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Tour of Caribbean will set Tone for Crucial English Summer

England will be looking for a much-needed confidence boost from their three-match Test series against the West Indies, part of their tour of Caribbean. After a dismal World Cup campaign which caused turmoil on and off the pitch England need a strong performance as they head into a summer of intense cricket against New Zealand and, later on, Australia.

Alastair Cook is trying to rally his troops by calling for his players to concentrate on playing cricket rather than being side-tracked by external events such as the clamour for Kevin Pietersen’s return to the England side and the recent dismissal of Paul Downton as the ECB’s Managing Director. However, it will be performances on the pitch, not words, that will ultimately decide the fate of this England side.

A number of players find themselves under pressure, not least the captain himself. He knows that both he and the team need a morale-boosting tour as they start a punishing campaign of fourteen Test matches in ten months, having not played a Test since last summer’s series victory over India.

Cook is not the only player under pressure. Jonathan Trott will face a huge examination at Test level once again as opponents try to unearth the demons that blighted him during the previous Ashes tour. He will need to show strength of character but will also need to score runs heavily and prove that he is ready and able to take on the Australians once again. The decision to open the batting with him is a strange one, considering most of his success at international level has been at number three and Yorkshire’s Adam Lyth has been scoring consistent runs for Yorkshire and the England Lions at the top of the order.

Lyth’s fellow Yorkshireman, Gary Ballance, is another who is in need of a strong series after a disappointing World Cup campaign. He has showed potential at Test level last summer but will need to prove himself all over again this season.

Ben Stokes is in need of a successful year. The Durham all-rounder, who has a tendency to self-destruct, will want to prove his worth after a stop-start international career so far and will want to prove to the England selectors that his omission from the World Cup squad was a huge mistake. He has great potential but now will need to step forward and prove that all the hype is warranted. Fellow youngsters, such as Chris Jordan and Jos Buttler will want to prove that they are long-term Test match players as well and James Tredwell will want to cement his place as England’s number one spinner in all formats.

There are players such as Lyth, Adil Rashid and Mark Wood waiting in the wings for opportunities so even the proven bowling duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad will be striving for success in the Caribbean. They will want to prove that they can be just as destructive abroad as they are in England’s more favourable conditions. Nobody’s place is, or should be, guaranteed and with Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes expected to return to the fold in the summer competition is hotter than ever.

Confidence and momentum is the key to any successful cricketer and cricket side so if England can perform well in the Caribbean then a lot of question marks over the team could be erased, at least in the short-term. However, they could resurface pretty quickly if England’s performances suffer against their opponents from down under in the English summer.

Whilst ever they continue to disappoint, and Pietersen performs well for Surrey, clouds will continue to hover over individuals and the team. This is a big year for all involved with English cricket.

England: Tour of Caribbean fixtures;

13th-17th April 1st Test, Antigua

21st-25th April 2nd Test, Grenada

May 1st-5th 3rd Test, Barbados


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