Jos Buttler could miss at least two of England’s tryouts against India in early 2021, and Ben Foakes will be given a chance as a wicketkeeper for part of the four-game series.
England will lay off all their multi-format players at some point during their tours to Sri Lanka and India, which will run from early January to late March. Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes will miss both events in Sri Lanka, while Buttler, England’s other guaranteed starter in all three formats, looks set to have a rest period during the India series.
Buttler’s likely absence will give Foakes, who is the backup bodyguard on the Sri Lanka tour, a chance to impress after nearly two years off the team. Jonny Bairstow has also been called up to the Sri Lanka series squad, but is currently viewed primarily as a skilled hitter. It is likely to be in the top five in the absence of Stokes, Rory Burns, who misses the tour to attend the birth of his first child, and the injured Ollie Pope.
“I think there will be opportunities for Ben Foakes at some point this winter,” said Ed Smith, the national coach. “Jos Buttler is sure to have a break at some point, so then he will create or open opportunities elsewhere. We are very fortunate in English cricket to have such strong depth in that area, and we will try to deploy those resources wisely and to the best use of the equipment.
“[Foakes] He spent the entire summer in the bubble, and I think there is a real understanding that he is a very good cricketer and that he deserves opportunities. I think there will soon be some opportunity for him at some point. “
Bairstow has played only one Test since the end of the 2019 Ashes series, making 1 and 9 against South Africa at Centurion last winter. He made two appearances for Yorkshire at the Bob Willis Trophy last summer, scoring 5, 75 and 22 while hitting No. 3, and Smith explained that he had been called up in recognition of his impressive record in Asia and against the spin.
“In his last test match in Sri Lanka, he got a hundred in Colombo in that 3-0 series win,” Smith said. “He has a very good record against spin, and we’ve seen the talent he is in different formats in recent weeks.”
“He missed the national team for the last year and he’s obviously been very frustrated about it, but … with his pedigree as a spin player in Asia, and with some gaps in the team also with Ben Stokes and Rory Burns absent, It felt like the perfect time to reintroduce Jonny to the group. “
Along with the rest of his selection panel, Smith has pointed out which series players are likely to be a part of in the next three months, acknowledging that Covid protocols have made touring a much less attractive prospect than they used to. to be. With a packed international schedule, the well-being of the players is seen as an increasingly important consideration at the ECB, as evidenced by the postponement of the ODI series in South Africa this week.
Smith said the selectors are viewing the next six tests in Asia in three separate blocks: the two tests in Galle, the first and second tests against India in Chennai, and the third and fourth in Ahmedabad, and intend to make changes in the team. for each of them. Those six tests are followed by a five-match T20I series in India, in which Eoin Morgan has said that he expects England to be in top form as part of their preparation for the T20 World Cup, before three ODIs leading to the 2021 IPL season.
“We will make changes to the India team mid-tour,” Smith said. “We won’t do that at the last minute. Obviously, there may be changes beyond that, but we think that’s the only way to make sure we have the balance between the right amount of resources at each position and also resting on those multiple players. in formats like Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes and also Sam Curran, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes, etc. “
With three of their top six regulars absent, England are likely to promote Zak Crawley to open in the series against Sri Lanka, with Bairstow in line for the selection in the middle order. Dan Lawrence may also receive an international debut in the middle order, although Smith clarified that Pope, who will travel to Sri Lanka to continue his rehabilitation, hopes to be fit in time for the tour of India following a shoulder injury.
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“[Pope] had a hit last week, “he said.” Ollie has obviously had a similar injury before. He came back brilliantly well and showed great resilience, which is such an important part of being an international cricketer, having that psychological resilience.
“He has been hit by that injury again and is absolutely determined to come back even better than ever. He is a brilliant hitter with a fantastic future ahead of him. We will be sensitive when he returns, as he will be, but he will be working and doing his best to be in the mix for the first test in India. “
Matt Roller is an assistant editor for ESPNcricinfo. He tweets @ mroller98