If there is one area where England head coach Peter Moores should have little concern, it is behind the stumps.
Matt Prior’s indefinite departure from the international scene has set alarm bells ringing across English cricket, and wrongly so.
As expected, Jos Buttler received the nod as Prior’s replacement, but there was nothing inevitable about his call-up. Buttler appears to be the favoured back-up, but in reality there are hoards of decent wicketkeepers to choose from in the domestic game.
Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow remains committed to making a comeback with the Three Lions, and has been a key man in the White Rose’s title push this season, though he could not prevent them making an early exit in the Natwest T20 Blast.
Bairstow’s slipping out of England contention was something of a seamless – and frankly inexplicable – process.
Captain Alastair Cook started the summer series against Sri Lanka – which England lost 1-0 – by insisting that Buttler was not ready for Tests, but Bairstow has already been part of that set-up.
For many, Essex’s James Foster has overtaken Bairstow in the pecking order, and should certainly receive another international cap in some format in the near future. Foster may have a chance to prove himself as captain of the Lions squad, which also features Bairstow.
Chris Read of Notts has often been mentioned in the same vein as Foster, though both have often overlooked as England favour performances with the bat, rather than the gloves. Foster, in particular, has dispelled that reason with some fine knocks for his county.
Over at Somerset, there remains an ODI-capped ‘keeper in Craig Kieswetter – albeit one currently nursing severe facial injuries.
Buttler will take to the field for the third Test, knowing that even should Prior quit permanently, his place is far from certain. His superb knock of 121 in the ODIs against Sri Lanka, though in vain in terms of the match’s result, has ensured he is remembered for something other than mankading.
Having returned to Lancashire since that series, he has been given what many other England stars require: time with his county, time to gain form and put in some consistent performances in the T20 Cup and the County Championship.
Reluctance to let go of Prior
The only real concern for the ECB is that uncertainty has prevailed for too long. A clear back-up for Prior has not been established, perhaps stemming from a reluctance to let go of the ‘old guard’ that regained the Ashes. Too many of the aforementioned names have drifted in and out of the fold.
It is unclear when – and if – Prior will be back in an England shirt, but there is simply no need for a panic button. Sadly, as England search for consistent top-order batsmen, effective spinners, and even a captain, there are plenty of positions that are struggling to be filled with talent. Wicketkeeping is not one of them.