England v West Indies: The Secret Test Series
England v West Indies : The series no-one is talking about.
English cricket fans are talking about three things.
One: England have just come back from a disastrous World Cup, with calls for a cull of the team and a reorganisation of the game in England mounting.
Two: The Ashes are coming, with sell-out crowds flocking to see if the England can win back the most famous trophy in cricket from the born again Aussies.
Three: The intrigue and allegations that form the basis of the ongoing saga of whether Kevin Pietersen will return to the England cricket team.
Those are the issues that everyone is talking about, not the three Test series in the Caribbean. The Barmy Army won't be there in their usual thousands, with half the supporters expected that you'd usually find in a tour of the West Indies. So this series has little importance, right? Wrong. This series is vital for the three issues that everyone is talking about.
England need to find confidence and credibility in the Caribbean. The team and its supporters are at low ebb. Another failure could lead to the end of international careers, most notably Alastair Cook's reign as Test captain, whereas wickets, runs and victories could both restore pride and reinforce the position of certain players in the team. This leads on to the second issue.
While many are calling for sweeping changes, if England are to compete with Australia in the summer, then some of the established players need to find some form. Cook and Ian Bell need to produce match-winning innings and James Anderson and Stuart Broad need to penetrate with the new ball. England do need new blood and the likes of Adil Rashid and Adam Lyth will be looking to stake their claim in the team, however they won't win the Ashes with seven or eight inexperienced players.
The media would love KP to regain his place in the team for the Ashes almost as much as the Surrey batsmen himself. The two people who would least like to see Pietersen back in the fold are Cook and Peter Moores. There can be no bigger incentive to win this Test series than the thought of keeping KP and the circus that follows him around at arm's length.
So the secret Test series is important, it's just that most people haven't realised it yet.
Who has the greatest need for a big series with England in the Caribbean?