With the news that Andy Flower has extended his contract as England team director, and with a busy summer of cricket ahead, there are a few decisions to be made about English cricket. While English cricket is certainly not at a crossroads, decisions do have to be made in order for England to succeed in the long run, and it's imperative that Flower gets them right. So I've had a look at what the 5 biggest decisions that Flower has to make this summer are, and how he should make them.
1. ODI captaincy
Andrew Strauss has been an excellent leader of England since taking the captaincy full-time 2 years ago, and he's also performed very well in ODI cricket. However, with an ever growing amount of international cricket taking it's toll, and Strauss knowing he won't be around for the 2015 World Cup, now appears to be the time to either stick or twist. If Strauss wants to stay on and play ODI cricket, it would make sense to have him in as captain, but if he decides to hang up his blue pads in order to prolong his test career, Flower needs to name a replacement. FEC Alastair Cook isn't currently in the England ODI side which may hold him back from getting the nod, and there are pros and cons for a number of candidates. There's a growing clamour for a return for Kevin Pietersen, as well as Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson, Ian Bell and even Graeme Swann. Flower has to get this decision right, as consistently chopping and changing the captaincy in the lead up to the 2015 WC can only be a negative issue.
2. Replacement for Collingwood
Paul Collingwood was a big part of England's test middle order for a number of years, and probably rightly retired from the format following the Ashes. While the bowling has been mixed and shaken about over the past few years, England's top seven has been incredibly settled, and now Flower needs to choose a replacement for Collingwood. The "man in possession", Eoin Morgan (who deputised for the injured Ian Bell against Pakistan) is probably more of a one-day player than a test batsman, perhaps something that could also be levelled at one of the other contenders Ravi Bopara. James Hildreth is a dark horse, but has no international experience which could count against him. Whoever is selected will need to perform immediately against very strong opposition in Sri Lanka and India, so Flower will have to get the selection spot on.
3. Fast bowling
England have the luxury of having a real strength in depth of fast bowlers, with Anderson, Broad, Finn, Bresnan, Tremlett and even Onions all vying for a probable three places in the team. Anderson and Broad appear definites, leaving the others fighting it out over the remaining place. All have impressed in the past year, and this selection could be one of Flower's toughest assignments.
4. ODI openers
We saw in the World Cup (and the Australia series immediately preceding it) that England struggled to get the right formula in terms of an opening partership. Strauss, Pietersen, Prior and Bell were all used, and with none of them guaranteed of their place in the team going forwards (and only Strauss being a "natural" opener) picking the two men at the top must be a real worry for Flower. Should be stick with the tried and trusted of Strauss and Cook or Davies, or look outside the box to a Hales or Chopra? The future of Strauss will help him decide, but changes will be needed if England are to succeed as an ODI team.
5. T20 captaincy
Currently Paul Collingwood is England's T20 captain. While it was only 12 months ago that he was hailed as the inspiration behind England's World T20 win, Collingwood's international career appears to be over, so as such will need to be replaced as the T20 skipper. While Flower's decision can be made much easier if Strauss steps aside from limited over cricket, leaving space for a joint captaincy, a real headache will be created if he decides to stay, with Flower needing to give someone the T20 captaincy. Again, the same candidates for the ODI captaincy will be in the running, and this decision could potentially be very awkward if Strauss wants to keep playing ODIs.