IF ENGLAND put a rocky start behind them and win the first Test in the West Indies it will relieve some pressure, but the bigger picture is that they’ve got to be looking ahead to New Zealand and Australia.
Both are really tough opponents, so when they visit us this summer England need to be really firing and the biggest players will have to step up and show consistent form. They can’t keep scratching around, as they have been doing lately, when it comes to the Ashes.
Alastair Cook has long faced questions about his place, so the pressure is going to keep mounting until he eventually scores a big hundred.
I do believe that he’s good enough to be in the England side but think he needs that big score to change the confidence in his own mind. You’d hope that with the current opposition and a fairly docile wicket it’s a good place to do that.
Jonathan Trott’s had his own circumstances to deal with and been out of the side for a long time; who knows how he’s been feeling coming into this Test series. He has said he’s ready to play and we have to take his word, but it probably hasn’t gone as well as he would have hoped.
Again, we all know he’s a class player when at his best, and he had a pretty good year for Warwickshire, so I think his place is justified.
Having said that, I think England have to win this series comprehensively. Questions are going to be asked either way – even if they do win easily it’ll be about how they play their cricket and how certain players are performing – but from what some at the top of English cricket have said, this series is very important and they’re going to have to annihilate the West Indies.
They are a pretty weak side, with some of their guys in the Indian Premier League, so England need to win and play well. It’s about the experienced stepping up and the young players nailing down their spot. Otherwise they’ll keep going back to the Kevin Pietersen debate.
It’s been a pretty long winter for me after shoulder surgery in September but I had six months in the gym, I’ve got my body in a really good place, I’m feeling confident, and I seem to have recovered a bit of pace.
Even though it was just a friendly against Oxford universities, it was really nice to bowl well and get five wickets this week, going into the first game of the season against Glamorgan on Sunday.
It was great to see Kevin’s knock of 170 in Oxford. You could see the confidence flowing, and the array of shots he was playing and way he was moving suggest his knee troubles are behind him.
He actually came into a really tricky situation. The wicket was doing quite a bit, the ball was nipping around, and he had to build an innings. He got to 50 and then went a little bit ballistic, which is what he used to do in Test matches.
Having spoken to him, Kevin seems in a pretty relaxed state of mind; whatever will be, will be, regarding the possibility of an England recall.
I think it’s a case of him now wanting his bat to do the talking.
Whoever comes in as England’s new director of cricket, whether it’s my Surrey boss Alec Stewart, Michael Vaughan or Andrew Strauss, they are all passionate about cricket and modern-thinking people.
That is what we need, because the structure of county cricket has been wrong for a while but it’s been overshadowed by Ashes wins.
We play too many games in this country, but I think that by decreasing four-day games and making our Twenty20 competition better and more intense we could certainly increase the standard.
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