Dangerous to write off West Indies, says Atherton
Although fresh from a heartening 3-1 series win over South Africa, England must not take West Indies lightly, says former captain Michael Atherton.
England made a promising start to life under Joe Root, defeating the Proteas heavily at Lord's, The Oval and Old Trafford, although they did fall to a crushing defeat in the second Test at Trent Bridge.
Next up for Root's men are West Indies, who are shorn of much of their best talent and arrive for the three-match Investec series with a relatively raw and inexperienced squad.
But Atherton, who played 115 Tests for England and 54 as skipper, knows it would be unwise for the hosts to expect an easy ride.
"It's not the strongest West Indies team I've seen, for sure, but it's very dangerous to write off anybody in international cricket," he told Omnisport, speaking on behalf of Investec.
"The last time England played West Indies they were held to a 1-1 draw, albeit in the Caribbean. Their away record has been particularly poor so no question England will start as strong favourites for the series.
"You look at the West Indies team, they've got potential in the seam bowling - Shannon Gabriel has shown in recent times he's got pace and potential, Kemar Roach is coming back, Alzarri Joseph, Jason Holder, so there's potential there in the bowling. The batting looks short on experience, you'd say."
A lot has been made of England's struggles to find a settled batting line-up, with three of the five spots in the top order still up for grabs heading into the West Indies series and the Ashes tour to Australia, starting in November.
Tom Westley and Dawid Malan did little in their two Tests against South Africa to solve those issues, while Keaton Jennings has been dropped following his troubles as opener, with Mark Stoneman given a chance against West Indies in his place.
"They'll want, by the end of this series, to have a settled team," Atherton said. "They'll be desperate those three guys - Stoneman, Westley and Malan - get some runs in this series and say to the selectors, 'we are the guys to go to Australia'.
"It's a fantastic opportunity for someone like Stoneman, who's three matches away from a tour to Australia, which is the pinnacle for any player."