Who should England call up to replace Kevin Pietersen at number four in the order for the rest of this current Ashes series? For me, it is simple: whoever the selectors feel is the next best batsman available.
Ian Bell is obviously the favourite, as he has already been in the Test squads for both Cardiff and Lord’s, and after being left out in the West Indies he was asked to go back into county cricket and score runs for Warwickshire.
He has done that, but England’s hierarchy will still look at the whole make-up of their top order before they settle on the final line-up for the third Test at Edgbaston.
I do not feel that Ravi Bopara is a natural Test number three; indeed, I have always felt that Pietersen himself should have been batting at three, with Bopara and Bell and Paul Collingwood contesting the four and five berths.
Perhaps this injury to Pietersen will make the selectors wonder if they should call up a third opener-type of batsman to go in at three – someone like Rob Key, who is back in form and scoring big runs – and then pick either Bopara or Bell at four.
Then again, I saw Owais Shah score a top-class 150 for Middlesex against Surrey when we played them at Lord’s recently, and Owais could bat either at three or four. In England’s one-day team, where Shah is established, it is he and Pietersen who are the two stand-out batsmen.
It is not entirely tongue in cheek, either, when I say that I would jump at the chance of batting against this Australian team – if England wanted as much experience as they could get to replace KP.
I’ve never officially retired from international cricket, and the Australia teams I played against in the 1990s and in 2001 had a far better bowling attack than the current side. I’m still enjoying my cricket, and I’m in decent nick.
But I’ve scored a lot of runs in previous seasons without it seeming to count for much, England-wise, so I’m not expecting a call now. I’m fully available, though, just in case Geoff Miller and his fellow selectors are wondering…
Whatever the England management and selectors do in Pietersen’s absence, meanwhile, it is a decision which must be a strategy for the rest of the series. This is not about replacing Pietersen for a one-off match.
There are still three Test matches to go, and they have to make a judgement about what the best top order is in terms of the personnel available.
They have to select a combination at three, four and five that they feel can do the best job for England against this Australian attack.
And that, in the end, will be the key to how England fare without Pietersen, because this is not an Australia with Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. Introducing a new player when they were laying in wait was always a big risk, but it is a different era now.