Cricket Expert & Columnist
West Indies trip offers Ashley Giles opportunity to boost England Test role claims, says Nick Knight
England's West Indies trip will prime them for their T20 World Cup challenge, says Nick Knight.
Last Updated: 07/03/14 9:52am
They'll face the West Indies in three ODIs in Antigua - starting from Friday live on Sky Sports - ahead of a triple header in the shortest format of the game in Barbados at the start of March, before flying on to Bangladesh for the World T20.
I always felt as a player my best preparation for ODI cricket was Championship cricket, purely because you get more time in the middle and can hone your form and timing over a longer period. I was then able to take that extra sharpness into the shorter format.
Likewise, these three ODIs will give the players a chance to get some form ahead of what is a crucial tournament and, coupled with the three T20 matches, this trip should be ideal preparation for their campaign in Bangladesh.
However, the three 50-over contests also offer the likes of Luke Wright and Alex Hales the chance to stake a claim for a permanent spot at the top of the order in England's ODI team.
Currently the England selectors really need their arm twisted to change their present method, which sees Alastair Cook and Ian Bell facing the new ball.
Whilst the ODI series in Australia started poorly, by the end England had their approach spot on and you could see Cook, Bell and the management had changed their approach dramatically.
That pair showed they can do the job against two new white balls and with the next World Cup in Australia, with the extra bounce in the surface, you need an opening pair who can cope with the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Dale Steyn, set up the innings, bat through and finish the game if necessary.
The skills required in ODI cricket are slightly different to T20 - where strategy must be much more instinctive - and the likes of Hales, Wright and Michael Lumb will have to convince the selectors they have the ability to do that.
The next few weeks - and the World T20 - are also a chance for Ashley Giles to put himself in a very strong position to add the Test team duties to his current limited-overs role.
It's certainly hard to imagine if England lift that trophy in Bangladesh, with the ECB set to make their decision on the Test team role shortly afterwards, that Giles won't be in prime position.
I thought he made a few mistakes in Australia, in terms of approach and selection, which he'll have reflected upon, but if he gets it right in the Caribbean and has a good tour and World T20 then there's every chance he could be England coach in all formats.
Former England ODI captain Paul Collingwood will be on hand to help the team in the West Indies and Bangladesh after being brought in as a short-term coach and that's a move I like a lot.
The current Durham captain is going to bring a lot to the team; he was an exceptional player, certainly in the one day format, and I only wish he'd been appointed earlier.
It's going to be quite difficult for him to come in for a couple of weeks in the West Indies and then go straight into a global tournament and have a huge impact on the side.
However, his appointment is an indication Giles is getting his way in terms of the key personnel and specific individual coaches he wants surrounding him.
Let's make no bones about it, Collingwood's a rookie coach but I'd imagine he's there to offer lots of advice and to do a lot work in the field.
I've followed England around closely for the last year and a half and their fielding in all formats of the game has dropped off quite dramatically - there are too many catches going down and their general standard of fielding has dramatically deteriorated.
Collingwood, being one of the best fielders we've produced for a long, long time, will certainly help in that department.
Unfortunately England also have a short-term history of changing plans just prior to a world tournament and it makes it difficult when you do it with such short notice.
This is another example of that so whether Collingwood can help England secure ODI and T20 success in the Caribbean we'll soon find out.
Disappointingly Chris Gayle seems set to miss the 50-over matches with injury and that's a real shame in my eyes as he's great entertainment and I always enjoy watching him play.
I think it's a shame for the England bowlers, too.
Although they will have an easier time with him not playing, it would have been good preparation for them to be up against someone like Gayle, knowing they just can't afford to get it wrong and if they're slightly off line they're going to get punished.
That's a good discipline for the bowlers to go into a global tournament with.
The West Indies also have several options when it comes to taking pace off the ball, with the likes of Darren Sammy and Sunil Narine.
Narine, in particular, I think is an excellent spinner; England have been found wanting against spin in one day cricket in the past and he could have a lot of success.
However, with Gayle missing, I'd expect England to be favourites to take the ODIs, while the T20s will be a huge challenge against the World T20 champions, who have such good pedigree in that format.