As England’s cricketers begin their winter with a Test series against Sri Lanka, the next 12 months are an interesting prospect. There is likely to be plenty of rotation between series as England face Sri Lanka, India and Australia in the southern hemisphere in 2021.
The initial touring squad comprises: Joe Root (Yorkshire), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), James Anderson (Lancashire), Jonathan Bairstow (Yorkshire), Dom Bess (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Zak Crawley (Kent), Sam Curran (Surrey), Ben Foakes (Surrey), Dan Lawrence (Essex), Jack Leach (Somerset), Dom Sibley (Warwickshire), Olly Stone (Warwickshire), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire), Mark Wood (Durham).
Whilst England’s best gloveman, Ben Foakes, is included within the squad, recent reports suggest that Jos Buttler is likely to take the wicketkeepers gloves to begin with this winter. The length of the winter tour will surely mean that Foakes will be afforded the opportunity to prove his worth before the Ashes next winter. Aged 27, Foakes will be keen to secure a more regular place in the England side before too long and his case is only strengthened by his impressive first class batting average which compares favourably to Jos Buttler. Buttler’s versatility as an attacking batting option gives rise to the tantalising prospect that he should feature as a middle order batsman whilst Foakes takes the gloves.
The opportunity is there for a number of England’s lesser known spinners, too. The psychological challenge of operating within a biosecure bubble in the midst of a global pandemic means that fringe players are likely to be called upon. Talented Hampshire off-spinner Mason Crane is a reserve for the Sri Lanka series whilst Matthew Parkinson of Lancashire also makes the list alongside Amar Virdi.
Whilst the circumstances are far from ideal, the opportunity is there for one of England’s promising young spinners to make a claim for a regular starting spot in England’s test team. I have written previously on the curious decision to play Dom Bess as the main spinner last summer. Meanwhile, Jack Leach didn’t feature despite being included in the bio-secure bubble throughout both test series.
However, England appear keen to learn from the experience of last summer as the presence of a psychologist within the touring party demonstrates. You only have to look at the misdemeanours of sportsmen across the UK who have been incapable of adhering to social distancing and the regulations imposed on society to appreciate how disciplined England’s cricketers have been. Facing another prolonged period within a biosecure bubble, it seems only right that they have access to a professional who can help with the added pressures of their journey.
Joe Root has encouraged his cricketers to speak out in order to help each other on the tour, another move which acknowledges the importance of mental health, especially in these unprecedented times. It is heartening to see Root speak so candidly about the importance of mental health which is overlooked in the sporting arena all too often.
When England begin their Test series against Sri Lanka on 14th January, it will provide cricket fans with another glimpse of the sport they love. For the cricketers, the quarantines will be over as they too can get back to what they do best. For cricketers and cricket fans alike, that date can’t come soon enough.