Before we consider the fascinating choices of players (see below), the fixture formats must come first.
There is a test. Glory be! But it is four-day, not five. This runs slap-bang up against the wishes expressed by many, including the England skipper, Heather Knight, that all future tests should have the extra day. We now wait to see whether this test, like so many in the past, will peter out into a draw.
Second, there are no ODIs. The many social media moaners about the 50-over game will be cheering. I won’t. The shape of the coming tour helps to justify my view. Three T20s are no sort of preparation for the ulimate challenge, a test match. And, blow me! there’s a 50-over World Cup coming in India in 2025.
If women’s cricket really wants to return to giving test matches their due prominence, then the sensible pathway is the introduction of 3-day games, not the proliferation of T20s and their latest abbreviation, The Hundred.
The two squads have five (T20) and four (test) players not included in the other, as if their presence or absence will help to overcome that fault.
I have the feeling that some of the choices were made less to ensure optimum results, more to give everyone a go. So Tammy Beaumont is again excluded from the T20 show, yet she has shown an uncanny ability to get on with it. At the other end of the experience scale, Lauren Filer is reserved for the test. That is a tribute to her performances to date, but we’re left wondering if she had to give way in the T20s to allow other pace bowlers to appear.
Bess Heath has done well to be confirmed in both squads; so she remains England’s second choice of keeper behind Amy Jones. It would be encouraging to see Jones return to her best batting form on tour. At A-squad level Rhianna Southby is next in line for the gloves, but her batting prowess lies a distance behind her competitors’.
Then we must ask whether the total numbers, 15 for the T20s and 14 for the test, are realisitc. How many players will be left with no duties beyond acting as drinks-bearers and net-bowlers?
It’s a pity that Jon Lewis has to use the tired cliché ‘a nice blend of youth and experience’. It’s when a coach cannot use it that we sit up and take notice.
The Ecclestone Affair
There’s heartening news that Sophie Ecclestone is back in contention, but Lewis makes a cautious statement about the need to monitor her return to full health after the operation on her dislocated shoulder last September.
In my view her welfare has not been well guarded by two successive head coaches. In both the last two tests she was asked to bowl a horrendous number of overs. In neither case was she given sufficient spin-support at the other end to reduce the burden she had to carry.
In the latest test squad we find only Charlie Dean, Alice Capsey and Sophia Dunkley as support spinners. And of course, three players have to be omitted from the full complement of 14. This test takes place in India, where spin is king.
And if Ecclestone is not passed fit for the 4-dayer?
England women squads for India tour:
T20: Lauren Bell, Maia Bouchier, Alice Capsey, Charlie Dean, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Mahika Gaur, Danielle Gibson, Sarah Glenn, Bess Heath, Amy Jones (w-k), Freya Kemp, Heather Knight (captain), Nat Sciver-Brunt, Danni Wyatt (15)
Green = not in test squad
Test: Tammy Beaumont, Lauren Bell, Alice Capsey, Kate Cross, Charlie Dean, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Lauren Filer, Bess Heath, Amy Jones (w-k), Heather Knight (captain), Emma Lamb, Nat Sciver-Brunt, Danni Wyatt (14)
RED = not in T20 squad
Ins and Outs:
The five not in the test squad are: Maia Bouchier, Mahika Gaur, Danielle Gibson, Sarah Glenn and Freya Kemp.
The four not in the T20 squad are: Tammy Beaumont, Kate Cross, Lauren Filer and Emma Lamb.
December 6 1st Twenty20 international, Mumbai (Wankhede Stadium) (13:30 GMT)
December 9 2nd Twenty20 international, Mumbai (Wankhede Stadium) (13:30 GMT)
December 10 3rd Twenty20 international, Mumbai (Wankhede Stadium) (13:30 GMT)
December 14-17 Test, Mumbai (DY Patil Sports Academy) (04:00 GMT)
An A-Squad too!
Back to the good news: an A squad will go on the tour as well. The 21 players include some who are picked for only one of the two main squads, for example Charlie Dean, Lauren Filer and Mahika Gaur, but significantly too a number of players who comprised the Under 19 squad that competed in its world cup in South Africa nearly a year ago; names like Hannah Baker, Liberty Heap, Ryana MacDonald-Gay, Grace Scrivens and Seren Smale.
One welcome reappearance is Tash Farrant, who has had to recover from a serious back injury.
Then comes a similar frown about the playing schedule: why only three T20s? Are the players’ lives and ours to be limited for ever to this underwhelming form of the game?
England Women A squad for the training camp in Oman:
Hollie Armitage, Hannah Baker, Alice Davidson-Richards, Georgia Davis, Charlie Dean, Tash Farrant, Lauren Filer, Mahika Gaur, Kirstie Gordon, Liberty Heap, Freya Kemp, Emma Lamb, Ryana MacDonald-Gay, Kalea Moore, Sophie Munro, Grace Potts, Grace Scrivens, Seren Smale, Rhianna Southby, Mady Villiers, Issy Wong
England Women A Schedule:
29 November India A v England A, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
1 December India A v England A, Wankhede Stadium
3 December India A v England A, Wankhede Stadium
Note that the two schedules do not overlap