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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 December, 2003, 08:32 GMT
Should Hussain stand down?
As Nasser Hussain concludes a disappointing tour of Sri Lanka, BBC Sport wonders whether the former England captain should hang up his bat.

Hussain out cheaply in Colombo
Hussain has endured a difficult second tour of Sri Lanka
Hussain's 46 runs in four innings on the current tour of Sri Lanka compares with a total of 136, including a vital century, when he led England to victory in 2001.

As recently as October, Hussain stood firm with a six-hour innings of 76 after England lost three wickets for a single run in the second Test against Bangladesh.

England's next international assignment is in the West Indies and, since making his debut there in 1990, his record in the pace-friendly Caribbean is 395 runs at 28.21, compared to an overall average of 37.06.

Against South Africa's potent pace attack he provided a patient 116, and an equally vital 30 on a capricious Trent Bridge wicket, to square the Test series in August.

Captain Michael Vaughan was reluctant to have a batting line-up including thirty-somethings Hussain, Mark Butcher and Graham Thorpe last summer and Hussain has been the least productive of the trio in this series.

Thorpe only returned to the line-up in August after battling niggling injuries and off-field problems, so England must be sure of his future intentions before making wider plans.

With the next Ashes series just 18 months away, England need to make sure they have the core of a line-up that will still be there to take on Australia.

England have challenges ahead of the Ashes, including a tour of South Africa next winter, during which he could add experience whether in the Test XI or not.

Hussain celebrates his Trent Bridge ton
Hussain showed his ability against pace with a century against South Africa
With Hussain out for the first Test in Sri Lanka, there was a long-awaited debut for Paul Collingwood, who impressed with his grittiness although his scores will not be remembered.

An experiment for the second Test in Galle proved there is no space for both right-hand batsmen and, at 27, Collingwood has eight years on his rival.

For the last two years England have been content to allow Collingwood to wait for his Test place while in the one-day side, and the Durham man is already displaying the ability to step up when required.

Hussain thrives on motivation and, as he ticks the challenges off, that drive appears to be decreasing.

England have not won a series in the Caribbean since 1968, so the April tour provides Hussain with a rare new challenge.

England may have laid the blame on Muttiah Muralitharan but Hussain crossed a line in abusing the number 11 batsman during the second Test, especially if the lines attributed to him are correct.

He remains a voluble, and able, member of England's fielding side, his apparent willingness to field at short leg adding extra value.

Verdict: England can decide after their tour of the Caribbean whether to restructure the team, and next summer may be the time to blood new players.

But a trip to the West Indies is always tough, even if the home side are nothing like the forbidding prospect of the 1980s.

Even if Hussain is not an automatic first-choice in the Test XI, he should be there to provide batting backup, motivation and experience to Vaughan's team.

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