August 23, 2012

Of patriotism and green suede jackets

Sorry, no, England are not among the greatest teams ever
58

Last year there were people (cricket journalists admittedly, but I've checked and they still count as people) who believed that England were one of the greatest sides in Test cricket. That's okay, though. People believe all sorts of things. R Kelly, like Icarus, believed he could fly. It's only when you act on your irrational beliefs that the problems start. For R Kelly, it was an execrable song. For Icarus, the consequences were even more unpleasant.

But in the afterglow of last summer's walkover against Team BCCI, one or two hacks committed their crazy notions to paper. There it was, set down in black and white, an ill-advised love letter we knew they would one day regret: England were one of the greatest Test sides ever. The team of Cook, Trott and Bresnan wedged into the cricket pantheon next to Bradman's Immortals, Clive Lloyd's Invincibles and Steve Waugh's Disintegrators.

So, in the light of recent and not-quite-so-recent events, we are now presented with a conundrum. On the one hand, England's current lot are one of the greatest teams ever. On the other, they've lost five of their last 11 matches. As Mr Spock would tell you, logically one of these can't be true. Perhaps it's the second one. Maybe they haven't really lost five Tests this year? Hang on, I'll check. Yep. Turns out it was six.

Is it cruel to remind people of their past follies? Quite possibly, but on the other hand, does it do them any good to let them get away with it? I once bought a green suede jacket and then, to compound the problem, I wore it. The hilarity this provoked served as a sartorial wake-up call. Had people just coughed politely and said nothing, I would have persisted in my folly. I might even have bought the matching shoes.

We need better from our scribblers. Middle-aged sports journalists should not be cavorting around in short skirts spelling out Andrew Strauss' name one letter at a time while waving metaphorical pom poms. If I want to partake of patriotic eyewash, I can easily unmute the television when Ian Botham starts commentating. From journalists I want the facts, the juicy scoops, and above all, some sober, objective analysis.

So to help them out, here's some sober, objective analysis. Feel free to cut and paste, chaps. England climbed to the top of the rankings by beating the following:

Australia 2009: Ordinary collection of has-beens, maybes and Mitchell Johnson
Australia 2011: As Australia 2009, only worse
Pakistan: The most shambolic overseas venture since the Sex Pistols' 1978 US tour
Bangladesh: It's Bangladesh
Sri Lanka: No Murali. No Vaas. No Malinga.
West Indies: Seriously?
India: 4-0 win ever so slightly undermined when India lost to Australia (see above).

And this doesn't include losing a series in the Caribbean in 2009, being completely outplayed in three out of four Tests in South Africa, and collapsing to big defeats against inferior opponents with a series still alive in Perth 2010, Headingley 2009, Kingston 2009 and The Oval 2010. So: England, a good team, not a great team, who got lucky with the fixture list and enjoyed a pleasant interlude at the top of the heap.

Lesson learned, chaps, we hope. Patriotism isn't just the last refuge of the scoundrel; like a green suede jacket it can also make you look extremely silly.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • abbas on August 25, 2012, 9:59 GMT

    the 3-0 drubbing at the hands of pakistan does not deserve any mention?

  • Faizan on August 24, 2012, 4:43 GMT

    Awesome... especially this part.."If I want to partake of patriotic eyewash, I can easily unmute the television when Ian Botham starts commentating. From journalists I want the facts, the juicy scoops, and above all, some sober, objective analysis"..

  • Morne Smit on August 24, 2012, 4:30 GMT

    Well in a word "NEVER" will they ever be in same bracket as Bradmans, Lloyds or Waughe's teams! Simple mathematics made by ECB created the illusion the English have enjoyed for a year. In 6 years they have played 69 tests to 51 of SA. The reality is playing many tests at home against lesser competition to increase points ratio on the rankings system. Fortunately they played a coachless, post WC hungover India on green pitches. A slain Ozzie side crumbling from within since first defeat at home in '08/09 vs SA. A well orchestrated 2 year period when everything went their way. Unfortunately they played Pakistan who themselves are struggling in every arena and thanks to English ability to play abroad now are ranked 4. Reality check 3-0 come Nov for India.

  • mattyt on August 24, 2012, 3:43 GMT

    typical english pessimism...well written though, and loved Steve Waugh's 'Disintegrators'

  • neil on August 24, 2012, 2:55 GMT

    My goodness, indeed, a single sober Englishman.

  • neil on August 24, 2012, 2:54 GMT

    My goodness, indeed, a single sober Englishman.

  • Dave on August 24, 2012, 1:46 GMT

    Come on Andrew - Name and shame 'em! Which of your colleagues on this website thought England were #1? And went into exhaustive detail about Bell's perfect technique or Anderson's mastery of swing? I bet this year's Wisden doesn't even mention South Africa.

  • rohith on August 23, 2012, 23:09 GMT

    Well told but then I should say this is the best england team in years. The team of 05 dint do much after their triumph and before that it was as said got lucky with fixtures a bit. So this team is better than that and is the best england team in 20 years but then thats all what they are how India were also the best indian team ever but then not comparable to the aussies of 90s-00s or the great WI or the invincibles! This article doesnt look like a page 2 article!

  • Ujjwal Ingolikar on August 23, 2012, 22:23 GMT

    Nice article! Just goes to show, how good a team the Aussies were for a major part of the last decade. With top 4-5 teams evenly matched, while others just almost making up the league, I dont thing we would have a team in near future which would dominate the world of cricket.

  • Jonathan on August 23, 2012, 21:26 GMT

    Great analysis to which I concur. Green suede jackets may come in to fashion a bit more now that blue has been shown up to not be the best...

  • abbas on August 25, 2012, 9:59 GMT

    the 3-0 drubbing at the hands of pakistan does not deserve any mention?

  • Faizan on August 24, 2012, 4:43 GMT

    Awesome... especially this part.."If I want to partake of patriotic eyewash, I can easily unmute the television when Ian Botham starts commentating. From journalists I want the facts, the juicy scoops, and above all, some sober, objective analysis"..

  • Morne Smit on August 24, 2012, 4:30 GMT

    Well in a word "NEVER" will they ever be in same bracket as Bradmans, Lloyds or Waughe's teams! Simple mathematics made by ECB created the illusion the English have enjoyed for a year. In 6 years they have played 69 tests to 51 of SA. The reality is playing many tests at home against lesser competition to increase points ratio on the rankings system. Fortunately they played a coachless, post WC hungover India on green pitches. A slain Ozzie side crumbling from within since first defeat at home in '08/09 vs SA. A well orchestrated 2 year period when everything went their way. Unfortunately they played Pakistan who themselves are struggling in every arena and thanks to English ability to play abroad now are ranked 4. Reality check 3-0 come Nov for India.

  • mattyt on August 24, 2012, 3:43 GMT

    typical english pessimism...well written though, and loved Steve Waugh's 'Disintegrators'

  • neil on August 24, 2012, 2:55 GMT

    My goodness, indeed, a single sober Englishman.

  • neil on August 24, 2012, 2:54 GMT

    My goodness, indeed, a single sober Englishman.

  • Dave on August 24, 2012, 1:46 GMT

    Come on Andrew - Name and shame 'em! Which of your colleagues on this website thought England were #1? And went into exhaustive detail about Bell's perfect technique or Anderson's mastery of swing? I bet this year's Wisden doesn't even mention South Africa.

  • rohith on August 23, 2012, 23:09 GMT

    Well told but then I should say this is the best england team in years. The team of 05 dint do much after their triumph and before that it was as said got lucky with fixtures a bit. So this team is better than that and is the best england team in 20 years but then thats all what they are how India were also the best indian team ever but then not comparable to the aussies of 90s-00s or the great WI or the invincibles! This article doesnt look like a page 2 article!

  • Ujjwal Ingolikar on August 23, 2012, 22:23 GMT

    Nice article! Just goes to show, how good a team the Aussies were for a major part of the last decade. With top 4-5 teams evenly matched, while others just almost making up the league, I dont thing we would have a team in near future which would dominate the world of cricket.

  • Jonathan on August 23, 2012, 21:26 GMT

    Great analysis to which I concur. Green suede jackets may come in to fashion a bit more now that blue has been shown up to not be the best...

  • Riddhi Sen on August 23, 2012, 19:17 GMT

    Andrew, the parallels drawn are awe-inspirational!

    Plus Straussy's face in the picture matches the colour of your suede jacket remarkably well.

  • David on August 23, 2012, 18:57 GMT

    Icarus, according to the myth, could, and did fly. He fell back to earth because he flew too close to the Sun. Did the English Cricket team too perhaps get too close to the Sun? Those tabloid journalists will bring you back to earth with a really nasty bump - just ask KP about that!

  • Chandrapaul Persaud on August 23, 2012, 18:50 GMT

    lol england is the most overrated cricket team

  • bipin on August 23, 2012, 18:39 GMT

    perfect analysis!!!!! could not have put it better.the only true pundits of the game in my opinion are richie benaud and geoffrey boycott.i really find it very onesided and biased analysis by the english media when england win.well done for putting it as it should be!!! i raise my hat and take a bow to you!!!! THANK YOU!!!!

  • G Mahmood on August 23, 2012, 18:11 GMT

    They (The English) can not Play world class spin or the seam..... ICC management have to think over their rules and regulations regarding the RANKING SYSTEM.....

  • Harsha on August 23, 2012, 18:03 GMT

    Nice Article, Andrew, Surely the present English team is not in the league of Bradman's, Lloyd's or Waugh's teams. But at the time they were #1, they were better than the other teams around and that, for most English fans who have not seen outright victories since Bothams ashes, that was something new and would need to be celebrated. Unfortunately, Such success does not last unless you have the Don in your Team OR A Man with swagger and no fear and a four pronged self replinishing never tiring pace battery OR A Blonde Wizard and a Sergeant Like Captain. The Present England team is good as a team, but only good enough to be in the top 3 for the moment, They are not a legendary all conquering team. I hope the press doesnt make too much of S.Africa's win against the Poms now [They beat the Aussies in OZ too, just like Eng]. There were better South African Teams, just that at that point of team there were also better teams than them. Also: Firing KP: bad move: Talk to the WCB once...ssssss

  • RampantHaddock on August 23, 2012, 17:59 GMT

    Not that I disagree, but....oof, you're gonna cop it for this.

  • Srikanth on August 23, 2012, 17:26 GMT

    This is hilarious! Great article. "Pakistan: The most shambolic overseas venture since the Sex Pistols’ 1978 US tour " <--- EPIC!!!!!!! To me, the windies team under Clive Llyod was the best! I never liked the Aussie captains of the late 90s and early 2000s but they were a great side too. The Indian side of the last few years had a great batting lineup(which did tweak sometimes). But usually, it was the lack of real fast bowling that hurt the team's ammunition.

  • Vaibhav Gupta on August 23, 2012, 16:33 GMT

    Another nice article from you though missing the usual fun associated with your articles.

  • Nitin on August 23, 2012, 16:30 GMT

    Loved the sarcasm and wit - fantastic, humorous article that will make any cricket lover - not the fans perhaps - but a true lover of the game, SMILE!!!

  • Pete on August 23, 2012, 16:24 GMT

    I could not agree more....and with KP gone for the time being.....this England side will look even more shambolic....

    The Aussie side is over next year...and they will love being the rated a bad side...it will fire them up...England need to look at that Ashes series as a 5-0 win for them....English supporters expect nothing less....

    Swann is off...also....does he believe his own hype...or did Sth Africa just work him out this tour...

    The England tail did not wag this summer against the Saffers...

    Could this current England side go and win in India....doubtful.....

    England like India were mearly keepers of the number 1 spot until Sth Africa and Australia get their act together and go on dominate for some time....

  • MachonOne on August 23, 2012, 15:53 GMT

    Sir, I believe you should become the mouthpiece for common sense. "England" and "Hype" have been as synonymous as "Mitchell Johnson" and "wide" for the last year now. A good team, but not a great one.

  • Zak Hossain on August 23, 2012, 15:34 GMT

    Brief but great article with even greater/stronger logics. I couldn't agree anymore. I thought a little description of the hammering they got from Pakistan in the UAE was needed to make it perfect. A good one for those big mouthed english commentators.

  • Mahesh on August 23, 2012, 15:27 GMT

    Great...At least some one is speaking truth about the most bashing team.....

  • Russ Wallis on August 23, 2012, 15:11 GMT

    Oh don't be such a misery

  • Russi on August 23, 2012, 14:13 GMT

    I warned you guys last year. Typical overhype by the English media. Happens in cricket, in football, and any other sport England participates in. This isd not one of the greatest sides ever, and Lampard is not a great mifielder, just an average one. Learn from your mistakes!

  • Waymac on August 23, 2012, 14:02 GMT

    I agree with you 100%. At the time these so called pundits were salivating about how good the English team was, I thought it was being driven by England's lack of success during the previous three decades. Pointing to individual statistics by itself is not indicative of greatness. I wonder how the Gowers, Lloyds and Bothams now feel after extending the various superlatives in lauding this team's achievements. It surely must be embarrassing to have England's "greatest' team perform in the manner which they just did. This is similar to how these commentators were putting Steve Harmison on the same level as Curtley Ambrose after his initial success. I hope that these events will make them temper their crazy utterings in the future.

  • samurai151 on August 23, 2012, 13:43 GMT

    you forgot to mention the whitewash in the the uae!

  • sagir parkar on August 23, 2012, 13:42 GMT

    Andrew insightful piece as always.. however, it would have be Doomsday for the Scribblers to call a spade a spade and stop hyping things up... i'd probably attain salvation before the Scribblers talk sense.

  • Karan on August 23, 2012, 13:41 GMT

    And the BCCI XI, which was the blue-eyed boy of the press before being bowled over(that too repeatedly under the score of 300), by the Broads and the Bresnans, and the Siddles and, regret to say it, Mitchell Johnson too, wasn't exactly a champion side either. A No. 1 test team wouldn't have been content with a 1-0 test win in the Caribbean.

    Hang on a minute, the Kiwis are in India right now. The joke would be back on us once the series ends.

  • Ankur Marfatia on August 23, 2012, 13:29 GMT

    I know :-) I was thinking the same thing when I read it first time in Nov 2011.

  • Benjamin Binns on August 23, 2012, 13:29 GMT

    Well observed and written. England were (and are) clearly not a 'great' side but arguably a very good one - well led and managed, and able to get most of their players to perform close to their best. But how many of the team would have made it into a world eleven?

    I think the loss to South Africa was instructive (and appropriate) - a very good team humbled by an exceptional one.

  • anshuman on August 23, 2012, 12:45 GMT

    Yes.. England were deceived into thinking they were great by a very ordinary Indian team who pretty much got to the top for the better part of two years playing at home.

    India is consistently making mediocre players look great in sub continent conditions ...only to be found out losing all 8 of its matches abroad (England /Australia)

  • steve satchell on August 23, 2012, 12:42 GMT

    Dear Andrew,which journalist?s,when?;this is enticing but,alas,unscholarly,yours ever,S

  • Scott on August 23, 2012, 12:30 GMT

    Maybe you're right - England not a great team but great entertainment - unlike SA who have risen to number one largely by drawing series with the same sides England beat (except Australia of course) Australia in South Africa Test Series 2008/09 Australia 2-1 (3) Basil D'Oliveira Trophy (England in South Africa) 2009/10 drawn 1-1 (4) South Africa in India Test Series 2009/10 drawn 1-1 (2) South Africa in West Indies Test Series 2010 South Africa 2-0 (3) Pakistan v South Africa Test Series (in United Arab Emirates) 2010/11 drawn 0-0 (2) India in South Africa Test Series 2010/11 drawn 1-1 (3) Australia in South Africa Test Series 2011/12 drawn 1-1 (2) Sri Lanka in South Africa Test Series 2011/12 South Africa 2-1 (3) South Africa in New Zealand Test Series 2011/12 South Africa 1-0 (3) Basil D'Oliveira Trophy (South Africa in England) 2012 South Africa 2-0 (3

  • Scott on August 23, 2012, 12:30 GMT

    Maybe you're right - England not a great team but great entertainment - unlike SA who have risen to number one largely by drawing series with the same sides England beat (except Australia of course) Australia in South Africa Test Series 2008/09 Australia 2-1 (3) Basil D'Oliveira Trophy (England in South Africa) 2009/10 drawn 1-1 (4) South Africa in India Test Series 2009/10 drawn 1-1 (2) South Africa in West Indies Test Series 2010 South Africa 2-0 (3) Pakistan v South Africa Test Series (in United Arab Emirates) 2010/11 drawn 0-0 (2) India in South Africa Test Series 2010/11 drawn 1-1 (3) Australia in South Africa Test Series 2011/12 drawn 1-1 (2) Sri Lanka in South Africa Test Series 2011/12 South Africa 2-1 (3) South Africa in New Zealand Test Series 2011/12 South Africa 1-0 (3) Basil D'Oliveira Trophy (South Africa in England) 2012 South Africa 2-0 (3

  • Jon on August 23, 2012, 12:26 GMT

    I think we became so used to mediocre England sides that when at last we had a good side, we thought them great.

    Winning back to back ashes and hammering the aussies on their own turf, are the achievements of a great side in any Englishman's conciousness. But truthfully as you expose the level of the opposition was not the same as the one that had dominated England for the previous decades.

    Lastly your point about the fixture list being kind is true, but equally it has been unkind lately.

    Any team would struggle with a fixture list in one calendar year comprising of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India away, combined with West Indies and South Africa at home. That is a hefty fixture list on top of the one-day and T20 games and tours.

  • Sankar on August 23, 2012, 12:20 GMT

    This again is really good ( Australia were bad but India Awful).

  • abhaya on August 23, 2012, 11:59 GMT

    lol... I love the humor in cricinfo ..

  • Veera on August 23, 2012, 11:47 GMT

    ha ha ha!! good one!!very true!!

  • Rett on August 23, 2012, 11:05 GMT

    The jury is still out on England's future prospects. As an Australian I'm always amused by the English media's views on their cricket team. It fluctuates between the "best in the world" or the "worst ever". When in fact they are usually a competent, professional side that performs accordingly. Exposed by great teams (West Indies 70's80's,Australia 90's 2000's) and sometimes by not so great teams (Pakistan 2012). However their performance in the last Ashes series made me think they were on the verge on something special. Yet another false dawn? I don't know. The recent loss to South Africa would have been avoided had the old adage "catches win matches" been adhered to. The tour to India will be crucial.

  • Krish on August 23, 2012, 10:17 GMT

    Very rightly written, just a wake up call! We all were surprised by that article, written in haste and proclaiming current England side as one of the greatest, Andy Flower as the greatest coach ever and blah blah. They are a good side and maybe among top 5 best Englsh teams but not among top 5 best teams ever. Probably writer got carried away in a reaction to decades of mediocrity and criticism and sarcasm but getting such a article published in a very respected place was too much. I hope Editors take a note and don't act like Jingoistic fans commenting on their teams performances.

  • will on August 23, 2012, 9:09 GMT

    You forgot to mention that the problems really began when the players started believing the hacks.

  • Praxis on August 23, 2012, 9:07 GMT

    Seems like Mr. Hughes is very unamused with his team's performance.

    Actually I still wouldn't be convinced if ENG hadn't done so badly in the last tour of UAE against PAK & Sri Lanka after. ENG are still a pretty good team in conditions favouring seam & swing. But their test cricket is too orthodox, too disciplined & unimaginative(credit to captaincy of Strauss, team selection & the top 3 batsmen). Great teams invent a lot more, try unseen strategies... like all fast bowlers, attacking openers or scoring over 4 per overs.

    Most of the neutral observers will agree that SA has been the deserving top test team for the last 2 years with their away records. Also we should remember SA beat ENG in their backyard, where ENG has been almost unbeatable in the recent years.

  • Klaus Pors on August 23, 2012, 8:28 GMT

    So true Andrew! I completely support your observations and opinions. The worrying thing is that cricket commentators are above average when it comes to insight of their sport and discussion of it. For example, there are very few journalists in the world of football that talk any sense. And this sport is full of Botham's too, but that's not so bad as you also describe in your blog (although it doesn't help having the likable fella Gary Lineker, but not very sound anchorman, popping up every other minute at the Olympic Games - is this the best we've got?). But people in sport educated to have an opinion and in theory with capacity to analyse really need to up their game!

  • Sri on August 23, 2012, 8:25 GMT

    Spooky, but the current number ones will face Pakistan next january...deja vu. And maybe, there will be a new world number one in august next year. deja vu.

  • Riyas on August 23, 2012, 8:04 GMT

    lol nice one. could apply to the ex no 1 before england as well :)

  • JS on August 23, 2012, 7:24 GMT

    Very rightly put Andrew. The English press is their own downfall. I feel for KP a little bit.

  • Jamal Hassan on August 23, 2012, 7:01 GMT

    I think ur being harsh on England,They won when they're playing like a team and now they're loosing since they have behavioral problems.Infact, they always lost due to this reason.They won when they're modest and lost when they think they're King-Pin.

  • marees on August 23, 2012, 6:56 GMT

    can you make a small correction, Andrew? If australia had played johnson india might have made history by winning thier first series down under.

    and you should trademark Steve Waugh's Disintegrators:-)

  • NaniIndCri on August 23, 2012, 6:22 GMT

    Haha, Honest and funny article.

  • Bhaskar on August 23, 2012, 6:09 GMT

    The Cricket Test power is Strong in India and SA.These two teams will competitive in Test cricket from this time,England can't play in Home,then how can they play Overseas.Coming to Australia, West indies is far better than this.See their ranks in T20.For South Africa Amla,AB Devillers were the Key players.After Retirement of Wall(Dravid) and Laxman,India team has to work hard.India present mostly depends on the Kohli but Sehwag,Sachin,Gambhir is also a power to India.

  • vinod on August 23, 2012, 6:05 GMT

    Hilarious as usual Andrew and spot-on. To call England great was ridiculous to say the least. The only truly great cricket teams were those u mentioned.Regarding Bradmans team I'll take ur word for it,but having seen the other two they were truly awesome

  • ish on August 23, 2012, 6:02 GMT

    England have lost SIX of their last eleven matches! 3 to Pak, 1 to SL & 2 to SA.

  • Niraj on August 23, 2012, 6:00 GMT

    Brilliant!

  • Kaundinya on August 23, 2012, 5:58 GMT

    lol!! Really good one!! Especially the see above part!!

  • usama zafar on August 23, 2012, 5:52 GMT

    You forgot to add the 72 run all-out shambles against Pakistan in UAE.

  • chapel on August 23, 2012, 5:44 GMT

    excellent article and thats the truth. When they got a quality opposition in SA they came to know where their game stands. Not to forget the media creating hype as if englang were the westindies of 80s

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  • chapel on August 23, 2012, 5:44 GMT

    excellent article and thats the truth. When they got a quality opposition in SA they came to know where their game stands. Not to forget the media creating hype as if englang were the westindies of 80s

  • usama zafar on August 23, 2012, 5:52 GMT

    You forgot to add the 72 run all-out shambles against Pakistan in UAE.

  • Kaundinya on August 23, 2012, 5:58 GMT

    lol!! Really good one!! Especially the see above part!!

  • Niraj on August 23, 2012, 6:00 GMT

    Brilliant!

  • ish on August 23, 2012, 6:02 GMT

    England have lost SIX of their last eleven matches! 3 to Pak, 1 to SL & 2 to SA.

  • vinod on August 23, 2012, 6:05 GMT

    Hilarious as usual Andrew and spot-on. To call England great was ridiculous to say the least. The only truly great cricket teams were those u mentioned.Regarding Bradmans team I'll take ur word for it,but having seen the other two they were truly awesome

  • Bhaskar on August 23, 2012, 6:09 GMT

    The Cricket Test power is Strong in India and SA.These two teams will competitive in Test cricket from this time,England can't play in Home,then how can they play Overseas.Coming to Australia, West indies is far better than this.See their ranks in T20.For South Africa Amla,AB Devillers were the Key players.After Retirement of Wall(Dravid) and Laxman,India team has to work hard.India present mostly depends on the Kohli but Sehwag,Sachin,Gambhir is also a power to India.

  • NaniIndCri on August 23, 2012, 6:22 GMT

    Haha, Honest and funny article.

  • marees on August 23, 2012, 6:56 GMT

    can you make a small correction, Andrew? If australia had played johnson india might have made history by winning thier first series down under.

    and you should trademark Steve Waugh's Disintegrators:-)

  • Jamal Hassan on August 23, 2012, 7:01 GMT

    I think ur being harsh on England,They won when they're playing like a team and now they're loosing since they have behavioral problems.Infact, they always lost due to this reason.They won when they're modest and lost when they think they're King-Pin.