Trott in contention as England switch focus
After a World Cup campaign that has left many genuinely shocked about the state of England's one-day game, focus will swiftly move on to the next assignment: three Tests in the West Indies. The World Cup, of course, is just getting into the swing of the knockout stages but England are long gone, with Alastair Cook preparing to resume the captaincy ahead of a gruelling schedule that will see them play 17 Tests between April and the end of January.
Cook was handed an enforced break from England's not-so-merry-go-round when he was sacked as ODI captain before Christmas, so should be enthused about heading to the Caribbean in a couple of weeks' time. Up to two thirds of the World Cup squad could be expected to join him as England attempt to shore things up ahead of this summer's Ashes - a series which is likely to cast final judgement on Peter Moores' second crack at the head coach's job.
Moores and his fellow selectors - James Whitaker, Angus Fraser and Mick Newell - have deliberated the make-up of the party, which will be announced on Wednesday and could include 16 or 17 names. Only two were present, with Fraser and Newell at opposite points of the compass on pre-season tours with Middlesex (Abu Dhabi) and Nottinghamshire (Barbados) respectively, but there will have been plenty of issues to toss around over speaker phone, even if the conversation lingered only briefly on what transpired in Australia and New Zealand.
Chief among those will have been the identity of Cook's opening partner in Tests and a potential return for Jonathan Trott. Having not played for England since a stress-related illness forced his early departure from the nightmarish 2013-14 Ashes tour, Trott's inclusion would be a heartening one and indications are that England are keen to recall one of their most prolific run-scorers.
Trott captained the Lions in South Africa in January and stamped his mark on the series with an unbeaten 211 in the first unofficial Test. Although Gary Ballance has settled into Trott's former redoubt at No. 3, Trott has said that he would be happy to open the batting, which could help solve a problem that has vexed England since the retirement of Andrew Strauss three years ago, if only in the medium term.
Trott has opened once before in a Test, against Bangladesh in 2010, and although any comeback is bound to be tested by a short-ball inquisition wherever he bats, the pitches in the West Indies are more easy-paced than they used to be. Central to the selectors' thinking may be whether he is ready to withstand another barrage when Mitchell Johnson and the Australians arrive in England later this year.
Had Sam Robson made a weight of runs during his seven Tests last summer, all this would have been moot - but one century, one fifty and an average of 30.54 mean he is far from certain to hold on to his opener's position. Robson made only 46 runs in three innings for the Lions against South Africa A but two other rivals for the spot, the Yorkshire pair of Adam Lyth and Alex Lees, did not fare much better. England's tendency to stick rather than twist, as well as the presence of Fraser, Robson's coach at Middlesex, on the selection panel, might ensure continuity.
That could mean the XI who took the field against India at The Oval in August all flying out to the Caribbean - depending on the fitness of Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes, both of whom missed England's final World Cup match against Afghanistan. Moeen has a side strain that requires four weeks of rest and Woakes a stress reaction in his foot but both would otherwise be certainties; the temptation to rest Joe Root also seems likely to be resisted as England seek immediate atonement for the last month.
While the bowling attack was worryingly ineffective with white balls in hand, Cook and Moores will hope Test-match conditions can reinvigorate James Anderson - who needs four wickets to pass Ian Botham's England record - and Stuart Broad. Among the back-up, Liam Plunkett was the most successful Lions bowler in South Africa, while Boyd Rankin and Mark Wood could come into contention as fast-bowling options. Spin cover will be of extra importance due to Moeen's injury, as well as the possibly docile surfaces, with James Tredwell and Adil Rashid offering contrasting capabilities as understudy.
It is not known whether the bowling coach, David Saker, will make the trip, after he agreed a new job as head coach of Melbourne Renegades, but England are unlikely to throw the data out with the bathwater. The analysts should remain on board but the most important numbers may be found in the ICC's Test rankings: England, after their 3-1 win over India last year, are third while West Indies lie down in eighth. They are still at the World Cup, though.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick