Kevin Pietersen is expected to make his return to the England squad when Ashley Giles' limited overs squads visit the West Indies before the World T20. England will play an unusual ODI team during this tour with preparation for the World T20 taking precedence, however, when England face Sri Lanka at the beginning of the English season, a more regular ODI team should take the field. Here, considering Pietersen's return, Bleacher Report assesses the batting options.
The Opening Batsmen: Ian Bell and Ben Stokes
Much of England’s direction in ODI cricket is dependant on Alastair Cook’s future in the format. He debunked suggestions that he was on the brink of resigning at the toss in Perth.
However, it remains a strong possibility—especially in the aftermath of Paul Downton’s review of England’s tour Down Under—that Cook’s load may be lightened by a removal of the responsibilities in ODI cricket.
For sake of debate, and indeed, to examine in closer details the depth of England’s options, let us assume Cook will retire from the ODI format.
Ian Bell has, as many people always suspected he could, proven his ability to succeed in 50-over cricket. He is naturally a stroke-maker and has successfully translated his more accelerated periods of play in Test cricket into the 50-over format. His position is assured, especially if stability is compromised with the retirement of Cook.
England are generally behind the curve with regards to their approach in ODI cricket, and if Bell—a fluent scorer, but not an aggressor in the mould of David Warner or Virender Sehwag—continues to open, then England should make a move toward a player of greater aggression than Cook.
Alex Hales has many advocates, but did struggle for Nottinghamshire last year. Other options could include Michael Carberry or James Vince, Kevin Pietersen being promoted from the middle order or, braver still, the promotion of Ben Stokes, who has batted at three in this series against Australia.
Under the new ODI laws, with two new balls, many people felt the first ten overs would become more benign, as ball dominated bat.
In reality, a pair of new white balls in most conditions have remained unthreatening. In fact, the ball staying harder for longer engenders greater aggression in the first ten. England need to move with the times and back an aggressor to partner Bell at the top.
Stokes has shown hints of his potential at No. 3 with a promising 70 in the fourth ODI. His role as an aggressor is in fact better suited to the role of opening where, rather than consolidating after early wickets as the third batsman, he can always play with freedom.
The Middle Order: Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan (Captain), Gary Ballance and Ravi Bopara
Your best players should face the most balls in ODI cricket. However, Kevin Pietersen’s vulnerability against the new ball suggests shifting him down to number three. His return will add to an innovative and enviable trio at the top, leading the way for the genius England possesses in Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler.
Morgan is a certain pick at No. 4 and he should become captain in Cook’s absence.
An average of above 40 and a strike rate of almost 90 are two impressive statistics. More attuned to the natural rhythms of the format and bred as a limited-overs player, he is aligned with the role of captain nicely.
The positions of Gary Ballance and Ravi Bopara are more tenuous. But Ballance deserves an extended opportunity in the side, while Bopara, a changed cricketer, is becoming harder to rely on with the bat, although not with the ball.
The Wicket Keeper: Jos Buttler
There is no room for debate here—Jos Buttler is perhaps the most talented cricketer in England.
Not only should he be a certain pick in ODIs, but should arguably over time be given greater responsibility up the order. This is perhaps dependent on the success of Ballance and Bopara.