Cook to captain in Bangladesh Tests
Alastair Cook has been named as England's Test captain for their tour of Bangladesh in February and March, after the selectors opted to rest the regular captain Andrew Strauss, as well as their leading strike bowler, James Anderson, from the two-Test and three-ODI tour that also includes a two-match Twenty20 series against Pakistan in Dubai, in which Paul Collingwood will once again take charge.
Anderson has been rested from the tour in order to undergo a specialist review and a programme of rehabilitation for his chronic right knee injury. In a statement, the ECB anticipated that, following his rehabilitation period, he would be fully fit and available for selection for the World T20 tournament in the West Indies in late April.
Two uncapped players, the Yorkshire pace bowler Ajmal Shahzad and the Kent offspinner James Tredwell, have won places in both squads while another uncapped player, Hampshire's opening batsman, Michael Carberry has been included in the Test squad.
National selector Geoff Miller said: "Andrew Strauss has provided outstanding leadership for the team in both forms of the game over the past 12 months and the selectors feel it is important that he takes a break ahead of an extremely busy programme of international cricket leading up to and including the Ashes series in Australia and the World Cup in 2011.
Strauss is the only frontline Test batsman to miss the trip. "We want to try and keep this unit together as much as possible," said Miller. "One or two batters didn't perform as well as they might have done in South Africa, but captaincy is a mental battle and we want Strauss to come back refreshed for the summer. He's had an arduous time, the selectors feel he needs a break, and this is an opportunity.
"Our decision to appoint Alastair Cook to the Test vice-captaincy last year clearly demonstrated the belief that he has the potential to be a future England captain. Alastair will now have an opportunity to develop his leadership skills still further by leading the side in both forms of cricket in Bangladesh and I know that he is excited by the challenge and looking forward to working closely with Andy Flower.
"He's played over 50 Tests now," added Miller, "so it's not just a matter of thinking about the present time or the immediate future. It's a matter of thinking of the far future as well. He was given the vice-captaincy and we want to see how he performs with the onus of captaincy as well. It will be a difficult test, it always is with the captaincy because he's got to work on his batting too, but he'll get the opportunity to do that."
Although Cook will lead England in the three ODIs against Bangladesh, the selectors have once again asked Collingwood to fill the role for the Twenty20s in Dubai. "Paul Collingwood had an excellent tour of South Africa in all forms of cricket," said Miller, "and he will continue to lead the side in the Twenty20 format with the two Twenty20 internationals against the current world champions Pakistan providing excellent preparation for us ahead of the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean.
"We are delighted to welcome Ajmal Shahzad to both squads for the first time. He enjoyed an excellent season with Yorkshire last year, made a strong impression while he was in South Africa with the EPP [England Performance Programme] squad and is a bowler with the potential to make a real impact in international cricket."
Shahzad, a 24-year-old Huddersfield-born allrounder, said to Yorkshire's website that the call-up had come as a shock. "I had no idea I was going to be in the squad," he said. "I was disappointed, to say the least, that I wasn't selected in the England Lions squad that got announced. It's been a hard couple of years, just trying to get recognised, trying to get to the stage where I'm being selected for the England Lions team, the academy to South Africa, and just working hard there and getting the recognition to be selected."
Tredwell emerged as England's preferred spinning understudy to Graeme Swann during the tour of South Africa, and has pushed both Monty Panesar and Adil Rashid out of all three squads. Carberry, meanwhile, has been preferred to Kent's Joe Denly as the probable opening partner for Cook in the Bangladesh Tests.
"Tredwell and Carberry have also continued to impress the selectors over the course of the winter," said Miller. "And we expect both players to make a strong challenge for inclusion in our starting line-up on the forthcoming tour. We saw Monty bowling for three days in the nets in Jo'burg, and we saw an improvement there in his mental state as well. But James deserves his opportunity, and there is no reason to think we can't play two offspinners in their conditions."
Test squad Alastair Cook (capt), Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Michael Carberry, Paul Collingwood, Steven Davies, Graham Onions, Kevin Pietersen, Liam Plunkett, Matt Prior (wk), Ajmal Shahzad, Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, Jonathan Trott, Luke Wright.
One-day squad Alastair Cook (capt), Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Joe Denly , Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior (wk), Kevin Pietersen, Liam Plunkett, Ryan Sidebottom, Ajmal Shahzad, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, Jonathan Trott, Luke Wright.