E the news that England will be without arguably their most talented batsman for next month’s Test series against New Zealand is a blow, I suspect there may be an element of caution in the treatment of Kevin Pietersen.
The one thing England chiefs won’t want to do is risk Pietersen’s participation in the Ashes by bringing him back from his knee injury too early. They must get it right and a patient approach is common sense.
In the meantime they will certainly miss his experience in the middle order, something that, for all their talent and promise, relative international newcomers Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow cannot boast.
Bairstow came in for Pietersen for the third and final match of the away series against New Zealand and, if you were picking the team today, would be the obvious choice to deputise for the home series.
Who replaces Pietersen will depend on the balance of the team but I don’t see why selectors would alter their preferred line-up of four bowlers, a wicketkeeper and six batsmen.
Nick Compton appears to have nailed down his opening slot, with Jonathan Trott at No3 and Ian Bell No4. England don’t tend to chop and change the Test team much, and I think that’s a good thing.
Bairstow can also bowl a few overs of off spin, and he’s a player England are keen to develop. I also know that Ian Botham and Allan Lamb, having spoken to them last week, rate Bairstow and Root very highly.
One man who could gatecrash the selectors’ thoughts is Ravi Bopara. He hasn’t always taken his England chances, but if he could score a few consecutive centuries for Essex then he would be knocking on the door.
Pietersen’s continued absence also raises questions about his fitness for the Champions Trophy in June. He would be an automatic choice, and I’ll be interested to see what England regard as their best 50-over side.
Trott missed the last series but I can see him coming back, while selectors like wicketkeeper Jos Buttler too. I can’t see it happening but Matt Prior is the world’s best wicketkeeper batsman and I don’t see any good reason why he shouldn’t return to the one-day side.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer who has also been captain and chairman of Warwickshire.
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