Alastair Cook's ODI captaincy has faced severe criticism from former English players like Graeme Swann © Getty Images
Alastair Cook’s ODI captaincy has faced severe criticism from former English players like Graeme Swann © Getty Images

By Julian Guyer

London: Sep 25, 2014

England captain Alastair Cook will lead the side at next year’s ICC World Cup 2015 in Australia and New Zealand after being named on Wednesday as skipper for an upcoming one-day international series in Sri Lanka on Wednesday.

“He [Cook] will be our leader at the World Cup,” national selector James Whitaker told Sky Sports after the 16-man squad for a seven-match ODI series in Sri Lanka in November and December was announced.

“He’s shown a huge amount of fortitude and resilience through the summer, and I’d like to make it clear we are 100 percent behind him as captain,” he added.

Left-handed opening batsman Cook faced questions over his form and leadership throughout all of England’s recent home campaign but answered his Test critics by leading the side to a 3-1 series win over India following a defeat by Sri Lanka.

However, doubts about his suitability for white-ball cricket persisted following a 3-1 one-day international series loss to world champions India that included several thumping defeats.

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But despite a strike-rate of under 80, relatively slow by modern limited overs standards, he has, as widely forecast, retained his place as both captain and opener in the one-day set-up.

Meanwhile batsman James Taylor and Ravi Bopara were both given a chance to stake a claim for a World Cup spot by being included in the Sri Lanka squad.

Taylor, who has been capped twice for England in the 50-over format, is included in a one-day squad for the first time since September 2013 and is joined by Essex all-rounder Bopara, a surprise omission from the India series.

But Yorkshire batsman Gary Ballance missed out, having played in just the one ODI against India, with the experienced Ian Bell retaining his place among England’s contenders for a top three spot.

“With the ICC Cricket World Cup less than five months away we are very aware that our one-day cricket needs to develop quickly if we are to arrive at the competition ready to compete with the very best sides in the world,” said Whitaker in an England and Wales Cricket Board statement.

“This tour to Sri Lanka allows the players and management to focus fully on improving skills in limited overs cricket ahead of final selection for the Cricket World Cup.”

He added: “While conditions in Australia and New Zealand will differ to those the squad experiences in Sri Lanka we can still make significant strides forward as a side during the series.”

Stuart Broad is currently sidelined with a knee injury but the pace bowler is expected to be fit in time for the World Cup.

And with squads for the global tournament restricted to 15 players, it looks as if at least one of the seamers named in the Sri Lanka party won’t be selected for the World Cup.

England’s task will be complicated as the traditionally spin-friendly pitches in Sri Lanka are set to be very different to those they encounter in Australia and New Zealand.

But the last thing England need now is another crushing one-day series reverse — they’ve already lost their last five ODI campaigns under Cook. England also announced Wednesday a ‘shadow’ performance squad, some of whom will also spend time in Sri Lanka. England, three-times beaten finalists, have never won the World Cup in the near 40-year history of the event.

But in a bid to improve their chances they are playing nothing but 50-over cricket between now and the start of the tournament, with England also involved in a triangular series in Australia, that features India, in the New Year. The 11th World Cup takes place in Australia and New Zealand from February 14 to March 29.

England squad to tour Sri Lanka:

Alastair Cook (Essex, capt), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), James Anderson (Lancashire), Ian Bell (Warwickshire), Ravi Bopara (Essex), Jos Buttler (Lancashire, wkt), Steven Finn (Middlesex), Harry Gurney (Nottinghamshire), Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Eoin Morgan (Middlesex), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), James Taylor (Nottinghamshire), James Tredwell (Kent), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire)