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Confident England set for Caribbean challenge.

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England’s first Test of a momentous year begins in Barbados on Wednesday as Joe Root leads England in the opening Test Match against the West Indies with the PCA Most Valuable Player Rankings wide open.

With an ICC Cricket World Cup and Ashes both on home soil this summer followed by a tour of New Zealand and South Africa, rarely has a year been more anticipated than 2019.

England start their campaign in the Caribbean full of confidence, backing up their home Test series victory over India with a 3-0 series whitewash in Sri Lanka. Conditions are expected to be different from the sub-continent where spin bowling dominated proceedings with three spinners leading the MVP Rankings.

The international MVP is reset at the beginning of every summer and winter season with the formula designed by the players to identify the match-winners and key influencers of matches throughout the domestic and international season.

The innovation, which provides a more rigorous analysis of player performances than traditional batting and bowling averages, the MVP algorithm, gives full credit to those players whose performances improve their team’s chances of winning.

Jonny Bairstow was the 2017/18 winter winner of the Overall MVP with Jos Buttler claiming the title for the 2018 summer. Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid is the current leader of the Overall MVP Rankings with 142 points thanks to his dominant displays across all formats in Sri Lanka.

In the Test Rankings, Somerset’s Jack Leach has a narrow lead over fellow spinners Moeen Ali and Rashid with 84 MVP points thanks to his 18 wickets in his Player of the Series performance in the 3-0 victory pre-Christmas.

With seam bowling set to play a far more significant role in the West Indies, at least one slow bowler is expected to be replaced with Sam Curran, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood aiming to play a big part in the three match Test series.

Going into the series with 84 MVP points, Leach would be an unfortunate victim of a change of conditions if he misses out. A career-best 5-83 during the second Sri Lanka Test was one of many highlights of the winter so far for the 27-year-old who also took the final wicket of the series in Colombo to clinch the series whitewash.

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Ben Foakes goes into the Test series just 14 points behind Leach with the Surrey wicketkeeper set to retain his place with the gloves after an outstanding introduction to international cricket. A hundred, half century and 10 dismissals signalled his intent to stay in the team, which already contains two high quality glovemen in Bairstow and Buttler.

Ben Stokes completes the top five in the winter Test MVP Rankings so far and the Durham all-rounder will receive his 50th cap ahead of play in Barbados. A solid, if not spectacular start to the winter with the bat, Stokes made a huge impression with the ball in Sri Lanka and will no doubt be a key player for England.

Perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the series will be Stokes against fellow seam bowling all-rounder Jason Holder and whoever comes out on top will go a long way towards taking their side to victory.

To view the Test MVP Rankings click here