England fans have many reasons to be optimistic ahead of this winter’s tour of the Caribbean, none more so than their most recent outing in whites.
Make no mistake, England cricket is in a good place right now. Last year’s victory in Sri Lanka was the side’s statement to not just other test-playing nations, but to themselves. Joe Root’s team has proven that it is capable of winning away, so now it needs to prove that it can do it consistently. Back-to-back wins in Sri Lanka and the West Indies would confirm our suspicions that this England team can go places.
The three Test matches are also the last that England will play before next summer’s Ashes series, not that any Test cricketer should ever need added incentive.
This West Indies series could act as the starting blocks for one of England cricket’s greatest-ever years. 2019 has the potential to be special. A World Cup and Ashes win in the same summer would write a new chapter in English cricketing folklore. Whisper it gently, but it could even engage the wider public with our sport once again. Imagine that.
It all starts here. It’s essential that we get off to the best possible start by winning in the Caribbean. If you’re joining us out there then it’s our chance to start as we mean to go on. Let’s get behind the side and do our bit, because we can make a real difference.
After their success in Sri Lanka, it would be incredibly hard on anyone to lose their spot in the Caribbean. That looks likely to happen, though, with around 14 players all with a very valid claim. One of Ali, Rashid, and Leach will probably miss out, while choosing between Anderson, Broad, and Curran will also be difficult. Not that these are the worst problems a selector could have.
Jonny Bairstow will also probably bat at three again, after his sensational hundred there in Colombo. He’ll want to keep, but Ben Foakes has done more than enough to relieve him of glove duty this winter. Before Bairstow, Jennings and Burns should retain their places in the side as an opening pair. While neither did enough to prove all the doubters wrong, they definitely did do enough to earn themselves another tour. Both need to be given time, and both are capable of scoring big runs.
While the Caribbean pitches on which Holding, Garner, Marshall, Ambrose, and countless others plied their trade are now a thing of the past, there isn’t quite as much in them for the spinners as was the case in Sri Lanka. With that in mind, it seems unlikely that England will go with all three in this series.
If we assume that one of Ali, Rashid, and Leach are set to miss out, then the selectors will be faced with a tough call. Each one offers you something different: Ali offers the most all-round potential, Rashid can conjure wickets out of nothing, and Leach provides the most control. Rashid is probably the most likely to lose his spot, but that’s no reflection on him. Ali is a senior member of that side these days, and Leach’s consistency in the subcontinent arguably made him untouchable.
It’s not just the spin department that provides a headache or two. Anderson, Broad, and Curran will all be hoping to start the series as opening bowlers, with Ben Stokes likely to play the role of third seamer. Even Chris Woakes and Olly Stone have the attributes to make an impact in this series, but they might find appearances hard to come by. Anderson and Curran are probably going to be the two who play initially, with both offering something different. The only certainty is that whoever gets the nod will have to perform. If they don’t there will, at last, be someone waiting in the wings that can stake their claim.
For all this talk of England’s selection headaches, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s only one team in the series. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The hosts will not simply roll over and accept defeat; history tells us as much.
England’s triumph in the Caribbean back in 2004 is their only success on West Indian turf in the past 50 years. Considering that our opponents have seemingly been in crisis for half of that time, they can clearly play in front of their own fans. Isn’t that the case for all Test cricket sides though? The main reason away series wins are so tough is that the home side is never easily defeated. It was no different in Sri Lanka. Both sides may be struggling, but beating them at home is never going to be easy. That should be enough to give England confidence, but not so much as to underestimate the task at hand.
The West Indies is a fantastic destination. If you are out for the Tests then Barbados, Antigua, and our first ever long-form outing in St Lucia offer first-class venues and facilities, while the region as a whole provides sun, sea, sand, and plenty of tourist attractions to keep you occupied in the event of an early finish or two. If the shorter forms are your preference then two ODIs in Grenada, everyone’s favourite during the 2015 tour, are the jewel in the crown.
From cruising the islands’ waters on a Catamaran, rum tasting, and squeezing into a Reggae bus to buzzing around in a Mini Moke, you’ll soon discover that these beautiful islands are indeed the tropical paradises you’ve only ever dreamt of.
There will be loads of Barmy events along the way so make sure you are following us on social media. Barbados sees the launch of our new partnership with Lashings and hosts a range of events featuring Steve Harmison, Tino Best, and Matty Prior. We’ll also have our inaugural Hall of Fame event, which will see Barmy legend Darren Gough become the first inductee of the many cricketing heroes that have entertained us over the years. We’ll be kicking off the fun in our Bajan HQ – a brand new venue called The Dive Bar, St Lawrence Gap. See you there for rum punch and choir practice!