After their ODI series defeat in Sri Lanka England’s selectors must now look to finalise their final 15-man World Cup squad by January 7 ahead of the tournament in February and March.
The tour of Sri Lanka will have cemented the place of a number of players but may also have cast doubt over many more who will now be sweating on their selection ahead of the deadline.
Although head coach Peter Moores has not guaranteed captain Alastair Cook a place in the side, most onlookers feel that Cook will still lead the side out when they take on Australia in Melbourne on the 14th February.
Cook set to stay
England are not noted for their cut throat selections so the axing of Cook so close to the tournament seems highly unlikely even though his form has been woefully short of what we expect and need.
If Cook is to continue then England need to add another 14 players to their final squad. As I said earlier England will have a number of players already firmly cemented into their squad with the likes of Moeen Ali, Jos Buttler, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, James Tredwell and Ravi Bopara, despite being left out for the final ODI in Sri Lanka, favourites to make the final squad.
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Added to these names will be the returning opening bowlers Stuart Broad and James Anderson, assuming they have proven their fitness after injury, and England are left with very few places left.
James Taylor, with the possibility of Nottinghamshire colleague Alex Hales, will probably also make the plane but Hales has flattered to deceive in Sri Lanka when given an opportunity so his participation could be questioned right up to the naming of the squad.
Taylor’s performances will have made him a firm favourite in the eyes of the selectors and he seems to add that extra impetus to an England innings that is so badly needed at times.
Treading a fine line
For me the one player who could, and possibly will miss out on selection, is Ian Bell. Like Cook he too has been out of form and he has not played too many games recently and unfortunately for him James Taylor has impressed in his number three role. Bell has been a great servant to England but it appears his future should now be in the longer format of the game.
I would like to have seen a young dynamic top-order batsmen make the squad, such as Jason Roy and James Vince, but it appears that this World Cup may have come too soon for them. With the inclusion of Hales I don’t think England will take another risk.
The spin department is perhaps the most straightforward of all the areas in the side. James Tredwell has had an excellent tour of Sri Lanka and will have the back-up of Moeen and Root during matches, and given the absence of another proven spinner and England’s unwillingness to blood one in recent times, this looks to be the logical selection.
Jos Buttler is undoubtedly England’s first-choice ODI wicket-keeper and I believe England will not name another keeper in their squad. Jonny Bairstow and Sam Billings, in place of the injured Craig Kieswetter in the provisional squad, are the only other options in the squad but I think England will be satisfied with naming just Buttler.
Variation is the key
The fast-bowling department is where many questions are still to be answered. The returning Broad and Anderson are certainties but they will need help on pitches that, apart from the obvious pace and bounce, may not give too much assistance to the fast bowlers.
Variation will be key so Steven Finn, given his height, Harry Gurney, with his left-arm variation, and Chris Woakes, after impressing in recent months, will probably provide the help to the experienced duo.
That leaves one more player for my final squad of 15. Given the conditions in Australia, and England’s desire to use all-rounders, I feel that the final place is between Ben Stokes and Chris Jordan.
Stokes has struggled all year in an England shirt and, although Jordan can be quite erratic at times, he can also be very exciting with both bat and ball and that is why England will probably select the young Sussex player over Stokes. There is no doubt that Stokes is extremely talented but England will not want to risk taking another out of form player with them.
The predicted squad
My final 15-man World Cup squad: Alastair Cook (capt), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler (wk), Steven Finn, Harry Gurney, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, James Taylor, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes.
Is this a well-balanced squad good enough to take on the very best ODI players in the World?
Who would like to select England’s starting line-up for their first game in the World Cup?