Samit Patel could earn one-day recall
The start of England's new four-year cycle begins in earnest on Tuesday morning, when the selectors unveil their first one-day squad since the end of the 2011 World Cup. With Alastair Cook inked in as captain in the wake of Andrew Strauss's retirement, and Stuart Broad set to lead his country for the first time in the one-off Twenty20 at Bristol next weekend, the coming fortnight represents the first step on the journey towards the 2015 World Cup in Australasia.
With that in mind, the squad announcement, scheduled for 9.00am, promises to be notable for its absentees every bit as much as its new inclusions. Paul Collingwood, who retired from Test cricket at the end of the Ashes in a bid to press on as a limited-overs specialist, is likely to find himself shunted into the sidelines at the age of 35. James Anderson and Matt Prior are also in danger of missing out, while Samit Patel, he of the unsuitably wide waistline, might finally have done enough gym-work to convince the selectors that he has the right sort of hunger to thrive at the top level.
Collingwood has recently returned from a two-month break following knee surgery, an operation which he said has put a new spring back into his step. But despite his undeniable value to the team as an elder statesman, canny medium-pacer and lightning sharp fielder in the gully, the extent to which his runs dried up in the winter was alarming. He managed 83 in five Ashes Tests, and a further 114 in eight sporadic ODI appearances, and by the time of England's World Cup quarter-final elimination by Sri Lanka, he was no longer a member of their first-choice team.
With an England record 197 ODIs to his name, and 300 international appearances all told, Collingwood himself knows he might struggle to build on that figure. "When you get older there's a lot more pressure," he told The Cricketer magazine. "People start looking at your age. You have to be fitter than you've ever been because you can't give them an excuse to ignore you. But I feel fit, I feel sharp, all the desire is there, so I just need to score the runs that demand attention."
The cases of Prior and Anderson are slightly different. In Test cricket both men remain central planks of England's strategy, but their performances in the World Cup paled compared to their effectiveness in Australia before Christmas. Anderson in particular looked jaded after his exertions in the Ashes, as he claimed four wickets in five matches at 70.50, and was battered around the subcontinent at more than a run a ball.
With Tim Bresnan returning to fitness after an injury-plagued start to the season, and with young thrusters such as Jade Dernbach and Chris Woakes eager to build on the progress they made in the winter, the temptation may be to leave Anderson on the sidelines, especially given how integral to England's fortunes he is sure to be when India arrive next month for their Test series.
Prior, meanwhile, is under pressure for his place from Somerset's Craig Kieswetter, who burst to prominence during England's World Twenty20 victory in the Caribbean last May, but was found out by the moving ball during his subsequent ODI appearances. In his absence the wicketkeeping gloves were passed first to Steve Davies, and then back to Prior, when it became clear that England missed his energy and expertise behind the stumps. However, with the bat, he has consistently struggled to reproduce the free-flowing form that has marked his Test career, and Kieswetter's ability to clear the in-field in the Powerplay overs is an asset worth revisiting.
The most notable recall could well be Nottinghamshire's Samit Patel, a punishing middle-order batsman and handy spinning allrounder, whom England had been desperate to call upon for the World Cup. However, his persistent failure to meet England's exacting fitness standards told against him, and it is only now, after a feisty start to the county season, that he is beginning to inch back to favour.
One slight concern for England going into the limited-overs series is the fitness of Broad, who had to leave the field for treatment on the final day of the Sri Lanka Test at the Rose Bowl. He has sustained a bruised right heel, although Strauss said he was expected to be fit to lead his new team in the Bristol Twenty20.
"It's a niggle rather than anything serious," said Strauss. "He will have to rest up over the next few days, because we've always got to look after our bowling resources. But it will be the same situation as anything else - if he's fit enough to play then he'll play. I don't think there's any real reason to doubt that he won't be fit."
Possible ODI squad Alastair Cook (capt), Craig Kieswetter (wk), Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara, Samit Patel, Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, Chris Tremlett, Chris Woakes, Jade Dernbach
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo