Ashley Giles relaxes as 'Frankenstein's monster' of a squad leaves
Coach was nervous at start of debut series but learnt a lot from failures during India experiments
Monday 28 January 2013
They came, they saw, but the conquering must wait for a team less experimental. The England coach, Ashley Giles, who admitted that a bout of pre-tour nerves left him not himself, confirmed as much.
"On reflection, if I'd been offered 3-2 maybe I would have taken it. I couldn't have got a much tougher start. We've seen a lot of different guys and learnt a lot of different things even in games we've lost. If we weren't learning I'd be worried."
As experiments go, by the end of the series there was an air of Frankenstein's monster about the squad: it was from the failed elements that Giles learnt the most. Just like Dr Frankenstein, he has learned a good deal about himself.
"I've enjoyed it," Giles said of the experience, "When I first came I was a little nervous, almost not yourself. I feel more relaxed now, I feel I can be more myself."
If Giles' confidence was galvanised, there was also a sense of certain players being cut adrift into an Arctic wilderness. Craig Kieswetter landed in India in possession of the wicketkeeping gloves, he departs without them. There have been concerns about his ability to control an innings and his failure to do so in Kochi and Ranchi merely publicly confirmed private misgivings.
Jos Buttler's elevation at Kieswetter's expense may look like Giles' first ruthless act, but the real surprise is that it did not happen sooner. There are only six one-day internationals left before the Champions Trophy for Buttler to prove himself. His keeping was competent, although his promise lies in his ability in front of, not behind, the stumps. Ian Bell has spoken of the cramping effect M S Dhoni's up-to-the-stumps keeping had on his and Kevin Pietersen's front-foot game. Fortunately for Buttler, the benefits accrued from an innately talented wicketkeeper are unquantifiable.
What can be counted are the runs routinely given away by Jade Dernbach. When set against the penetrating displays of Steven Finn, the 26-year-old has much to learn, quickly. There is little to write about fellow pace bowler Stuart Meaker because we saw so little. His absence from the last of the five matches in Dharamsala was damnable, as was Giles' response to Meaker's non-selection: "We wanted to win the game."
Samit Patel at least played in Dharamsala but his bowling has regressed and his ability against spin was not in evidence. His fall will be little noticed owing to the rise of Joe Root. Giles described the 22-year-old as "phenomenal". It is hard to disagree. Root's improvements with the ball and the Indian conditions saw England ditch their policy of picking five front-line bowlers but Giles all but admitted the abandonment would be brief.
"The balance will be something we look at in New Zealand because conditions will be similar to the Champions Trophy. Often when you pick five bowlers they know their roles. Picking more bowlers can muddle it. With five top-quality bowlers they have to do the job."
Those five for the Champions Trophy will include James Anderson and Graeme Swann, both exempt from the Indian experiment, and Stuart Broad if he proves both form and fitness. Finn is the fourth. And the fifth? That will be a choice between youngsters Chris Woakes and James Harris – both in the one-day squad for New Zealand – and Tim Bresnan, who misses the rest of winter as medical specialists examine his bothersome elbow.
While those doctors get to work on Bresnan, Giles will be using New Zealand as his new laboratory. Luckily for Giles' nerves, this time only tinkering will be required.
Squad report: hits and misses
James Tredwell As an individual, he is diametrically opposed to Graeme Swann; as a player, almost his equal.
Jos Buttler At the centre of much glove-induced angst as Craig Kieswetter's form fell away. But the gloves fit Buttler.
Joe Root Hasn't been asked to keep yet. If he is, he'd probably turn out to be in the same mould as Alan Knott.
Danny Briggs His injury announcement in Dharamsala was the first anyone knew about him being on tour.
Jade Dernbach More varieties than Heinz but is so expensive not even a Russian oligarch could afford him.
Craig Kieswetter This may be the last time you read the 25-year-old's name in England news for a while. Savour it.
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