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    5 Key Areas England Must Tackle Following Their Humbling Experience in India
5 Key Areas England Must Tackle Following Their Humbling Experience in India
Ben Foakes and Jonny Bairstow. Source: The Cricketer

5 Key Areas England Must Tackle Following Their Humbling Experience in India

Brendon McCullum expressed confidence that England will rebound with increased strength and improved skills after their 4-1 loss in the Test series against India. The PA news agency examines five areas that head coach McCullum and captain Ben Stokes should focus on and resolve before England's upcoming Test match against the West Indies at Lord's on 10th July.

Who will assume the role of the wicket-keeper?

The question of who will take on the wicketkeeping duties presents several options. Ben Foakes has showcased exceptional skills behind the stumps, displaying a high level of proficiency. However, his batting performance has been underwhelming, as he has not managed to score a single fifty and his career average has fallen below 30. He has struggled to assert himself in the manner desired by the England team.

Jonny Bairstow, on the other hand, may not possess the same level of proficiency as Foakes with the gloves, and his performance in India was also disappointing. However, under the leadership of McCullum and Stokes, Bairstow has maintained an impressive average of 59 at home and has shown an ability to guide the lower-order batsmen effectively, something that Foakes seems to struggle with. Additionally, there are also promising contenders knocking on the door for consideration, such as Ollie Robinson from Durham and Jamie Smith from Surrey.

Shoaib, Tom or Jack?

England currently finds itself with an abundance of spin options, a situation not witnessed in over a decade.

Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir were somewhat of a gamble for the team, but they proved their mettle in Test cricket and displayed the necessary qualities. Rehan Ahmed also demonstrated his determination, although he might be better suited to the white-ball formats, at least for the time being.

Jack Leach has faced fitness concerns in the past year, making his selection for the English summer uncertain since typically only one spinner is required. While Hartley may be better suited for playing in Asian conditions, it is the 20-year-old Bashir whom England should invest in. Since Leach holds the position of the premier spinner at Somerset, it might be beneficial for Bashir to be loaned to another county during the early part of the domestic season.

England cricket team. Source: Times of India
England cricket team. Source: Times of India

Finding a back-up for James Anderson

The enduring maestro of swing bowling achieved his 700th Test wicket during the final Test match, following a span of several months spent in the 690s.

Anderson has not shown any outward signs of being ready to slow down, but the passage of time does not wait for anyone, and England must be prepared for the day when the 41-year-old decides to retire. Although there were concerns about a decline in his performance after a disappointing Ashes series, he managed to alleviate those worries to some extent with steady, if not remarkable, displays in India under challenging conditions.

Whilst his exceptional longevity is remarkable, his primary measure of success lies in the number of wickets he takes, and in his last eight Tests, he has only captured 15 wickets, with an inflated average of 50.8. This is a disappointing return, particularly in two high-profile series against England's main rivals. However, it is not in his nature to remain subdued for long.

Determine a settled seam attack

Whilst Anderson may have the ability to continue playing until the next Ashes series in 2025-26, he will no longer have his longstanding opening bowling partner, Stuart Broad, by his side.

This loss was not as significant during the matches in India, but on green, seaming pitches in England, there will be no shortage of candidates vying to fill Broad's shoes. Chris Woakes is likely to be in contention, despite being 35 years old himself. However, it may be the next generation of players who ultimately step up.

Gus Atkinson caught the attention of the coaching staff, despite not participating in the India series, and former player McCullum has predicted that the young fast bowler will make his Test debut in the summer.

Other promising talents such as Matthew Potts, Brydon Carse, and Josh Tongue are also pushing for opportunities in the team. Additionally, Ollie Robinson needs to address his fitness concerns in order to fully establish himself as a contender.

Stuart Broad. Source: ITVX
Stuart Broad. Source: ITVX

Finding consistency

England's vice-captain had a series that can be described as quite unusual in modern times. It started with a remarkable innings of 196 runs, which was hailed by Joe Root as "one of the best knocks" he had ever witnessed. This outstanding performance played a significant role in England's stunning victory in Hyderabad.

However, following that remarkable innings, the vice-captain's form took a downturn. He failed to reach the 40-run mark in subsequent matches and faced the disappointment of scoring a pair (getting dismissed for zero in both innings) at Ranchi. As the series progressed, his batting seemed increasingly frenetic and lacking the composure and consistency shown earlier.

England has found encouragement in the vice-captain's growing confidence and assertiveness as an authority figure on the field, particularly in his role as deputy to Stokes. They are hopeful that this newfound confidence and leadership will positively impact his batting performance as well.

Throughout his 43-Test career, Pope has been moved around in the batting order quite frequently. Despite the challenges he has faced in terms of positioning, his undeniable talent is evident. The key for him now is to find a way to alleviate the pressure and bring a sense of calmness when he steps out to bat. By doing so, he can fully showcase his abilities and make a significant impact with the bat.

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