England are currently stuck between picking a team to compete in this marathon series against Australia – and this has become important since England went 3-0 down – and gearing up a side for the very different challenge of 50-over cricket in Asia. Every impressive spell from Chris Tremlett is uncomfortable to watch, for they are irrelevant to England’s World Cup chances.
But, strange though it is to say given England’s uneven one-day form, to my mind England’s World Cup XI is set (injuries depending): Strauss, Prior, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Morgan, Collingwood, Yardy, Broad, Swann, Anderson.
There are issues to clear up. Should Matt Prior be unleashed upon the first 10-15 overs of fielding restrictions, or would he be exposed by the new ball and should instead give it a smack down the order (in which case Ian Bell can open)? Can England afford to trust Paul Collingwood’s batting – or should a third frontline seamer play (Tim Bresnan or Ajmal Shahzad)? Can the returning Stuart Broad stave off the considerable challenges of Bresnan and Shahzad?
This XI clearly bats deep, but who do you get your 50 overs from? Anderson, Broad and Swann: that’s 30. Then there’s Yardy. His form hardly merits automatic selection, but his role as England’s second spinner – most other countries will have several spin options – as well as a capable ‘finisher’ makes him a certain starter. (James Tredwell is an injury fill-in, no more). England will be adamant on playing two spinners in the subcontinent.
We’re up to 40. The last 10 will be entrusted to the medium-pacers, in this case Collingwood and, perhaps, Trott. Ordinary they may seem, but on the slow-paced pitches in India these two could be a trump bowling card.
Funny to think there were doubts about Jonathan Trott. First he was deemed too mentally fragile for Tests (answer: 1,600 runs at 61.53) then too slow for one-day cricket (answer: 707 runs at 54.38, strike rate of 73.87, and evidence that he is one of the few who can steer the side to a good total from start to finish).
Whatever the team, winning the World Cup will be a triumph in adverse circumstances.
Nine of the likely XI are Test regulars, and there is a risk that they will be washed out by the time of the World Cup, a tournament that lasts two months. England’s lead-up to the tournament will have been a five-Test Ashes series followed by two T20s and seven ODIs, all played in conditions which won’t be there in India. They have three days at home before heading to Bangladesh.
Keep expectations realistic.
Benj Moorehead is editorial assistant of The Wisden Cricketer magazine