England delay Test squad announcement

Michael Carberry

Michael Carberry

First published in Sport

England have shelved plans to announce their squad for the Test tour of India tomorrow, as discussions over Kevin Pietersen's future continue.

Team director Andy Flower had previously stated that he wanted the touring party finalised before flying to Sri Lanka for the World Twenty20 but, while selection discussions are at an advanced stage, the planned announcement has been delayed until at least Tuesday.

Reports today indicated a call has already been made to go without Pietersen for the four-Test series, but Press Association Sport understands the door has not been closed just yet.

Although unlikely given the issues of "trust and mutual respect" that have undermined Pietersen's relationship with sections of the dressing room, there is a chance the 32-year-old could travel if private negotiations with the England and Wales cricket Board bear fruit in the coming days.

Pietersen has admitted sending "provocative" messages to friends in the South Africa dressing room, but also harbours grievances of his own and as such was not offered a central contract when the 2012/13 batch were drawn up.

He has not played for England since the second Test against South Africa, missing the series decider against the Proteas, the subsequent limited-overs matches and also the forthcoming T20 tournament.

Should the selectors decide a Pietersen return in November would be too soon, they have to resolve how best to replace him.

With former captain Andrew Strauss having retired at the end of the South Africa series, England have already lost one experienced campaigner and must think long and hard about the make-up of their top six if they leave Pietersen at home.

With 117 England appearances to his name, albeit only 13 of them in Tests, Ravi Bopara has enough international cricket under his belt to soften the blow of Pietersen's absence, but is currently in chronically bad form.

His awkward medium-pacers may yet see him play in Sri Lanka and, if he can turn his wretched batting around in that tournament, he would go to India.

Eoin Morgan, dropped from the Test side earlier this year after a troubled run of his own, appears certain to make the squad after being awarded one of 10 full central contracts this month.

That leaves Jonny Bairstow as the most likely pick of the younger generation of middle-order batsmen, ahead of both Jos Buttler and James Taylor.

England have also been wrestling with the question of who will take Strauss' place alongside captain Alastair Cook at the top of the order.

Yorkshire's Joe Root is the most obvious long-term bet, but at 21 may be given more time to develop. With uncertainty over the credentials of Michael Carberry, 31, and Nick Compton, 29, England may ask Jonathan Trott to open and shift Ian Bell to number three.

The identity of the spin contingent will also have been discussed, with Monty Panesar favourite to continue as second choice to Graeme Swann.

A third slow bowler is a certainty, with Samit Patel, Danny Briggs and James Tredwell all offering different qualities.

Patel's batting prowess could ultimately count in his favour, especially given the question marks over the specialist batsmen.

All will become clear when national selector Geoff Miller finally chooses to make the panel's decisions public.

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