Former England captain Sir Alastair Cook said he feels sorry for Joe Root who has been deprived of his first-choice XI in the last three Test series. The selectors kept rotating the players during the tours of Sri Lanka and India respectively, while many IPL-bound players were not available for the home Test series against New Zealand. Root and Co. managed to defeat Sri Lanka but were easily outclassed by India and New Zealand.
The selectors, however, have now named a full-strength squad for the three T20Is and as many ODIs against Sri Lanka. The likes of Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali, Jos Buttler and Sam Curran didn't play against New Zealand but are going to feature in the T20I and ODI series against Sri Lanka.
"Clearly it was disappointing. England have got themselves in a tough situation for the winter. It was going so well, winning in Sri Lanka and then they're 1-0 up against India. To then rest and rotate players, ever since that moment they've ended up chasing their tail - ending up with a fifth-choice wicketkeeper (James Bracey), an unbalanced side even though people were playing the (T20) Blast," said Cook, speaking at the launch of Yorkshire Tea's #NationalCricketWeek.
"You've got a Test captain who hasn't been able to play his best side, yet we seem to be playing a full-strength side in the T20s against Sri Lanka," he added. "The decisions don't look like they've been made correctly. Of course, they're trying their best to make the right decisions for the right reasons, but when you're playing for England, you get judged on end results most of the time, so you'd have to say it hasn't worked.
"I genuinely feel sorry for Joe Root because he hasn't had his best players available. You can't buy that experience of guys like Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali. Those kind of players make a big difference. When you look at it in isolation, it doesn't make that much sense what happened, but how they got there you can kind of half understand. It's been a tough one, and they just got found out against a better team in that New Zealand series."
Barring Rory Burns, the England top-order batsmen didn't fire against New Zealand. The likes of Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Root and Ollie Pope struggled big time as the Black Caps win the two-Test series 1-0. However, Cook is confident that England will bounce back in the five-match Test series against India.
"India (away) was a different lesson, but it was a tough lesson. They didn't bat well, and it was frustrating to watch from the side. These players I would say are the best players. You could change maybe one or two, but these guys have been consistently performing for their counties. They've all scored Test hundreds in the past, except for Dan Lawrence. But it just seems like, when the pressure is on, they haven't yet found their method yet to be able to respond to that.
"Whether that's confidence, because they're quite a young batting side except for Rooty … you'd rather, say, Ollie Pope had a few more experienced players around him. But I was frustrated. A lot of people talk about the techniques, but these are the techniques that score them a lot of runs, and have scored them Test hundreds. But when the pressure's on, they haven't found a way to withstand that pressure, and therefore played some poor shots."
All the experienced players are likely to return for the Test series against India in August-September and Cook believes that it will be tough for Virat Kohli and Co. to beat England at home. "It will be a better side with the players coming back against India. They'll clearly be better balanced which, I think, is a massive issue for them and forced some strange selections against New Zealand, like no spinner on a dry wicket.
"India have shown how good they are at the moment because they're in the World Test Championship final but, over five Test matches in England, England are hard to beat at home, and I'm expecting a very tight battle.
"India would have been here for a long time as well so could get mentally fatigued by the end of the tour. India will start pretty well but, consistently over five games, to beat England at home is a monumental effort. So I think if England hang in with India early on, there's no reason why they can't win," said Cook, who retired from international cricket after amassing 12472 runs in 161 Tests.