Miller salutes Strauss impact
Watch ECBtv's exclusive interview with Geoff Miller looking ahead to the first Test in Jamaica
National selector Geoff Miller has lavished praise on captain Andrew Strauss for the superb atmosphere in the England squad.
The tourists have completed two warm-up matches in St Kitts and are now in Jamaica ahead of the first Test against West Indies at Sabina Park, which begins on Wednesday.
Miller watched the high-scoring draw with West Indies A and was delighted by England’s application on the field and the sense of camaraderie off it.
The former England all-rounder picked out the new skipper, who has been working with assistant coach Andy Flower, for special attention.
“It’s been absolutely brilliant on the field,” he told ECBtv.
“The changing room’s been excellent and the vibes round about is that it’s been top-class and Andrew Strauss deserves a lot of credit for what he’s created with Andy Flower.
England gained valuable match practice against the Caribbean’s second string who chose to bat first on a featherbed.
Their 574 for eight declared occupied 150 overs before Strauss’ men made good use of their one knock, posting 414 in 90 overs.
Strauss, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood registered fifties after Steve Harmison had claimed four wickets and James Anderson two.
“There’s a lot of work put in. They’ve worked really hard,” Miller said.
“What I’ve seen these last three days, it has been hard work. It’s a very flat wicket but they’ve performed and they’re getting ready.
He added: “When it comes to the first day of the first Test the boys will be ready.”
“They’ve all had a knock; they’ve all done well with the bat; all been out in the middle; they’ve all had a very long bowl on a fairly flat wicket.
Miller admitted England know the likely make-up of the first Test XI and re-emphasised the importance of consistency in selection.
However, he did not rule out the possibility of a recall for in-form batsman Owais Shah and also laid out the selection criteria for the bowling attack.
“There’s always battles. You’ve got a squad out here; a squad of an extra batter; and extra bowlers,” he said.
“So it’s not just the ones who are bowling best at the time. It’s what kind of mental state they’re in, and physical state, and what surface you’re playing on.
“So we’ll take all those things into consideration before we make the last decision.”
With three specialist spinners in the squad - Monty Panesar, Graeme Swann and Adil Rashid - Miller also suggested two could be paired in at least one of the four Tests.
The 56-year-old intimated that Panesar and Swann, who bowled in tandem in the first Test against India in Chennai, were at the top of the pecking order.
“We’ve got the opportunity to play two spinners if we need to, so we’ll just wait and see if it’ll be beneficial to do that,” he added.
Monty’s getting his form back. I’ve seen him bowl in the nets. He got wickets out in the middle so that’s coming together nicely.
“Graeme’s bowled well. It was a very flat wicket to bowl on there but he’s in good nick himself, so again we’ll wait and see.”
“If we need to play two spinners we will.”
Miller also made clear England would not underestimate West Indies, although the tourists consider themselves favourites for the Test series.
Lendl Simmons’ mammoth 282 for West Indies A came as a timely reminder that the hosts have greater strength in depth than in recent meetings.
“They’re improving. The West Indies are a good side. They’ve started to improve gradually,” Miller concluded.
“We’ve got to be on our mettle. We are. We feel ‘yes we’re the favourites’ but you’ve still got to perform in the middle to actually make sure the result goes in your favour.”