It is just as well Chris Silverwood has already proved himself to be a popular and skilful conciliator within the England set-up. With the T20 series against South Africa starting on Friday he wants to keep his most senior players content and there is little doubt that he will manage this.
Silverwood probably recognises that Ben Stokes, his Test vice-captain, would like to open the batting in T20 cricket. Every batsman worth his salt wants to do this in that format and in the Indian Premier League Stokes took over from Jos Buttler for the Rajasthan Royals.
“I don’t think it ever hurts players to explore different options, but it doesn’t muddy the waters at all,” said Silverwood “We’re pretty certain about which way we want to go and we’ll do that. We are blessed with the batsmen we’ve got here, world-class players who are capable of doing a multitude of jobs. I know Ben is keen to open, he’s always keen to get up the order and give it a go.”
However, when England line up on Friday do not expect Stokes to be at the top of the order. Buttler is likely to resume in that role despite what happened in the IPL. Then there is the case of Joe Root, Silverwood’s Test captain. He is not even in the T20 squad, but he has been batting beautifully in the warm-up games in South Africa. Might they reconsider?
“Never say never. Everybody that’s here is an option,” said Silverwood before recommitting to those on the original list. “We picked that squad and we’ll start there. If guys are here and doing well, you never know and it’s been great to see guys who are not in the squad coming out and saying, ‘We want to be in there.” So, no Root – for the moment.
South Africa would be happy to be confronted by such issues. They have more serious concerns. They have not played since March; their practice games have been called off because some of their players tested positive for Covid and, to cap it all, their training session in Paarl on Tuesday was rained off.
By contrast England had a full summer of international cricket as well as two internal matches recently in South Africa. Having to decide who should opening the batting is barely a pinprick when compared to the challenges faced by the home side.