Sri Lanka vs England, 1st Test: Joe Root ready for ‘headache’ of ‘hardest selection’
Stuart Broad could face being left out of England's XI if the visitors opt to play three spinners in Galle. @AFP

England captain Joe Root remains tight-lipped about the tourists’s playing XI for the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle, stating that the decision to choose the best side  to compete in tough conditions could be the hardest of his captaincy.

With Jonny Bairstow ruled out, England’s think-tank has to decide on the best wicketkeeper for the Galle Test as well as how many spinners to include and which opener to debut in place of the retired Alastair Cook. On the eve of the series opener, Root told Sky Sports that he ready to take tough calls and cope with the resultant “headaches and sleepless nights”.

“We have a feeling of the side we want but we are not ready to name it yet,” Root explained. “We are very blessed with this squad, we have plenty of different options and whatever 11 we go with we are going to have a great balance. It depends what you want and what you think will complement the seamers. We’re lucky to have batters that bowl as well and three very different spinners that would all add value to a surface that might spin and those options could prove vital.

“This might be the hardest selection meeting we’ve had. We had a few headaches in the summer (against India) but it is a really good place to be. Having to leave Sam Curran out at Trent Bridge was not an easy call and you don’t want to be making too many tough decisions like that. Having to make tough calls and winning big series, I’m all for that. I’m up for having the headaches and sleepless nights over it.”

Joe Root says that dropping Sam Curran at Trent Bridge was not an easy cal
Joe Root says that dropping Sam Curran at Trent Bridge was not an easy call. @Getty

England have lost 10 of their last 13 away Tests, and not won a series on the road since early 2016, and as Root seeks to become the first England captain to win a Test series in Sri Lanka since 2001 he identified adaptability as crucial to success.

“It is a skill you need in Test cricket to be adaptable,” he said. “My preference would be to bat four but the situation and surface might mean we want to change things around and we are very open to that.

“The group is very aware that doing things as we have for a long time in this part of the world, we know what results we are going to get and it is going to be important we are not shy to do things slight differently. It might be that we make a spur-of-the-moment decision that looks right in that moment to try and change the tempo of the game. I am open to making those difficult decisions.”

One of the tough calls Root and Trevor Bayliss may need to make is omitting Stuart Broad in place of a third spinner, which looks like the left-armer Jack Leach. But he is adamant that if this happens, Broad will not have been dropped.

“Stuart’s experience is invaluable and I think he is in a really good place with his game. He looks strong, with good skills and pace and his action is as good as it has been for a long time,” he said. “We are blessed to have some very experienced players around this group, offering their advice, so whether they play or not their contributions will be very valuable.

“I don’t see it as being dropped. I see it as 16 players pulling together to win three matches and it is about having the right balance of side for each surface. My message to the group is if you’re not involved in the first Test on this surface, the surface will be very different in Kandy so the preparation for that starts now.”