It was that likelihood which may have prompted Andy Flower to call for a dry surface at The Oval rather than allow his young side the benefits of a green-top in September. The events during the final match of England’s home season won’t have led to a ripping up of the tour squad when Flower met the selectors on Monday, just as the 10-wicket win two days earlier won’t have inked in every new face for the trip, but it showed again what needs to be worked on.
A number of the younger players that were selected against West Indies will be heading to India although the exact permutations largely depend on the presence, or otherwise, of a senior figure. Kevin Pietersen hasn’t played since the Twenty20 against India, at Old Trafford, and reports have varied between him being signed off for the rest of the year to actually having been dropped.
However, a series against India on home soil isn’t the best place for complete experimentation. With Eoin Morgan ruled out until January, England’s middle order does need a dose of experience. Alastair Cookand Jonathan Trott will obviously be included – and the debate about the top three won’t be far behind – but without Pietersen the slots from No. 4 to No. 6 could be a little light despite Ravi Bopara’s recent performances and Jonny Bairstow’s confident debut.
Pietersen, though, is under some serious pressure. His ODI average over the last two years is 23.30 and his last hundred came against India, at Cuttack, shortly before he lost the captaincy. While his Test and Twenty20 form has recovered that revival hasn’t transferred to 50 overs. Perhaps it’s a lack of motivation with ODIs not providing the fullsome challenge of Test cricket or instant thrill of 20 overs. This series could be his last chance to show he really has the hunger to play all three formats. The Pietersen of 2008 would clearly enhance a developing side, but the Pietersen of 2009-2011 is a spare part.
Meanwhile, Ben Stokes struggled against India’s spinners during September in England – he could be competing for a tour place alongside Bairstow and Jos Buttler – and R Ashwin will likely to joined by a fit-again Harbhajan Singh so, if Stokes gets the nod, it will be a tough education for him.
Elsewhere, England will need extra spin options both due to conditions and the chances of one falling ill before a match. Scott Borthwick impressed against West Indies while Danny Briggs, the Hampshire left-arm spinner, didn’t get a game which suggests Borthwick is the favourite. It’s also an important tour for Samit Patel who needs to put in consistent all-round displays and prove his fitness levels in testing conditions.
The pace attack will be without Stuart Broad (who is also set to miss the Twenty20) which should give another opportunity to the improving Steven Finn after he regularly touched 90mph towards the end of the season. Bowling in the subcontinent will be another stage in his development but he’ll be able to tap into the knowledge of his debut Test series against Bangladesh.
With Broad’s shoulder unlikely to recover for the T20 in Kolkata, Graeme Swann will retain the captaincy and the team could well resemble the one that played West Indies. Again the presence, or otherwise, of Pietersen will be a talking point.
Possible ODI squad: Alastair Cook (capt), Craig Kieswetter, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Samit Patel, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, Scott Borthwick, Jade Dernbach, James Anderson, Steven Finn
Possible T20 squad: Craig Kieswetter, Alex Hales, Kevin Pietersen, Ravi Bopara, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Samit Patel, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann (capt), Scott Borthwick, Jade Dernbach, James Anderson, Steven Finn.