Rotation, rotation, rotation. In this era of relentless international cricket, England have laid out their selection policy as if it were a prime minister’s mantra.
Not that much of it will be on show today when the squad for the Test series against New Zealand is announced in India. England will resist the alluring temptation to select a B squad, or even an A-minus squad for the three matches.
There are several reasons for their reluctance to promote a noble cause despite the chronic weakness of New Zealand at Test cricket. It would be discourteous to their hosts, it would risk embarrassment and it would dilute the status of the game’s longest form, to which England, despite the recognition that their players need rest, are committed.
The suspicion also exists that, having spent the last three Test tours in Asia (the UAE against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India), the players, no matter how tired, will be reinvigorated by meeting weak opposition in playing conditions with which they are more familiar.
Thus, most of the party which achieved a wonderful result in India late last year, winning 2-1, will be on duty in New Zealand. With a party of 15 likely to be selected it means that two players will be excluded, probably Samit Patel and Eoin Morgan.
Patel played the first three Tests against India and while he did little wrong he may not have done enough right. Omitted for Joe Root, who made his debut in the last match of the series, he and everybody else saw the Yorkshire batsman take to the international forum as if to the manner born. While Patel may consider himself unfortunate he may also have played his last Test match.
Morgan has work to do again. He is clearly in England’s plans, otherwise they would hardly have taken him to India. But to continue to garner the selectors’ faith he must start scoring substantial Championship runs for Middlesex.
Morgan has indicated that if he is overlooked for the New Zealand tour he may well play the whole Indian Premier League competition. The attraction of that is obvious but it may also not be the wisest policy if he is sincere in his desperation to win back a Test place. Root and Jonny Bairstow are now ahead of him.
If the batting order for New Zealand is already pencilled in, the bowlers are not. Stuart Broad, the vice-captain, was dropped in India before injury curtailed his tour and must demonstrate that he has returned to both form and fitness to regain his place. With two Ashes series later in the year, that is extremely desirable.
It is possible that Graham Onions will be left out after hardly being given a chance to stake his claim for a recall against India. The selectors appear to have alighted on Stuart Meaker, the rapid Surrey bowler, as one for the future and the fact that he is not in the Lions squad, which is in Australia next month, suggests they have other plans for him.
Onions would be badly done to but there have been suggestions that some of the zest has gone from his bowling. It may be an indefinable quality but all international fast bowlers need it.
Whatever combination is picked, England should expect to prevail comfortably in the Tests against the Kiwis which begin on 6 March.
New Zealand were hammered in two Tests in South Africa this month, bowled out in their first innings for 45 and 121 respectively.
Their batting may be strengthened by the return of Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder but they look to be a team in disarray, which will be barely alleviated by playing at home.
A N Cook (capt), J M Anderson, J M Bairstow, I R Bell, T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, N R D Compton, S T Finn, S C Meaker, M S Panesar, K P Pietersen, M J Prior, J E Root, G P Swann, I J L Trott.