Preview: West Indies Vs England – The 1st Test

It is hard to judge what could possibly be Alastair Cook’s state of mind. At the beginning of what is to be one of the most important years in English cricket history, Captain Cook has it all to mull over. He has his own form to be taking care of; he doesn’t have a definite opening partner yet and as if he doesn’t have a whole lot of worries already, the look of the team in terms of just about anything is nothing short of tedious. No wonder it’s hard to be Alastair Cook.

Cricket, they say, is a game of the grittier personalities. If you don’t dare to take up challenges, you do assure yourselves of ignominy and failure. The time has come for England to step up too and get out of the mess that they, along with the ECB are themselves responsible for the creation of. West Indies may not be a very stern test but is just the kind of tour that will allow the ones responsible to get the team combination right and also gain some sort of confidence even if it comes out of victories against a sorry West Indies team.

The Batting

They are in for a real test here in the Caribbean so the suggestion for Cook and Co. is to not assume it as a walk in the park. The pitches here are often very slow, assist the spinners, and at times two-paced. The order hence should be chosen likewise and the team combination must be spot-on. To begin with, Jonathan Trott must open at all costs alongside Cook. Adam Lyth may have piled up runs for fun the previous season but the Warwickshire man has been doing it for years and still is doing the same which makes him almost an obvious selection. Gary Ballance, Joe Root, Ian Bell and Jos Buttler complete the rest of the order for me with Ben Stokes lined-up as the 7th batsman. Quite a batting line-up that. It possesses solidarity, aggression and experience and has a good feel about it at least in the longer version. That said, there’s no room for complacency or errors as this West Indies team would give it everything for a test series win.

“We had a do with the governor general, Sir Rodney Williams, and they were saying they wanted to beat us 3-0,” Cook said.

“They’re here to fight and we’ve got to expect, as I kept calling it, a war. We know we’re in for a hell of a battle.”

“Every time you put on the England shirt you are expected to win,” he said.

“That is the English nature, but that won’t change the feelings I get tomorrow morning about being nervous.

“The other guys will be nervous because it’s a big Test series we want to win. The West Indies are going to make it very hard for us.”

The Bowling

Before anything is said or talked about in relation to England’s bowling line-up, it’d be worth stating the fact that patience is the key for them. As stated earlier, the pitches here in West Indies are a bit strange in nature. At times, they do everything, at times they do nothing – that’s when the patience has to be shown. If you start losing your composure in the heat of the Caribbean on pitches as these, you’d be in for something very bad. That said, it is fair to agree upon the fact that James Anderson and Stuart Broad have enough experience to succeed in West Indies and must be able to do well, especially after the way things went for them in the World Cup. Also, they’d be able to help out other young bowlers too in tough conditions. As for who would be those young ones, Mark Wood, Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid are found as the answer. They did really well in the recently concluded warm-up fixtures and should be given a place in the team. James Tredwell did very well too however one may feel Rashid may just edge him because of his batting skills.

Coming into this match, all eyes are set on that one man James Anderson who is on the verge of writing history with just four wickets to take in order to break Sir Ian Botham’s record. Also, he may just take his 400th test wicket as well making him the only Englishman to do so. It’ll also be his 100th test.

“It’s an incredible achievement. For anyone to play 100 Test is an incredible achievement, for an opening bowler it’s just remarkable the number of miles he’s put in his body,” said Cook.

“He’s put his body on the line for England. To have played 100 Tests and led the attack the way he has done for the last four of five years is fantastic.

“He’s probably the most skilful bowler I’ve played against or with. As a friend of mine to share the moment with him will make it a special five days.”

A Victory on the Cards

There’s no particular reason why one can’t see England winning this test. They have a better team, a better captain and a better coach as opposed to the West Indies and there’s a lot that separates the two. Anything less than a victory and there would be every reason to worry about.