Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What's wrong with England cricket ?

I am amazed how the bloggers on the blogosphere, including some that should know better, think that England's problem is one of selection. They roll out their tired old diatribes about the inadequacies of one player or another and then honour us with their XI, as if they have some extraordinary insights denied to mere mortals (like the Selectors, for example). The twenty or so cricketers in the frame for England at the moment are all decent cricketers and you should be able to perm any eleven from the twenty and get a side that will win you matches - even against the toughest opposition. So why don't we win?

The answer is to do with leadership and motivation, pride and cojones (or the lack of them). Under Duncan Fletcher and Michael Vaughan twelve players (all of whom, bar Trescothick, are still in the frame by the way) fought like tigers and played, at times, like Kings. They built a relationship with the spectators in the packed grounds and vicariously via the media with millions around the country. Every over, every session, every day and every match mattered to every single one of them. Each player did what he was best at and every player fought like hell to support his team-mates. When Geraint Jones had a few problems at Trent Bridge an interviewer asked Fred Flintoff whether there were doubts about Jones - "Not in our dressing room there aren't" he said.

The focus, the pride, the ambition, the courage, the flair and the style (day one at Edgbaston for example) of England in 2005 was quintessentially Australian! England out-Ozzed the Aussies over those glorious weeks. Roll forward to today and a squad made up of broadly the same (or the same type) of players under the same Captain is nowhere. Outplayed in every department at Headingley and out-battled by a cojones-full Saffer side at Lord's. Was the Second Test eleven that much worse than England 2005? I don't think so. Cook is a different player to Trescothick but no less talented. Monty is a better bowler than Gilo. Ambrose looks to be as good as Jones. Anderson, on his day, is on par with Simon Jones. And so on. Nothing much wrong with the selection of the England sides in the first two Test matches in my opinion - quality players all (I leave out Pattinson whose selection was an aberration which hopefully won't be repeated).

So what's wrong? Well lets start with the ECB and their unspeakable head Giles Clarke. Clarke has his eye not on the ball of creating an environment within which England cricket prospers but solely on the main chance of $$$$. The Stanford deal is an obscenity with no cricketing justification whatsoever. I for one don't begrudge the players their chance to get rich. But not like this. Inevitably every England squad player will have at least part of his mind on Antigua, and when a part of your mind is distracted then you are sub-optimally using the rest. Even Michael Vaughan, no Twenty20 star he, started to play a bit of Twenty20 almost as soon as the Stanford deal emerged. I don't blame him for that, but it was a distraction that our Test Captain could have done without. So Clarke, and his sidekick Collier, instead of focusing on a challenging series of international matches that really matter, home and away, spent their time trying to screw as much money out of cricket as possible whilst keeping the counties happy. They would have been better advised to read William Buckland's "Pommies" which brilliantly gets to the truth of what is wrong with English cricket and suggests that we need to be more Australian, not just in style and ambition, but in our domestic structure as well. I agree.

I am unimpressed by Peter Moores who seems far too much of a county insider to me. Fletcher had some county experience that he used shrewdly, but he was a winner because he wasn't hidebound to the so-called traditions of English cricket at all. And, glum old bugger that he could sometimes be, he built a partnership with Michael Vaughn and the other senior players in the squad which won The Ashes. Not a bad model!

So what to do? Firstly try and get Clarke and Collier to focus on the real job in hand - or get rid of them if they can't. Second get rid of Moores - he looks like a loser and that rubs off on the side - and get a foreign coach of real quality (welcome back Rod Marsh?). Third select a squad of the best twenty cricketers in England with a balance of youth and experience (welcome back Ramps) and every single one of whom can play cricket in any of the three forms of the game. Work with this squad in every which way - boot camps not excluded if that is what the coach thinks will help! Fourth get rid of the selectors. Give your new top coach full control over selection - aided by a small team of experienced talent spotters if you like - but make the coach an Alex Ferguson or an Arsène Wenger. Finally make Michael Vaughan the Ricky Ponting of England - captain of all the England sides in any form of the game and the honoured, trusted and respected leader.

1 comment:

PaulFrame85 said...

The ECB isn't just the counties though and cricket isn't just professional cricket. Look at the huge growth in women's cricket since 2006 as a case in point. It the counties are reformed and rebuilt then what happens below the professional level with youth an club development that happens through the county boards?