashire may make him more of an endearing prospect for his former coach, Moores. His return as England head coach could signal a new look side as he attempts to blow away the cobwebs that have gathered in the last year.
For now, Prior is probably the best option to start the summer with against Sri Lanka though. A close eye on his form should hopefully kick him into action, and provide us with some of his most exciting cricket.
A century against Middlesex in the County Championship indicates that he has found some good nick, now we wait to see if that can be replicated for England this summer.
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