England stars Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer will return to international action as their spearheads in an eagerly-anticipated Test series against India next month.
Yet another key player Jos Buttler is being rested for three of the four matches as part of an attempt to “modernise” the national side’s approach to touring.
Stokes and Archer were handed breaks for the current trip to Sri Lanka, where the second Test gets under way early on Friday morning, but will return to take on India in their own backyard in February and March.
Opener Rory Burns will also be back after spending the last few weeks on paternity leave, but rather than building back up to full strength for the eagerly-awaited contest, England have left Sam Curran, Mark Wood and Jonny Bairstow out of the first two matches.
Buttler has been selected for the series opener in Chennai only, before he gets stood down, opening the door for deputy wicketkeeper Ben Foakes to get his chance.
Additional changes will be made between the double-headers in Chennai and Ahmedabad, with Curran, Wood and Bairstow, who had just made a successful return to red-ball cricket after a year out, all rejoining the group.
It is all part of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s response to the changing landscape created by COVID-19, with bio-secure bubbles, quarantine considerations and packed fixture lists all playing their part in a less rigid approach.
“This is something we passionately believe in: the concept of a tour needs to be modernised,” said national selector Ed Smith.
“We’re not travelling by boat, we don’t go away for five months at a time, we need to be more nimble.
“If we need to break a tour up to get people in and get people out for their own good and for England’s good then we’ll do it.
“We are being pragmatic. If you keep people in a bubble unchanged for three months through January, February and March and expect them to play every game in every format, they will not be able to play to their best and England will be damaged as a result.”
For England captain Joe Root, whose own allocated rest period will come during the white-ball leg in India, it is simply a relief to have a fresh Stokes and a rejuvenated Archer at his disposal in India.
“Speak to any side in the world, those two guys coming back into it would give the squad a huge boost and it’s certainly the case for us,” he said.