Which spinners should play for England in the Caribbean? What are Ashley Giles’ priorities in his new role? Who has the best pace attack in world cricket? Rob Key answers these questions and more…
Australia are struggling at the moment, with a 2-1 home series defeat to India the latest low point. How do you assess their current situation?
If you take the best players out of any team they are always going to struggle.
So the fact Australia haven’t got Steve Smith and David Warner is massive – they are two of the best players in the world. That’s the one crutch Australia have got, plus let’s not forget that this is a fantastic India side, with probably the best seam attack that country has ever produced.
I know there has been a lot of talk about Glenn Maxwell in the Australian press and why he does not appear to be in the thinking for Test cricket, but after a period of time your stats don’t lie.
Warner and Smith’s highlight how good they are as cricketers, while Maxwell has had a few cracks but averages 26 with the bat in Test matches. He is a fantastic talent but doesn’t have the numbers.
The other thing I’d say is that while I think stump mics being on is brilliant, Tim Paine is becoming more of a comedian than a cricketer and a captain! I don’t want to see a nice Australian side, I want to see them get back to playing fair and hard, like they did in Shane Warne and Steve Waugh’s day.
Pant ‘babysits’ Paine’s children!
India wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant took up Tim Paine’s challenge in Australia…
The Ashes is always competitive but it will be more competitive with Smith and Warner back and if Australia’s seam attack is fully fit it will be great to watch. No batsman in the world would ever take Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood lightly.
Is there a fair argument to be made that, across all conditions, India’s pace attack is the best in the world at the moment?
I think they possibly have. Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma are excellent, while, for me, Jasprit Bumrah could be the best bowler in the world for the next three years.
He is one of those players who comes around every now and again that people just cannot copy. He is more than quick enough and his wrist is so good, I don’t know how he does it.
His control and his ability is purely natural. Yes, he looks slightly awkward with no front arm and all that, but it works for him. That’s generally how the best bowlers are.
When Jimmy Anderson first came on the scene he set the world alight and it was only when people tried to change him that things changed. When he returned to his natural action he became the best bowler England have ever had.
England’s new managing director Ashley Giles has not yet decided whether to appoint split red and white-ball coaches when Trevor Bayliss leaves in September. Which way would you go?
I would make sure we picked the best people for the job. I know having one coach means a lot of work for one man but if you are the best person to coach Test cricket and one-day cricket then you find a way to do it.
If it works best that you have two very good people and split up the duties then fine, but I don’t think it worked too well when Ashley was limited-overs coach and Andy Flower was in charge of the Test side, for Giles in particular.
Ashley very rarely had his best players available – he is an excellent coach with a history of success and did not have a fair crack coaching England as he was without Kevin Pietersen at times, while some of the other Test boys were also rested.
I’m not so sure that split coaches work.
What are Giles’ key priorities over the next 12 to 18 months, other than the coaching appointment?
He has lots on his plate – ensuring domestic cricket is the best environment for producing Test cricketers, making sure that The Hundred is going to be a success and move English cricket forward.
But he is coming in at the perfect time as the core of those Test and one-day teams should remain in place for the next 10 years.
Ashley is very level-headed. Whenever I have watched him as a player and coach, he has always seemed very consistent emotionally which is a good thing in that managing director role as you are going to have good and bad days.
He dealt with that admirably through his career as a spin bowler, constantly coming back after people had written him off, while he will be able to empathise with players as he understands what it’s like to struggle in international cricket as well as succeed.
Sometimes you get these absolute greats who lack empathy for people who can’t do what they did but that won’t be the case with Gilo.
New Zealand’s form remains strong in all formats – how big a threat will they be at the World Cup?
You will never go into a World Cup where someone isn’t tipping up New Zealand as an outside chance – this time they will be behind England and India in the betting but not far behind.
We always say that they punch above their weight, yet we always tip them to do well and they have some top players – Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Martin Guptill, Tim Southee, Trent Boult. They are an excellent side in their own right.
If they have a day out they can beat England, India anyone. They have been a strong outfit for a long time in one-day cricket and are a side you are always wary of, no matter how good your form may be. Brendon McCullum captained brilliantly and Williamson is following suit.
Finally, England’s Test series in the Windies starts shortly. Do you envisage many changes to the side that whitewashed Sri Lanka?
Probably a seamer for a spinner. We pretty much went in with one seamer and Ben Stokes in the last series but I think we will see Stokes, two seamers and two spinners this time around.
That means two spinners out of Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Jack Leach and, personally, I would go for Ali and Rashid, which unfortunately means Leach misses out.
When there is more work for the seamers to do, you want Rashid to be that wicket-taker, especially if the pitch is flat and there is nothing going on.
If England are playing on an absolute dirty turner, then you are not playing the extra seamer anyway, so Leach and Rashid will both play – but on the pitches I expect to see in the Caribbean, I want a leg-spinner who turns it both ways.
Watch every ball of England’s Test and ODI series against Windies, starting with the first Test on Wednesday, January 23.