Captain Alastair Cook has ordered England to concentrate on cricket and nothing else as they begin a punishing run of 14 Test matches in 10 months.
Cook’s team face West Indies on Monday in the first of three Tests during an uncertain period in English cricket and after a
West Indian batting legend Sir Viv Richards believes it is “a great opportunity to take England down”.
But Cook said: “We must concentrate on what we control, which is the cricket.”
England’s Caribbean tour is the first time they have played Test cricket since
Since then Cook has been axed from his position as one-day captain and a dismal England were the first major team to exit the World Cup.
The future of Kevin Pietersen continues to dominate headlines, while there has also been unrest behind the scenes at the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), where Paul Downton has
as managing director.
Despite all the upheaval, Cook says he is “hugely excited” about facing West Indies, though he warns it will be “incredibly hard” to win the series.
Richards – who lost only eight Test matches out of 50 as West Indies captain – believes his country has a good chance of victory.
“Both teams are still reeling and on the ropes from what has taken place in the World Cup,” said the 63-year-old, who will be part of the
commentary team. “This is a real chance for the West Indies to make inroads and move forward in the rankings.”
Change at the ECB
Asked what effect Downton’s departure would have on the players, Cook replied: “To be honest, not a lot.”
He added: “Anyone losing their job in any circumstance is not good. It is not nice for him or his family and we all feel for Paul because of that.
“A lot has changed in the ECB over the last 12 months and a lot will probably continue to change over the next 12 months.”
Anderson 100 not out
England paceman James Anderson will
when he lines up against West Indies, and Cook describes him as “one of the most skilful bowlers I’ve ever seen”.
The England Test captain added: “I am privileged to play with him and to be standing on the field during his 100th Test is going to be very special.
“It is a wonderful achievement and we are all looking forward to it.”
Anderson needs four more wickets to overtake Sir Ian Botham’s tally of 383 and become the nation’s leading Test wicket-taker.
Jonathan Trott is poised to win his 50th Test cap and his first since
with stress-related problems.
“To see him back in the England colours is a great achievement,” said Cook. “Of course there will be pressure on him. There will be pressure on whoever plays.
“He has done everything we have asked of him in terms of coming back – this is the final hurdle he has to jump.”
World Cup regrets
“Of course it was frustrating to watch it from back home because captaining your country at a World Cup is one of the biggest honours in any sport,” Cook said.
“But it has gone now, it is irrelevant. We are here to concentrate on Test cricket.”
West Indies will be without key batsmen Chris Gayle (injured) and Dwayne Bravo (retired from Test cricket). Leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo, who played the last of his 11 Tests in April 2012, returns.
They have a new coach in Phil Simmons, who has
after eight years in charge of Ireland. He is the full-time replacement for
who won nine of his 36 Tests during his four years in charge.
It is widely agreed that England should have enough in their ranks to win. But Cook warned: “Any time you play away from home in Test cricket it is incredibly hard to win.”
West Indies squad for first Test:
D Ramdin (capt), K Brathwaite, S Benn, D Bishoo, J Blackwood, C Brathwaite, Da Bravo, S Chanderpaul, J Holder, S Hope, K Roach, M Samuels, D Smith, J Taylor.
A Cook (capt), J Trott, G Ballance, I Bell, J Root, B Stokes, J Buttler (wkt), C Jordan, A Rashid, S Broad, J Anderson, J Bairstow, A Lyth, J Tredwell, L Plunkett, M Wood.
Steve Davis (Aus) and Billy Bowden (NZ)
Bruce Oxenford (Aus)
Andy Pycroft (Zim)