Nick Knight column: Alastair Cook looked lonely and vulnerable – England's World Cup selectors have a tough decision to make on Friday

He seemed desperate to convince himself and others he should stay as captain

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The Independent Online

England’s selectors meet on Friday to pick their World Cup squad. The agenda might look like this:

1. Alastair Cook’s role as captain.

2. Lessons from the Sri Lanka tour.

3. The possibility of bringing in new players to invigorate the squad.

Before addressing those questions, it is very easy when on the cusp of another global tournament to get distracted by other nations’ strengths.

For instance, Australia have power-hitters and fast bowlers, as do South Africa. India are full of classy batsman who also bowl, which helps balance the side. Such assets make these sides favourites.

Right now England must pick from their best available resources, which will include an aggressive fast-bowling unit suited to southern-hemisphere conditions and a powerful middle-order with depth.

An example of England suddenly introducing new players might be Jason Roy from Surrey, a very talented and gifted batsman who I’m sure will have a good international career. He is strong and powerful in the mould of Aaron Finch or David Warner for Australia, but rightly or wrongly England have not picked him in this format yet. Now would not be the right time.

After the final game in Sri Lanka when Cook stood in front of all the various media outlets, he looked a lonely, vulnerable figure desperately trying to convince himself and others he should continue as England’s one-day captain. But perhaps his words told us more when he said he could have no complaints about now being left out because he has not played well enough.

If England do drop Alastair, I would have great empathy with him, having been left out of the team at the 1999 World Cup. At the time I was inconsolable but with hindsight even I could understand some of the rationale.

While Cook’s form has been poor, so, too, has that of the other senior players, in particular Eoin Morgan. He has a fine pedigree in this format but in the last year has seemed unable to recapture his best form.

His position in the line-up has changed to try to bring the best out of him. England will not drop him at this stage, and nor should they, but the selectors will hope the faith shown will be repaid in the World Cup.

If the selectors jettison Cook then Morgan would likely be captain, a strong character who even with his own struggles would have the respect of the team.

Although the series was lost in Sri Lanka, some clarity has still emerged, with Chris Woakes a shoo-in for the squad and even the final XI.

Woakes has bowled well at the start of the innings in the batting powerplay and at the end of the innings. He might also have overtaken Steven Finn if everyone is fit. Chris Jordan also had a productive month away, showing his return to more disciplined bowling but not at the expense of his pace.

So the attack for the first game against Australia on 14 February might be Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Woakes, Jordan and Moeen Ali, with Joe Root and Ravi Bopara to help out. James Tredwell’s inclusion deserves thought. England may feel conditions work against him.

James Taylor’s last-minute inclusion in the team in Sri Lanka and subsequent success means he should start at No 3. He is a player with much domestic one-day pedigree and genuine self-belief in his methods.

Root will bat at four, Morgan at five, Bopara at six and Jos Buttler at seven. That represents a strong middle-order.

But the selectors’ biggest and hardest decision  still remains: who should be captain?