England's selectors had some difficult decisions to make during today's meeting as they debated their 16-man squad for next month's tri-series - the final five competitive matches before the World Cup in February.

After the disappointing 5-2 series defeat in Sri Lanka, a side that got whitewashed by India just weeks before, England have plenty to improve upon if they are to be a force to be reckoned with in the very near future.

A poor Cook 

The main talking point of course would have been the position of current captain Alastair Cook. The poor results highlighted above, combined with his own wretched form with the bat and ultra-defensive tactics, led to an unabating level of criticism directed at the 29-year-old.

These were not your usual murmurings of discontent from a corner of the public or media with an axe to grind. Almost every Cricket journalist, pundit, former captain and fan called for Cook's head. Less than a week ago ECB managing director Paul Downton said he would be "very surprised" if Cook was not confirmed as captain on Saturday morning, but it seems this made it impossible for England's selectors to stick to their guns and caused them to finally push the panic button.

In truth, Cook should have been removed as one-day captain during the summer, if not before. It clearly took all of his energy to fight off the critics of his Test captaincy following the Ashes debacle. Cook eventually proved the detractors wrong by grinding out runs in the 3-1 series victory over India.

So why not at that point give the Gloucester-born opener a break from the spotlight and from the form of cricket that he had been struggling with for some time? Instead Cook has failed to make any meaningful contribution with the bat and his captaincy has lacked inspiration, The simple dropped catch of Kumar Sangakkara in the sixth ODI in Sri Lanka summed up the woes of a man whose mind was elsewhere.

Cook made one ODI fifty in his last 22 innings and his last hundred in this format was 45 games ago. His strike rate this year was only low 70s and he lacked power and imagination. He had been dismissed through his inability to move his feet against spin and was too easily controlled at the crease.

Despite this, it was still be a surprise that Cook was dropped.

With so little time left until the World Cup, it is far from ideal to change the captaincy. Also, having defended the Essex opening batsmen for months now, ousting Cook was effectively admitting a mistake - something England selectors rarely do.

However, England must pick their best six batsmen if they are to progress far in February's tournament. There is no doubt that Cook falls some way short of that.

Captaincy candidates 

So when James Whitaker, Mick Newell, Peter Moores and Angus Fraser did the unlikely, they then had to decide who should replace Cook as captain?

They went with the obvious choice in Eoin Morgan, who has stepped in before. However, the Irishman is in a desperate run of form with the bat himself, making just one half-century in his last 19 one-day international innings.

Joe Root was the other alternative as many have earmarked him as a certainty to lead England in the future. The Yorkshireman was the brightest star of a dull tour in Sri Lanka and is one of the few players assured of his place.

Personally, I would have opted for Morgan too. His best performances have come when he has skippered the side - the extra pressure seems to ignite him as he relishes the responsibility. He will be more inventive than Cook. I would have been reluctant to burden young Root with the captaincy at such a high-profile event at such an early stage of his international career.

Has the Bell stopped ringing?

The selectors must also choose whether to effectively end the ODI career of Ian Bell, who rarely featured in Sri Lanka.

He too has been short of runs and has struggled to consistently score quickly in this format. With Alex Hales likely to take Cook's place in the team opening with Moeen Ali and James Taylor seemingly having nailed down his position at number three, Bell's future may have depended on the Cook decision.

The experienced batsmen are similar players and we were always unlikely to see both in the same batting order as they lack invention. Throw into the mix Gary Ballance, who has been talked up again after being harshly left out of the tour to Sri Lanka, then the future looked bleak for England's most talented current Test batsman.

Discarding both Cook and Bell would be risky, so as the captain has been given the push the Warwickshire man should get a reprieve, with Ballance also earning a recall as middle-order backup.

Selecting the seamers

With England's experienced pacemen James Anderson and Stuart Broad missing the Sri Lanka tour through injury, those seven ODIs provided five bowlers with the opportunity to earn their places in the World Cup squad.

Two of those men grabbed this chance, two did not. Chris Woakes played every game and produced commendable spells when bowling at the most difficult stages of the innings. His bowling figures of 6-47 were a particular highlight and he got better with the bat as the series developed.

Chris Jordan was perhaps the most likely bowler to miss out before the Sri Lanka tour started. But after being given the nod in the third ODI, he bowled with increased accuracy and chipped in with wickets.

Conversely, Harry Gurney struggled to cause the batsmen any worries and was often expensive. With England desperately needing a quality 'death bowler', the Nottinghamshire left-armer had a decent chance of earning a spot but missed his length too often.

Ben Stokes again failed to live up to the hype. Cook clearly did not trust him to bowl many overs and the all-rounder gave him no reason to change his mind when he was thrown the ball. He probably needs a break from the international scene but with Cook's departure the selectors choose to have him in the tri-series squad as another all-rounder option.

The pair of disappointments above make it easy for Anderson and Broad to come back into the side.

It also gives Steven Finn another chance to stake his claim. Finn is gradually finding his rhythm and generally opened the bowling well. He deserves another chance to prove his worth in the tri-nations in Australia.

The spinner places don't need to be discussed. James Tredwell was England's best bowler on the Sri Lanka tour and Moeen Ali continues to provide a fine secondary option. In Australia and New Zealand, these spin twins will be sufficient in the squad.

Our probable England 16-man squad: E Morgan (captain), M Ali, J Anderson, G Ballance, I Bell, R Bopara, S Broad, J Buttler, S Finn, A Hales, C Jordan, J Root, B Stokes, J Taylor, J Tredwell, C Woakes