Opinion: Coaches, captains and other intrigues

The international season kicks off again, after not much of a break, in early May, with Sri Lanka visiting Ireland and England, even though the IPL will still be on the go for another three weeks. Hands up if you'll be ready for the diversion.

The international season kicks off again, after not much of a break, in early May, with Sri Lanka visiting Ireland and England, even though the IPL will still be on the go for another three weeks. Hands up if you'll be ready for the diversion.

With no current England player in the sub-continental event anyway, and only Lasith Malinga and Thisara Perera to be dragged back to the international fold, the players will be fresh for action. But there are still some intriguing plotlines ahead of a tour which is bound to test the stakes among <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>popular online cricket betting sites</b></a>.

<b>1. Luck of the Irish?</b>

Sri Lanka have only played one ODI against Ireland, all the way back in 2007, and have never played in Dublin. Batsman Ed Joyce reckons the Sri Lankans won't enjoy the soggier conditions, thus giving Ireland some hope at bagging a win.

While Ireland nearly beat Pakistan last year, tying one game, they have only played one ODI this year, losing to the West Indies. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, won the Asia Cup without losing a fixture, and followed that up with a World Twenty20 title charge. One suspects the conditions may not bother them as much as Joyce hopes.

<b>2. A test for Malinga</b>

Presuming Sri Lanka get past the first two hurdles Ireland present in Clontarf, the next challenge will be facing England in a one-off T20. This will be the first time Malinga will captain the side as permanent skipper, after his efforts in Bangladesh saw him lift a trophy.

He'd only skippered one match before that, and this time he'll have to prove his worth outside the excited, motivated cauldron of an ICC event. But he'll be confident of carrying on successfully, as he leads the world champions against a side who couldn't beat the Netherlands. Ironically, though, the one game England won, and the only one Sri Lanka lost, was against each other. But he wasn't the skipper then.

<b>3. Second chance saloon</b>

This will be the first set of series for Peter Moores in his new (old) role as England head coach. This is his second bite at the cherry, as we all know, and he will need to get off to at least a promising start if he's to banish the doubters who remember his less-than-stellar record from the first time around.

He'll get his feet wet with the aforementioned T20, and then move on to the one-dayers for five games. The players will have to get used to yet another coaching method, after Ashely Giles' disastrous tenure, and Andy Flower before him. At least the ODI side come into the games with a series win behind them, having won two-one against the West Indies in the Caribbean on an otherwise lackluster tour.

Moores will, of course, be assisted by Paul Farbrace, late of Sri Lanka. This should make for some entertaining commentary from the talking heads, given Farbrace was only with Sri Lanka for three months before being poached by the ECB. In that time, the side lost only one game out of 18 and won the two trophies they competed for. No pressure then, for Marvan Atapattu.

While Sri Lanka's players may be pining away for him in one dressing room, England's player will hope he can perform similar feats with them. 'Energy' and 'intensity' are the buzzwords being connected to the Moores/Farbrace pairing, which are things the men in solar red have sorely lacked this year so far.

<b>4. Compliments to the Chef</b>

When Graeme Smith was asked about Alastair Cook's captaincy in recent months, the former South Africa skipper was candid in his assessment, saying Cook would have a much better time of it from fans and the media if he scored more runs. Cook did not have a good Ashes tour to Australia, and did not play in the West Indies tour, nor at the WT20.

But he's seemingly taken Surrey skipper Biff's advice to heart, and played some sterling knocks for Essex in the County Championship in April, scoring a half ton and two centuries in three matches. This will boost England's overall morale as they look to get their 'new era' up and running.

Cook was a much smilier man after those knocks, looking relieved at finally having a coach to help him with the burdens of facing the media and wrangling the team, although a probably much easier set of lads to get into line these days.

<b>5. Comfort zone</b>

While Sri Lanka have the upper hand in the shorter formats, England will feel confident of taking the Test series. They last played each other in whites in early 2012 in Sri Lanka, which ended in a drawn series, and before that England won a three-match series at home one-nil in 2011.

Their forms this year seem to suggest things will be fairly even, with Sri Lank playing five and winning two, while England only played the one match against the Aussies and we all know how that ended. But England's record before the Down Under disaster was impressive, winning the Ashes at home, where they are most comfortable.

They've only lost two Test series at home in the past five years, both to South Africa, so if ever Moores was going to be wrapped in cotton wool, this would be the time, playing at home against similar opposition.

<b>6. Robson or Root or…?</b>

With Cook back in a bit of form, that solves half the opening conundrum. Now, who do the selectors pair with him? Will it be Michael Carberry, who seemingly committed international career suicide by raging about his lack of selection for the Australia ODIs and beyond? He's been scoring runs for Hampshire though, after a shaky start to the domestic season.

Then you have Joe Root, who took over from Nick Compton for the Oz Ashes, having started his England career in the middle order. He's the media favourite, despite not playing at all for months after breaking his thumb in the Caribbean. He'd scored a ton before that happened though, and will feature somewhere in the line up.

And of course, Australia-born Sam Robson is the new hipster pick for the opening job. The Middlesex man has scored seven centuries in his last 10 matches, dating back to November, and two of those came in his first three County games of the season. His impressive contribution has gone and pushed <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket/county-championship' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>Middlesex's odds of winning the County Championship Division one to 8/1 on Paddy Power</b>.</a>

(Though England probably wish they could still call on Sussex's Ed Joyce, who scored three tons in four innings, including two in one match against Warwickshire.)

<b>Lindsay du Plessis</b>