England's Test side should be riding high. After all, they have just completed a 4-1 series win over the top-ranked team in the game. India arrived with high expectations, with a team they thought was good enough to beat the hosts. It turned out to be a pipedream, however, and the visitors went the way of the vast majority of teams who challenge England at home – they lost badly.
And yet, even after their comprehensive victory, there are concerns hovering over the England team that should worry the English authorities. They just experienced a pleasant autumn, but that could very well give way to a barren winter.
Despite their good showing against India, there are imminent adjustments that will be required. And these enforced changes could well make for a diminished team.
Take the opening positions: Alastair Cook, a great and durable servant of English cricket and their top run-accumulator in Tests, has retired. This is normal. Older players leave and younger ones take their place. But his absence, considering his experience and ability, leaves a gaping hole that is unlikely to be fully filled right away.
Not only that, the other opening spot is far from settled as well. Keaton Jennings has been the incumbent ever since the last test against Pakistan at Headingley but has failed to cement his spot. He began his test career brightly in 2016 with a hundred against India at the Wankhede Stadium. Since then, however, he has gone past fifty only once in 11 additional games. Still, it was a difficult summer for batting and with Cook gone the selectors may be wary of making too many changes. He could well survive. Should the selectors not look in his direction for the squad to tour Sri Lanka, however, he should not complain too loudly.
The number three spot is also a problem. Currently, Moeen Ali is in possession of it but that is unlikely to become a long-term solution. An attractive stroke-maker, he is a dangerous batsman coming in at six or slightly lower in the batting order. He lacks the quality, it appears, to hold such a pivotal spot, despite his willingness to give it a try.
The rest of the batting is very decent. Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler have been relatively successful. Buttler, in particular, has been a revelation since given the opportunity in May against Pakistan at Lord's. But a brittle top order hardly makes for a good team. Losing two or three early wickets for little runs is exactly what the opposition likes.
Replenishing England's batting deficiencies is the immediate concern. The more long-term worry is for the bowling. James Anderson and Stuart Broad have been champion performers for a very long time, especially with the Dukes ball in English conditions. Anderson, particularly, is laden with remarkable swing-bowling skills.
Anderson has not had as much success abroad where there are no Dukes balls and the surfaces are less green. But he has bowled a number of stirring, match-turning spells in places like Australia, India and the West Indies.
He is now 36, and has bowled more deliveries than any other seamer in the game. When he captured India's last wicket in the last Test at The Oval, that of Mohammed Shami, he went past Glen McGrath to become Test cricket's most successful seamer with 564 wickets. He first appeared for England in 2003 and has played 143 games. And while he shows no signs of slowing down, the worry for England is that his days may be coming to an end.
At 32, Stuart Broad is younger than Anderson. Yet the selectors must be thinking of his replacement as well. Not long ago, after a few inauspicious performances, there were voices calling for him to be dropped.
He and Anderson has been very effective new-ball partners and so the day they decide to hang up their boots will be a significant one for English cricket. Like Cook's runs, it will be difficult replacing their wickets.
Ed Smith and his colleagues, therefore, have a number of important decisions to make. Jamie Overton, Olly Stone, Rory Burns, James Vince and others who may be in the selectors' thoughts will do well to grab whatever opportunities some of them will get. But they will be attempting the difficult task of filling the shoes of giants.
England's more immediate engagements against Sri Lanka and the West Indies could well be tough tours. Most English pundits and supporters, however, will likely have next year's Ashes series foremost in their minds. What will be the state of the team by then? Will Anderson and Broad still be around? Will competent opening batsmen be found?
And so, while England celebrate their well-deserved series victory over India they'll be aware of potential difficulties lurking just below the surface. Will the necessary changes allow the team to flourish, or is Joe Root and his men in for a protracted rough period?
In the very popular HBO series Game of Thrones, "Winter is coming," is a regular refrain. Winter is not just winter as we know it. It is a time of darkness and destruction all round.
Every winter also brings the possibility of another "long night," a particularly harsh winter thousands of years prior that lasted over a generation, "when children were born and lived and died, all in darkness…when Kings froze to death in their castles, same as the shepherds in their huts."
Is winter coming for England's Test team?
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