England’s tour of the West Indies gets underway on Tuesday with the hotly-anticipated match against TBA. Three Test matches follow during which we may or may not get answers to these five fiendishly difficult questions.
(1) Is this a ‘development tour’ or not?
Development tour? Who said ‘development tour’? Actually, Joe Root did, in classic “We didn’t burn him!” fashion.
“I don’t want this to sound like a development tour at all but…” said England’s captain, before saying a few other things.
England’s repeated inability to see a Test series in the West Indies as a major challenge is pretty impressive when you consider that they’ve only managed to win there once in the last 52 years. (In recent times those two things are of course not unconnected.)
There’s some particularly mad doublethink going on this time around. Root went from explaining how omitting James Anderson and Stuart Broad provided an opportunity to learn about other players and, “strengthen what could be backbone of this team moving forward,” to confidently stating: “You don’t want to look too far ahead. Ultimately, we’ve got to look after what’s right in front of us.”
Which is it, Joe?
The more we think about “planning for life without Broad and Anderson” the less we understand it. Why the big need for planning? You chop and change bowlers literally every single match anyway? You’ve used nine pace bowlers in the last 12 months of Test matches without even trying.
(2) Have England finally found a number three?
After averaging 66 at number four in 2021, Root feels he’s ready to solve England’s problems at number three.
He probably is. Hurray!
(3) Can England find a number four?
How in blazing hot Hell are England going to find a batter who can average anywhere close to 66 at four?
(4) Can Chris Woakes take wickets with a new red Dukes ball?
Because that’s what he’ll be trying to do.
While outlining some of the things England could learn from this series, Root said that, “Guys like Chris Woakes and others will get the opportunity to bowl with a brand new ball in a Test match in away conditions.”
Away conditions, yes – but they use the Dukes ball in the West Indies; the Dukes ball with which Woakes has taken 94 Test wickets in England at 22.63.
Suppose you don’t want to change too many variables when you’re running an experiment.
(5) What is still in the selection room?
This is a real poser. Commenting on the selection meeting in which England decided to soft-bin Anderson and Broad, Root said: “Sometimes we have been slightly too honest and certain things should stay in the room.”
So what is still in that room? Root’s comment implies that in failing to take it with them, they have somehow been dishonest. Have Root, Strauss et al disposed of something?
Is it some kind of littering? Have England’s interim management team embraced littering?