JOE ROOT warned his new-look opening pair not to get an early dose of Ashes fever.
Skipper Root expects Rory Burns and Keaton Jennings to receive a barrage of bouncers in the First Test starting today and he wants them to focus 100 per cent on that.
Even though 2019 is English cricket’s biggest year with a home World Cup and The Ashes, Root maintains there can be no peering into the future.
He said: “Their job and responsibility is not to worry about Ashes, it is to perform well for three Test matches here. To have that as a clear focus.
“If they do, I’m sure that’ll look after Ashes cricket and whatever comes down the line. I don’t want the guys to be playing for stuff happening in six months’ time.
“We have to look after the here and now and make sure we’re aware these will be three hard Test matches. We can’t be distracted by other things.”
Surrey skipper Burns, 28, played his first three Tests in Sri Lanka and hardly faced a short ball.
It will be different here with the likes of muscular speedster Shannon Gabriel roaring down.
If he makes runs in the Caribbean, Burns will nail down an Ashes berth and become a valid successor to Alastair Cook.
Jennings can also secure a longish-term berth and Root added: “I’m sure Rory will be fine. He’s proved he can score runs in England and faced barrages.
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“I’m sure he’ll get a fair few of them here, but he netted against Morne Morkel for Surrey last year.
“We have a strong middle and lower-order so, if the guys up top can set things up, we’ll take this team ever further.”
England face a selection dilemma. Their plan was to play three seamers plus all-rounder Ben Stokes with Moeen Ali the sole spinner.
That meant no place for Jack Leach and Adil Rashid — two of the heroes of their whitewash of Sri Lanka earlier this winter.
But they have been confused by the pitch at Kensington Oval.
It was watered yesterday — almost unheard of 24 hours before the start of a Test — because it had become so dry.
If they believe the surface will spin, Stuart Broad is likely to be omitted despite taking four wickets in five balls in last week’s warm-up match.
When the series four years ago was drawn 1-1, the Windies pinned ECB chief Colin Graves’ comments — describing them as “mediocre’ — to the dressing-room wall as motivation.
This time, another Yorkshireman of pensioner age, Geoffrey Boycott, has called them a team “full of average, ordinary cricketers.”
Windies skipper Jason Holder said: “We expect this sort of thing — it gets us going.”
Root said: “It’s not like Geoffrey to be outspoken, is it?
“It doesn’t surprise me he’s said something like that, but we’re aware it’s not the case, especially in these conditions.”
No England player was included in the ICC Test Team of the Year, but Root, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes were in the one-day team.
India’s Virat Kohli was named captain of BOTH XIs.