No ‘weakening’ of England team, even with changes afoot – Chris Silverwood

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Ben Foakes comes in for resting Jos Buttler, coach mulls bowling options

Chris Silverwood believes there will be no “weakening” of the England team even if he decides to make several changes to it ahead of the second Test against India.

England won the first Test of the series by 227 runs but, with only three full days between games, the team management have suggested they will use a rest and rotation policy to keep players – especially bowlers – as fit and fresh as possible.

One change is certain. With Jos Buttler, who has enjoyed an impressive few weeks in Sri Lanka and India, given a couple of weeks to rest at home, Ben Foakes will take the gloves for the first time in two years.

It is also possible England will recall Stuart Broad in the place of James Anderson and Olly Stone in the place of Jofra Archer. There might also be discussion over recalling Moeen Ali in place of Dom Bess, who experienced a match of great highs and lows.

While leaving out a player as celebrated as Anderson might appear controversial, Silverwood insists he will not be afraid to make such a decision with a view to ensuring his players remain at their best for the entire series and the many challenges that lie beyond it.

“I’m not reluctant to change a winning team if it’s the best thing to do for the players and the team and the longevity of it,” Silverwood said. “You run the risk of the result being different, but you could play the same team and the result would be different because we know India will come back hard.

“It is hard to leave a player like Anderson out; he is a class act. But Stuart Broad didn’t play in the last game and we’ve many bowlers here who we could play at any given point.

“But no, I’m not reluctant to change the team because I think it’s the best thing for us to do over a long period.

“I don’t see it as weakening; I see it as an opportunity for people to come in and show what they can do.”

England utilised the rotation policy in Sri Lanka. Anderson and Broad both played one Test each and, at the end of the trip, Sam Curran and Mark Wood, who had played in both Tests, were sent home for a rest. They were replaced by Ben Stokes and Archer, who had been rested for the Sri Lankan leg of the trip.

While such policies might have been controversial a decade ago, there appears to be a growing appreciation of England’s schedule and the tough physical conditions in which many of these games are played. They are due to play 17 Tests this year with a T20 World Cup and limited-overs tours to Bangladesh and Pakistan to consider, too.

While Buttler’s keeping has been excellent on this tour, Foakes should prove an able deputy. He was player of the series when England won in Sri Lanka at the end of 2018 and, as well as being considered the best gloveman in England, has a higher Test (41.50) and first-class (38.78) batting average than Buttler (34.53 and 33.38 respectively).

Broad (who conceded 1.33 runs per over and claimed his three wickets at a cost of 11.33 apiece) and Anderson (1.48 and six at 7.66 respectively) were both successful in Sri Lanka, with both having accepted the advantages of rest and rotation as they seek to extend their careers. Mitchell Starc, by comparison, played throughout Australia’s recent series against India and saw his figures deteriorate.

Still, while rotating them worked in Sri Lanka and looks set to be tried again here, Silverwood has not ruled out combining them as some stage. With the third Test of the series being played with a pink ball and under lights, that could provide the opportunity.

“Has it crossed my mind? Yes: they are both class acts,” Silverwood said. “There is potential to do that.

“Things are working at the moment and we do have to look after our players, but I just feel very lucky I have an abundance of talent that means we can do this.”

Silverwood also agreed that, such is Anderson’s dedication to his fitness, he could play on into his 40s.

“Could he play into his 40s? It’s his choice,” Silverwood said. “He is in the best shape of his life. He has worked extremely hard on his fitness and is in great shape and bowling beautifully. As long as he is fit and strong and healthy and wants to play he throws his hat in the ring.

“We have a very good science and medical team. I feel very lucky to have the staff I have working in that department. But Jimmy is a shining light. He is the best form of his life from a physical point of view and that is reflected in his bowling.”

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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