ENGLAND have announced a Lions party to tour the West Indies for two months as part of the first class championship after a gap of exactly 10 years, when Peter Moores was the coach.
James Hildreth has been made captain of a group of players rich in promise, with the coach still to be confirmed. They leave on January 24 and are due to play all the Caribbean first class regions. In 2001 England A experienced a testing programme of four-day cricket under Mark Alleyne, a revolutionary idea designed to heighten interest in West Indian cricket as much as to educate England players.
The only drawback was that England A lacked form in the batting, and most of the players on that tour only flirted with the international fringes. In fact a knee ligament injury during beach volleyball virtually ended David Sales's hopes of playing Test cricket.
James Foster and Chris Read were two top-rate wicketkeepers, perhaps the highlight of the tour. Ian Ward's long occupation of the crease -- hastening brief Test elevation -- and Graeme Swann's attempt to catch the eye were interesting features. Moores was outstanding as coach, putting himself on the ladder to the top job. The ECB should appoint a person they consider could guide Test cricketers in the future because this Caribbean schedule is very demanding.
in 2001 Swann paraded a remodelled action that set his career back until he reverted to his 'windmill' style after this tour. He finished as second-best spinner behind Chris Schofield... John Crawley's attempt to break back into Test cricket through heavy scoring did not succeed. Crowds did not flock to the matches, though 8,000 turned up on the first day at the Bourda, where England lost to Guyana.
The 2010 tourists seem to have more players with better prospects, most notably Steve Finn, James Harris, Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid, Ravi Bopara and Chris Woakes (replacing Finn for the second half of the trip). Hildreth might possibly have missed the boat for Test recognition, but this Caribbean challenge should provide a measure of character. As captain he does not have to worry about whether he gets an innings or not. Batting, as in 2001, could be the main headache.
The itinerary is due to be announced later.
James Hildreth (Somerset, captain)
Jimmy Adams (Hampshire)
Adam Lyth (Yorkshire)
James Taylor (Leicestershire)
Ravi Bopara (Essex)
Andrew Gale (Yorkshire)
Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire)
Adil Rashid (Yorkshire)
Ben Stokes (Durham)
Chris Woakes (Warwickshire) (second half of tour only)
Craig Kieswetter (Somerset)
Liam Plunkett (Durham)
Maurice Chambers (Essex)
Danny Briggs (Hampshire)
Steve Finn (Middlesex) (first half of tour only)
James Harris (Glamorgan)
Jade Dernbach (Surrey)