August 9, 2009

Ashes

'Soft' cricket let England down

Jamie Alter

The Daily Telegraph has printed a dossier from Justin Langer giving the Australians advice on England players and conditions.

English cricketers are witheringly described as “lazy”, “shallow” and “flat”, and as players who “love being comfortable”. Fast bowler James Anderson can be “a bit of a pussy” if things do not go his way and skipper Andrew Strauss can be too “conservative”. And there are barbs at the egos of Matt Prior and Graeme Swann, as well as the annoying strut of Ravi Bopara.

In an era when people are fascinated by plans that are devised for bowlers on the cricket field, Ian Chappell is not surprised at the interest in Langer's dossier. Any Australian captain who needs an outsider to point out England's repeated failings - Alastair Cook’s weakness outside off stump, Ian Bell getting his pad in the way of in-swingers and batting Ravi Bopara at No. 3 - is actually the master impostor Karl Power in a baggy green cap, writes Chappell in the Daily Telegraph.

Anyone with a decent knowledge of the game can draw up a few foolscap pages of plans to dismiss batsmen and unsettle opponents but unless the author is accountable for the end result, they’re mostly window dressing. A captain has to make the decision who to bowl and where to place the field, and if all goes astray, as it did for Andrew Strauss at Headingley, he better be able to change tack quickly and inspire confidence in his team.

The former England captain Michael Vaughan says the first point to make about Langer's dossier is that it is very easy for him to criticise and to question the attitude of English cricketers. Vaughan would like to have seen how he would have coped growing up in the English system and playing for a team that did not include Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.

The most worrying aspect flicking through the three pages is that I found myself agreeing with much of it. There are one or two mistakes. I think describing James Anderson as a "pussy" is very harsh but it goes to show that there are no secrets in international cricket.

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Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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