It might seem strange to be focusing on selection issues only days after England wrapped up a commanding series victory over South Africa, but time is running out before the winter’s Ashes battle.
Head coach Trevor Bayliss admitted in the aftermath of England’s Old Trafford triumph that question marks hover above a couple of slots in the side’s top and middle order, with decisions set to be made at a selection meeting this week.
England have three Tests against West Indies remaining before they face Australia and I believe the players who they are thinking of taking Down Under need to be involved in this series, which starts at Edgbaston on 17 August.
I was happy for opener Keaton Jennings to be given a chance against the Proteas but he has been way under-par, averaged just 15.87 in eight innings and ought to be dropped.
With the way he’s been playing and dabbing at the ball outside off stump there is no way he can play like that against fast, potentially short-pitched bowling, in Australia.
I have written previously about Surrey’s Mark Stoneman being brought into the squad as he looks to be very good against pace bowling and appears to have the technique which could do well in Australia.
I think the selectors will stick with Tom Westley at No3 as he has looked comfortable and unfazed by Test cricket, while it remains to be seen whether they continue with Dawid Malan at No5.
But for someone like Stoneman, who is uncapped at international level, or any debutant for that matter, you don’t want to be making your bow in front of a hostile, 40,000 crowd at The Gabba, especially as an opener.
The same applies to someone who has played for England before but been brought back into the fold. I remember Michael Carberry was recalled to the Test squad for the 2013-14 series in Australia and he was incredibly nervous. It’s bound to be daunting going out there to face the first few balls.
Carberry had played one Test against Bangladesh in Chittagong three years earlier and a handful of one-day matches in the build up so at least he had some experience and it probably made it a little easier than coming in cold.
If the selectors are thinking of bringing in a completely new face or indeed recalling someone previously dropped, any exposure to Test cricket they can get before the Ashes would be a massive help.
Even though West Indies might not provide the sternest examination, at least that player will have had experience of playing in an England shirt, coping with the spotlight and doing things like post-match media interviews before such a massive tour.
Someone who has no such worries is seamer James Anderson. I remember writing in awe of Jimmy when he was approaching 400 Test wickets; in the blink of eye he’s now closing in on 500.
He’s currently on 487 and I’m sure he’ll cruise past 500 against West Indies. There’s always debate about how long Jimmy, who is now 35, will carry on playing.
Physically, I believes he’s got another couple of years left at least. He loves the game and I remember him telling me four or five years ago when I played with him that he wanted to play until he was 39 or 40. I hope he does.