England had a difficult decision to make before play even got under way in the first Test against the West Indies in Barbados today.
They delayed their team selection until the latest possible moment so captain Joe Root could have a good look at the Kensington Oval pitch.
Reading conditions and the wicket is a hard skill, because you only know for sure what it is like once you’re playing on it.
To me it looked dry and tacky, so you can understand why Root and coach Trevor Bayliss opted to play two spinners in Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid. It was a gutsy call nevertheless.
Strength of squad
The strength of England’s squad at the moment means some players are always going to be left disappointed. On this occasion it is Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Jack Leach who have missed out – and ultimately I think it needs to be seen as a positive.
The old cliché that it’s a nice problem to have is true.
Ben Stokes’s success on day one, getting the ball to jump off a length with his extra pace meant the absence of Broad was called into question.
With the benefit of hindsight it’s easy to criticise selection, but I think they were brave and made the right call.
England showed in November’s 3-0 series win in Sri Lanka that they can play a different type of game now and it could well be that by day four or five Moeen and Rashid prove to be match-winners as the surface wears.
Man in form
For me, if it was a straight choice between Sam Curran and Broad for the third seamer position then there’s no contest.
Curran certainly warrants his selection: he has been the form player over the last year with bat and ball. England have won all seven of the Tests he’s played in so far and his left-arm angle offers valuable variation to a side who have previously had an attack which has looked too similar.
With the 20-year-old in the team England also bat much deeper, which, as we saw against India and Sri Lanka, can make all the difference if the top order under-performs.
While he had a tough first day in the Caribbean, returning figures of 0-54 from 12 overs, he is there on merit.
Broad will bounce back
Having played every match for which he’s been available from 2012 up until the Sri Lanka tour Broad has now not been picked for three of the last four matches.
The 32-year-old looked to be back in-form, taking a hat-trick in the warm-up match, so he is clearly working hard to regain his spot. But he has unfortunately been a victim of circumstances, with other players’ form and conditions working against him.
As a former tall fast bowler myself I know that rhythm can be elusive – it comes and goes, but Broad is the second-most successful English seamer of all time so he will be back.
While Sri Lanka and the Caribbean might not suit his style, he will have the ball in-hand once again when Australia arrive in England for the Ashes.