Miller glad of tough decisions
Jonny Bairstow is helping to make life more difficult for England's Test selectors - but that is the way they like it.
Bairstow was the predictable choice To replace the injured Ravi Bopara in a 13-man squad to face the West Indies and is highly likely to make his Test debut as England's number six at Lord's on Thursday.
The 22-year-old is therefore set to emulate his late father David as a Test cricketer, having been chosen ahead of his England Lions captain James Taylor among others.
Bairstow's first-innings 50 for the Lions at Northampton - Taylor hit a century - was only part of the persuasive case he has made this season for elevation following his six one-day international and six Twenty20 caps since a sparkling 50-over debut against India in Cardiff last September.
National selector Geoff Miller indicated nonetheless that it was a tough decision to choose between Bairstow and Taylor, while Samit Patel was the man most recently in possession in England's last two Tests in Sri Lanka when Bopara had a side strain.
When Essex batsman Bopara suffered a torn thigh muscle bowling at Chelmsford two days ago, it became clear England would have to look to the Lions.
After nominating Bairstow in a squad also containing Steve Finn and Graham Onions among five seam options, Miller acknowledged runs against the West Indies had pressed the Yorkshireman's claims.
"He obviously played well against an international attack, but he's been doing well for Yorkshire for two years," Miller said.
"We did discuss James Taylor. Jonny's got the nod, but the point is now there are quite a few players knocking on the door.
"It's making the job a little bit more difficult, but that's how we want it; to be able to pick who we think is the best one."
Miller has taken time to speak to Taylor and challenged him to restate his claims with more runs for his new county Nottinghamshire.
"You can't pick everybody," Miller added. "They've all got 'fors' and 'againsts'.
"We had a long discussion. It was a close call. This does not close the door on James Taylor by any means.
"I've had a chat with him this morning, told him the decision and the reasons why. Those personal things stay personal.
"But he knows his position. It's for him now to go out and prove us wrong - which is the phrase I used (with him) - bang out a lot of runs for Nottinghamshire and keep himself in the picture."
Bopara, meanwhile, also has work to do to prove to the selectors they can rely on his fitness.
Miller added: "He's got this grade one tear. He's got to rectify that before we can revisit it.
"He was very much part of the discussion, but as soon as the injury occurred we had to go somewhere else.
"He's got to be fully fit to do himself justice and do a job for the side. On this occasion, this is not the case. He's got to go away and put himself back in the frame."
Among those who have already done that are Onions and Finn, the former continuing to impress following a career-threatening back injury two years ago and the latter's increased pace and accuracy proving a revelation since this time last year.
Miller has even suggested both could yet play if, for example, England decide to go with an all-seam attack or only five specialist batsmen, with wicketkeeper Matt Prior continuing at number six.
It seems barely conceivable, though, that either Bairstow or off-spinner Graeme Swann - such a key figure in England's rise to the top of the world Test rankings - will not be involved at Lord's.
Miller agreed England's preferred formula is six batsmen and four bowlers.
"It has been over the years, " he said. "But the options are there for them [coach and captain]. It's a 13-man squad, so they can go in whichever direction they want.
"If they feel they want to play an extra seamer, leave a batter out, they can do whatever they want.
"They'll assess the conditions and surface on the day and, I'm sure, make the right decision."