Stern Words January 18, 2007

The other Schofield

John Stern feels Ken Schofield's appointment to review one whitewash won't produce another whitewash



It's time for introspection yet again, and it's not just England's sorry one-day form © Getty Images

The last time a man called Schofield was involved with the England cricket team, they were clutching at straws searching vainly for a winning formula.

Six years ago, Chris Schofield, a novice legspinner and a 'Pommie Shane Warne', we were told, was handed a central contract, picked for a couple of Tests and has barely been heard of again.

What's in a name? Ken Schofield, no relation, is a hot-shot golf administrator hired by the England Cricket Board (ECB) to rake over the Ashes. Unlike his wrist-spinning namesake, he looks pretty well qualified for the task at hand. He turned the European golf tour from a 17-event fairground attraction with £430,000 worth of prize money into a £71m circus with almost three times the number of tournaments. He knows and loves his cricket and is involved with the Surrey Youth Trust.

He also knows how to make money. But making money is not the issue, though how money is spent might come under the remit of his review team, which also comprises Nasser Hussain, Mike Atherton and Angus Fraser.

English cricket loves nothing better than a crisis or even the sense of impending crisis. You can see it on people's faces, hear it in the tone of their voices. Comedians, starved for a good few years of jokes at English cricket's expense, are rejoicing that a 5-0 Ashes roasting gives them the right to sneer again. Normal service has resumed. It's sad.

Sports fans are not much good at perspective and British fans are worse than most. And we're really bad at self-loathing (or is that good at self-loathing? I'm not sure.) But now is the time for a bit of perspective. Stephen Fleming had it right when he said the answer to getting over being thrashed by Australia was to "play another team". He might conceivably have been suggesting that England select another team but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt that he was talking about facing a different opposition.

Comedians, starved for a good few years of jokes at English cricket's expense, are rejoicing that a 5-0 Ashes roasting gives them the right to sneer again

The ECB's announcement - before the Ashes had even finished - that they were setting up this review group had a whiff of spin doctoring about it, responding swiftly to the something-must-be-done frenzy. Being charitable, one can say they were being proactive and decisive, not adjectives often associated with English cricket administrators. But also it gives off the vibe that the game is in crisis when it patently isn't.

Admittedly, the mission statement of the review group is targeted solely at the way the England team is run and interestingly states winning a global one-day event as a specific goal. That is a shift in emphasis. Previous ECB mission statements have specified only Test No. 1 status as the goal.

And there you have it. It has become increasingly and embarrassingly obvious that England don't take one-dayers seriously enough and that includes media and supporters too. The ECB knows it. They don't need consultants to tell them that.

David Collier, the ECB's chief executive, is a smart man. His post-Ashes comments about learning lessons indicate that he has a pretty clear idea that a bucketful of mistakes were made. There is a management debrief after every England tour. You'd figure that all the issues about preparation and methods of selection could be dealt with there.

Maybe Collier worries that nothing would change. Maybe Duncan Fletcher has been invested with so much power at the ECB that he wouldn't be challenged from within. Or maybe it is the players who can't be challenged internally. Hence, the desire for external consultants.

Whatever Ken Schofield and his group do come up with, we can assume it won't be a whitewash. Once is enough for one winter.

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer