Miller open-minded about Pietersen stand-in
England national selector Geoff Miller says Kevin Pietersen’s replacement for the first Investec Test with New Zealand will not be decided only by batting returns in this week’s England Lions game.
Jonny Bairstow, Ravi Bopara and James Taylor are among the Lions batsmen seeking to play at Lord’s in place of Pietersen, who has been ruled out of the two New Zealand Tests and the Champions Trophy by bone bruising to his right knee.
Bairstow, Bopara and Taylor are in the Lions XI to face the tourists at Grace Road, Leicester, in a four-day match starting tomorrow with one of the three likely to fill in for Pietersen next week.
Bairstow and Taylor are in the best batting form as their returns over the last 10 days show. Bairstow made scores of 186 and 53 while Taylor hit 97, one and 108. In that time Bopara has compiled just 23 runs from four innings but, unlike the other two, he offers a bowling option.
Miller, talking exclusively to ecb.co.uk at Trent Bridge during Taylor’s 97 for Nottinghamshire versus Durham, explained that batting form over a longer period will dictate Pietersen’s replacement.
Speaking of the Lions fixture, Miller said: “The New Zealand game is just an added bonus to us where we can see our players develop at a little bit of a higher level mentally than county cricket.
“We've got an idea where we are with the Test side even with Kevin not being available. So it wouldn’t just boil down to a straight battle between batters to actually get into that side.
“We know what we’re going to do. This is always good; Lions is always good because it gives us a realisation of players between county cricket and international cricket.”
The Lions will be lead for the first time by Joe Root, who is likely to play at Lord’s next week having featured in England’s last four Tests.
Root was due to be England Lions captain in Australia earlier this year, but his call-up to England’s one-day squad in New Zealand ruled him out of that tour.
The 22-year-old Yorkshireman will therefore make his senior captaincy debut versus a New Zealand outfit that beat Derbyshire over the bank holiday weekend.
“It’s a policy and it’s forward thinking,” Miller reflected. “We did it with Alastair Cook when Andrew Strauss was captain.
“You’ve got to be thinking a little bit further along the line, so it will be interesting to see how he reacts to captaincy. We know what his reaction is playing-wise. This is something a little bit different and giving him the responsibility of how he reacts to that.”
While Miller is keen to see how Root fares with more responsibility, he did not need another look at fit-again Graeme Swann.
Swann returned from elbow surgery last week with four wickets, all in the second innings, as Durham snatched a stunning win at Trent Bridge. He followed up with 1-15 from seven miserly overs in victory over former county Northamptonshire in the Yorkshire Bank 40 on Sunday.
“We know what Graeme’s capable of doing,” Miller confidently said. “We can just watch him to see how he’s reacted when he plays in this county match. He’s proved what he can do over the past in Test cricket. There’s no need to perform him in the Lions.”
Root and Co will be overseen by England limited-overs coach Ashley Giles, who is part of the management team for the Lions match.
Among others, Giles will be keeping a close eye on four members of his Champions Trophy squad: Bairstow, Bopara, Root and Chris Woakes.
Miller said Giles will also be “getting to know players in the changing room that he’s not been involved with before”.
He continued: “Andy (Flower) obviously knows them all pretty well. Ashley gets to know them because he’s now involved in the one-day (set-up). Although it’s not actually a one-day game, it helps to make him aware of what actually goes through people’s minds and that’s all part of the game as well.”