Caribbean Cruise In Store For England?
The tour starts with two warm-up games at Warner Park in St Kitts, before moving to Antigua, Grenada and Barbados for the Test matches.
England in West Indies
13th-17th April: 1st Test, Antigua
21st-25th April: 2nd Test, Grenada
1st-5th May: 3rd Test, Barbados
England come up against an opposition that is considered weak in the Test arena with an ICC ranking of eighth and only 27 Test wins since 2000. Accordingly, there is a lot of pressure on this largely inexperienced group to perform, highlighted by England & Wales Cricket Board Chairman-elect Colin Graves demanding that England beat a "mediocre" opposition.
Although Alastair Cook has come under much criticism lately, largely due to averaging under 30 in his last 17 Tests, Graves has been outspoken in his support for the England captain, saying: "He is a proven Test player, I have every confidence in Alastair Cook."
Cook, meanwhile, believes there is "great competition for places" in the squad, which could open the door to the likes of previously uncapped Adam Lyth and Mark Wood. England are yet to give any inclination as to whether Lyth will open on debut or if Jonathan Trott will complete his comeback in his 50th Test.
England have a mix of experience in their bowling department. James Anderson and Stuart Broad, approaching 100 and 75 Test matches respectively, provide vast knowledge of Test bowling.
However, Wood, Ben Stokes, Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett and James Tredwell will all be pushing for places in the starting 11, even though they provide just 25 Test matches of experience collectively.
Alastair Cook (captain), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Chris Jordan, Adam Lyth, Liam Plunkett, Joe Root, Adil Rashid, Ben Stokes, James Tredwell, Jonathan Trott, Mark Wood.
Head coach Peter Moores has stressed the importance of "keeping it simple" due to the amount of "noise around England cricket" at present, no doubt hinting at Graves’ comments regarding exiled batsman Kevin Pietersen.
Moores believes the West Indies will provide tough opposition. "We’re going to have to play really well, and if we do, we’ll gain momentum going in to what is a very big summer," he said.
The hosts are without big hitting opening batsman and Barmy Army favourite Chris Gayle. The left-hander declared himself unavailable for the series as he is suffering from a chronic back problem.
Darren Bravo makes a return to the squad after a hamstring injury forced him to retire one run short of a World Cup half-century against Pakistan.
The West Indies have named a 20-man squad that starts training today in Antigua. The experience of this side varies from one extreme to the other. Included in the squad are four players uncapped at Test level: Carlos Brathwaite and Miguel Cummins (who have played One-Day Internationals) and Shane Dowrich and Shai Hope (who have played no international cricket).
West Indies training squad
Kraigg Brathwaite, Leon Johnson, Devon Smith, Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo, Denesh Ramdin, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jason Holder, Sulieman Benn, Jermaine Blackwood, Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Veerasammy Permaul, Shai Hope, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich, Carlos Brathwaite, Devendra Bishoo, Sheldon Cottrell
The experience of the squad is provided by Shivnarine Chanderpaul‘s 161 Tests, as well as Marlon Samuels and Denesh Ramdin who both have over 50 Test caps.
Phil Simmons has been given a difficult first series in charge as the new coach of the Caribbean side, after leaving the Ireland following eight years at the helm.
The last time England visited West Indies for Test matches, the hosts won the series 1-0 in 2009. However, on this occasion, the visitors are expected to take a leisurely Caribbean cruise to victory.
If all goes to plan, England build momentum for an Ashes summer. But if there are slip ups, could we see a second reintegration programme and Pietersen walking out against Australia in July?
© Cricket World 2015