England head to probable defeat in an ill-conceived trip to Sri Lanka, writes Christopher Clark.

© Ratmandude | Dreamstime.com – Wanderers Cricket Stadium – Aerial Photo

England ODI squad – Cook (c), Ali, Bell, Bopara, Buttler, Finn, Gurney, Hales, Jordan, Morgan, Root, Stokes, Taylor, Tredwell, Woakes

7 ODIs (26th November – 16th December 2014)

England head to Sri Lanka for a 7 match ODI series later this month, in preparation for the 2015 World Cup. It beggars belief why the ECB decided that an England side lacking in confidence should go to Sri Lanka, with the spin friendly conditions, in which England have always struggled, not to mention the oppressive heat. The pitches and conditions will be completely alien compared to what they will encounter in Australia & New Zealand in January/February 2015. A pointless tour.

I can understand the need for players to get some game time before the World Cup, but due to the conditions in Sri Lanka, players who should be nowhere near the side in the World Cup will be played. The idea of warm up games is to find a settled side; it cannot be done in Sri Lanka. James Tredwell will have to play, however, imagine what the likes of Aaron Finch, David Warner, Brendon McCullum, Chris Gayle and the Indian players, will do to his non-threatening off spin in the World Cup – a scary thought.

There would have been more benefit in playing the South African A side, in South Africa, as these conditions would have allowed play in the preferred line up, barring the two injured bowlers, Stuart Broad and James Anderson. In a way, it is a blessing that Anderson is injured for this tour, playing in tours like this is doing damage to his long-term test career, especially with the Ashes next summer in 2015. We know what Anderson and Broad can do; let them get fit, give them a new ball each in the World Cup, and watch them fire.

We move to the conundrum of Alastair Cook’s captaincy of this side. Negative, uninspiring, and consistently under scrutiny; in my opinion, his actual place in the side should be under question. Let’s have a look at two sides who could play in Sri Lanka, one with Cook, one without:

Cook (c)                   Root
Hales                        Hales
Root                         Ali
Morgan                    Morgan (c)
Stokes                      Stokes
Bopara                     Bopara
Ali                           Buttler (wk)
Buttler (wk)            Woakes
Tredwell                  Tredwell
Finn                         Finn
Gurney                    Gurney

As you can see, dropping Cook allows you to bring in another front line bowler, who can bat a bit. The side’s batting strength is not too severely affected, in fact it allows Mooen Ali to bat in a position more suited to his capabilities rather than crow-barring him into the team at number 7. Would changing the captain now greatly affect England’s World Cup chances? I’d say if anything it would increase England’s chances. Eoin Morgan, as captain, would be more aggressive in the field and his attacking approach would enable us to get early wickets and stop the opposition accelerating to the 300+ scores, which the English side struggles to chase or even post.

A World Cup starting X1 of:
Root
Hales
Ali
Morgan (c)
Stokes
Bopara
Buttler (wk)
Woakes
Broad
Finn
Anderson

Is a vibrant, exciting selection which could beat any side on it’s day, and in a knock out competition, that is all that is required.

But back to the Sri Lankan tour. I don’t predict much from this series, apart from a good drubbing. After 5 games, I expect Sri Lanka to lead 4-1. England might pick up a few wins in the dead rubbers, but I expect us to move onto Australia as a beaten and dispirited side.