shley Giles says England will not “rush or force” their returning IPL stars back into action in next month’s Test series against New Zealand, likely leading to “a look at some new faces” ahead of bumper series against India and Australia this year.
England currently have nine players quarantining after their return from the postponed IPL, including Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran, all of whom have Test contracts with the national team. Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow have also played Test cricket this year.
They would be out of quarantine in time to possibly play in the round of County Championship matches on 20 May before entering the England bubble eight days later (the Test series starts at Lord’s on June 2), but Director of Cricket Giles says their involvement will be judged on a “case by case basis” because “they are all different”.
It seems unlikely, however, that they would be “cricket ready” ([particularly relevant for bowlers) just a few days after spending 10 days in a small hotel room with minimal access to exercise, making it harder still for them to be ready to face New Zealand.
Possible new faces include James Bracey, who averages 53 for Gloucestershire this summer, and Ollie Robinson, as well as a return for Craig Overton. Both bowlers have had outstanding starts to the season, with Robinson taking 25 wickets at 14 for Sussex and Overton (who also has two half-centuries) 32 at 14 for Somerset.
“All these guys [those returning from the IPL] are currently in quarantine and have had a number of spells in quarantine and bubbles,” said Giles. “Some of it’s their choice, I get that. We need to look after them, with the amount of cricket they’ve got coming up, we’re not going to rush or force them back into cricket.
“[Coach] Chris Silverwood will work with each and every one of them, as will our medical teams on what’s best for their progress. On the matter of playing cricket, they are all different. We know historically that Chris Woakes likes to get more overs under his belt with the red ball before he’s up to speed. Others react differently to that, so it’s a case by case basis.”
Giles admitted that the “weight of cricket” this year, when England play five-match series at home to India and in Australia, as well as having a T20 World Cup, would come into consideration.
“We have got an awful lot of cricket coming up,” he says. “We only have seven Tests between now and the Ashes, but that’s a lot more than our competition at the moment. That with the amount of other cricket we have to play, we almost want to get this tapering towards the Ashes. We have got to get that right. Is that against New Zealand? I don’t know. That’s something for us to continue to discuss.
“Given the weight of cricket, given the Ashes series, and we don’t know what conditions that’s going to be played in at the moment with regard to a Covid environment, we are going to need a bigger group of players still. [So] we may also choose against New Zealand to look at some new faces.”
Jofra Archer could play for Sussex this Thursday against Kent, but his county coach Ian Salisbury said “we have to look after Jofra and look at the bigger picture”. Archer got through a Second XI game last week on his comeback from hand and elbow injuries, but may have to wait for a first-class return.
“If he’s right to play this week then so be it, but if he’s not, he’s not because it is more important long term,” Salisbury said. “Are we going to force him to come back when he’s actually England’s player and say he gets injury and he can’t play in the Test matches this summer. I wouldn’t be very popular.”