England v India, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's, 4th day July 20, 2014

Farbrace defends senior players

Paul Farbrace insisted England's senior players could not be praised highly enough despite recent results at the close of play on the fourth day of the second Investec Test at Lord's.

Farbrace, the England assistant coach, pledged full support for beleaguered captain, Alastair Cook, and said the "contribution" of other senior players had been "fantastic."

Farbrace has only been in the job a few months so it would be understandable if he felt he was not in a position to criticise his players. But his comments are sure to raise eye-brows after another disappointing day saw England facing a fight to avoid defeat against India.

Of particular surprise will be Farbrace's suggestion that the coaching team "can't praise the senior players highly enough" despite evidence that suggests they are the cause of the team's difficulties.

For while Cook has not scored a Test century for 27 innings and Ian Bell not for 17 innings, Matt Prior has conceded the equal most byes by an England keeper in a home Test since 1934. Stuart Broad looks far from fit while James Anderson has not taken a five-wicket haul since the Trent Bridge Test of 2013 and, in the 13 games since, has taken his wickets at an average of 35.59.

But Farbrace remains supportive and believes that the worth of such players cannot be rated by their on-field contributions.

"The great thing with all of our senior players is that their contribution in and around the dressing room, in and around practice, has been fantastic," Farbrace said. "It's been massive. We can't praise them highly enough.

"They're helping young players that we're trying to develop and we are trying to develop a squad and a team and trying to take it forward. Yes, we want to win games, but we're also trying to develop players at the same time as winning games of cricket."

While that does raise the question of the role of the coaches - you might think it was their role to help with the development of younger players - Farbrace did accept that the bowlers had failed to maintain the requisite lengths in India second innings and that Cook needed to produce more runs.

"They're not machines," Farbrace said. "They are trying hard to get the ball in the right places and sometimes it doesn't work.

"Absolutely, Alastair is aware that he needs to score some runs. He wants to do well for the team. He wants to score runs for them.

"He doesn't need telling. He's well aware of what he needs to do, and his commitment to the team is fantastic."

In truth, Farbrace's comments probably illustrate the absurdity of the post-play media conferences more than they do anything else. While he expressed his resolute support for Cook as captain, there really was nothing else he could be expected to say in the circumstances. The fourth day of a Test is hardly the time to suggest it is time for a change of captaincy.

"Nothing has changed whatsoever," Farbrace said. "Absolutely nothing has changed. We all want him to score runs and I think you saw today that everybody in the ground wanted him to score runs. We're all very much behind him. Everyone in the team is.

"He's feeling that a score is close, and you saw today that he fought and scrapped and worked as hard as he possibly could. There is absolutely no question that he is our leader. He's a very unflappable character and he's working very hard. His thoughts are very much on the team and the team doing well."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments