Ed Smith
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Former England, Kent and Middlesex batsman; writer for the New Statesman

How did England go from great to godawful?

It's a disease that afflicts all teams these days - of too much cricket and too much travel

Ed Smith

August 1, 2012

Comments: 130 | Text size: A | A

England's bowlers had a chastening day, England v South Africa, 1st Investec Test, The Oval, 3rd day, July 21, 2012
Cricket schedules force teams to swing between being underprepared and over-tired © AFP
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Mark Nicholas : Once flawless, England now oddly insecure
Players/Officials: Kevin Pietersen
Series/Tournaments: South Africa tour of England
Teams: England

In their last 800 minutes in the field, England have taken one international wicket - Graeme Smith for 131. (Smith's form, by the way, is eerily reminiscent of 2003 - if you'd been asleep for nine years, you might think Smith had taken up permanent residence in an English batting crease). England begin the second Test in Leeds tomorrow wondering what it must feel like to see two South African batsmen get out in the same day.

How quickly things change. Three weeks ago England reduced Australia to 96 for 6 in the ODI at Chester-le-Street, another blow in a crushing 4-0 demolition. England's problem in those happier times was not taking wickets, it was working out which of their battery of fast bowlers to leave out. England have gone from an embarrassment of riches to a crisis of confidence - all in under a month.

How can any team suffer such a rapid reversal of form and fortunes? The usual explanations will be offered - selection, tactics, over-confidence, under-confidence, and so on. But there is a fundamental underlying explanation for such huge fluctuations in the form and momentum of international teams, and it applies to every team in the modern era. Everyone plays too much cricket.

Today's players go on more tours, check into more hotels, catch more flights and play more cricket matches than any players in history. The IPL and new pop-up T20 leagues mean that top players often exploit commercial opportunities during gaps in the international calendar. Every international team, to a greater or lesser extent, is jaded and exhausted.

Here is the crucial point: systemic tiredness, spread across all international teams, leads to innate volatility. Imagine a cricket match as an arm-wrestle. Two perfectly fresh and well-prepared teams will compete somewhere near equilibrium point for a much longer period before one side gradually forces its opponent into submission. A contest between two tired teams, though they are trying just as hard, will end much more quickly and decisively.

When I played county cricket, I learnt that matches taking place at the end of the season were different. It wasn't that players didn't try as hard or care as much. The difference was more subtle. What really changed at the end of the season was the degree of resilience within teams. Suffering from the long-term tiredness that is inevitable at the end of a season, teams found it harder to mount a sustained comeback if they fell behind in the match. As a result, if you could gain a dominant lead in the match early on, your position quickly became impregnable. As a batsman, I learnt that there were opportunities for big scores at the end of the season: if you could get in, then the opposition quickly melted away. It wasn't that they stopped trying. They simply had depleted physical and psychological resources to draw upon.

The gruelling, drawn-out nature of a county season has repercussions for coaching and leadership. The most important skill for a successful county coach is not technical expertise or even tactical nous. It is knowing how to manage a team's workload. "I'm not really a coach at all," one county coach put it to me. "There is no time to coach in the English county season. I'm a manager."

It was once hoped that county cricket would evolve to be more like Test cricket - with long periods of rest and recuperation, sufficient preparation and then intense battle on the pitch. Instead, international cricket has evolved to be more like county cricket - a never-ending round of travelling, patching up injuries on the road and calling up replacements.

The "county treadmill" is defined by motorways and suburban hotels; modern international cricket is defined by airports and five-star luxury. But the underlying truth is the same. There is too much cricket, too much travel, insufficient time and space to "gather" - physically and psychologically - for the game ahead. In terms of atmosphere and physical exhaustion, modern Test cricket is played in an almost perpetual end of season.

Nor can teams simply take more time off. There is a base level of preparation that is essential to compete well. Australia were hampered in England by a wet spring and too little cricket. They were undercooked. But if they had extended their tour to guard against such pitfalls - given all the other commitments their players face - they would have become jaded.

When you play too much cricket, those are the recurrent facts of life: a constant search for a happy medium between underprepared and over-tired.

 
 
There is too much cricket, too much travel, insufficient time and space to "gather" for the game ahead. In terms of atmosphere and physical exhaustion, modern Test cricket is played in an almost perpetual end of season
 

The result is wild lurches in form: England smashed by Pakistan in the Tests in UAE, Australia dismantled in England in the ODIs, England humiliated at The Oval.

Say what you like about today's Test cricket but it certainly isn't predictable.

****

What is Kevin Pietersen going to do next?

I have followed Pietersen's career closely. We were almost exact contemporaries, and I was a member of the 2003-04 England A team in which Pietersen played his first representative cricket. I'd just been dropped by England. He was on the way up, about to break into the Test team.

I've rarely seen anyone bat with such total self-belief and ambition. His own mind was clear. There was only one possible destination: greatness. Everything else was mere detail.

When I got back to England, English journalists were eager to find fault with his technique and his personality. "You'd surely agree," one leading cricket writer said to me, "that he won't be able to make Test runs with that leg-side technique?" I remember seeing it very differently and replied: "People who are waiting for Pietersen to fail will have a long wait ahead of them."

And they have certainly waited patiently. But Pietersen's departure from the England T20 team was interpreted as misjudged and ill-timed. And now, even though he is far from being in bad form with the bat, there is a general sense that he owes England something special.

He has been here before. Before the last Test of the 2005 Ashes, there was a sense that Pietersen had to back up his evident self-confidence with some on-field performances. He made 158 and secured the Ashes. In Sri Lanka last winter, when he needed a big score to salvage the tour, he won the second Test almost single-handed.

Pietersen has always lived perilously close to hubris. But where other players would think, "Ah, here comes the moment when I trip up", Pietersen covets boxing himself into a corner. Many players find the pressure of "having" to perform a terrible burden. But Pietersen often produces his very best when the options narrow to "score runs or elseā€¦"

Just as well. Because England need him now.

Former England, Kent and Middlesex batsman Ed Smith's new book, Luck - What It Means and Why It Matters, is out now. His Twitter feed is here

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Posted by JG2704 on (August 3, 2012, 16:00 GMT)

@Patrick_ re " Now the funny side is, there is only a limited presence of English stars in IPL, and still IPL is blamed for their failure" - I actually don't know why IPL is mentioned on here either but I've not heard IPL used as an excuse from any poster on here. Eng are certainly not playing number one cricket right now but since early 2009 up til early 2012 England also (like India) went undefeated away inc a draw in SA and a win in Australia.We were certainly pathetic in UAE but still drew in SL despite being poor.

Posted by Hammond on (August 3, 2012, 1:14 GMT)

@Meety- actually, cricket was played earlier than 1948, and in my opinion the two best England sides ever were the 1928 side under Percy Chapman that trounced Australia at home, this was the strongest England side ever and would have given any side in history a run for their money. And the 1902 side which was also filled with brilliance and would be up in the top ten sides in history as well. England never get the recognition that they deserve. And it is strange that a born and bred Western Sydneyite has to be the one to give it to them.

Posted by JG2704 on (August 2, 2012, 20:54 GMT)

@karthik_raja on (August 02 2012, 15:22 PM GMT) re " I actually don't understand where you're coming from" means I don't know what you're on about. I have said that I disagree with using fatigue/tiredness as an excuse but in your previous post you implied that I agreed with the author so I am not contradicting myself with coming out with excuses. But you read into my posts what you want to - you will/do anyway

Posted by Patrick_ on (August 2, 2012, 20:30 GMT)

To be frank England team's No 1 status is much short lived than that of India. India could win home series, win/draw overseas series quite often in their reign as No 1 team. England however had a series whitewash immediately after their crowning. So we can never call England a great team. Now the funny side is, there is only a limited presence of English stars in IPL, and still IPL is blamed for their failure. The truth is England are tigers at home, pathetic at subcontinent and was defeated by a better team at home this time around. Don't search for excuses !

Posted by Vkarthik on (August 2, 2012, 15:41 GMT)

Reason is Fake south africans are shown up Real south africans. Seriously almost all the sides in the world are rebuilding except England and South Africa. So you had some easy wins. England apart from one good series in Australia has dismal record abroad. Everything else is bullying at home with duke ball. Now that a stabilized side is facing England they are showing England is not as good as they are made out to be.

Posted by karthik_raja on (August 2, 2012, 15:22 GMT)

@JG2704 "I actually don't understand where you're coming from" - I think that really doesn't matters the most here.. better try to understand my views than to understand where I am coming from.

Posted by ansram on (August 2, 2012, 13:25 GMT)

English team went from good to average, not great to awful. Getting whitewashed by India in the ODI and pakistan in tests after gaining the no:1 spot is hardly the mark of a great team.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. The English team is not tough. The team is one dimensional. They know how to hunt, but once the hunter becomes the hunted they have no game plan. As soon as tide turns against them they simply start to wait for "luck". That may work against a weakened bowling team like India last year but not against a full strength SA side. Playing a lot is no excuse either, Srilanka has played the most of late.

Posted by JG2704 on (August 2, 2012, 11:54 GMT)

@ karthik_raja on (August 02 2012, 09:19 AM GMT) PS - If there was an article like this about the Indian decline I probably wouldn't comment as I really could not give a flying one about India either way. If I had to put something constructive about India , I'd say in tests that maybe they were a little complacent when they came to England and maybe their big batsmen lacked heart and mental toughness. And before you quote stats from yesteryear about how they have proven against my theories I am saying on this particular tour - although you can maybe add the Australian tour. And re "Wont u and ur mates .." - None of my mates like cricket and I've already explained I couldn't care less about India's plight either way.

Posted by JG2704 on (August 2, 2012, 11:54 GMT)

@karthik_raja on (August 02 2012, 09:03 AM GMT) I actually don't understand where you're coming from. I posted "I'd also like to point out that I am in no way blaming any sort of tiredness from playing too much cricket etc" So does that not mean I'm saying I disagree with his reasons? Yes I read that person's post hence I put "Re WI , they rested a load of players for that tour" inc Sachin,Gambhir and Sehwag and ironically the one Indian batsman who played well in Eng was Dravid who was one of the players who played that tour. Re "No more arguments please" - Don't direct a post to me if you don't want me to respond

Posted by Meety on (August 2, 2012, 11:10 GMT)

@OzzyHammond - England has some great sides, but the best 3 teams in history are (no particular order as it is debatable) Bradman's Invincibles, Lloyd/Richards WIndies & Taylor/Waugh/Ponting's Ozzys. England in the 50s were the closest to those sides.

Posted by JB77 on (August 2, 2012, 10:53 GMT)

Is is compulsory to include the word 'hubirs' in every 2nd Cricinfo article? Sure seems that way. As least now that Flintoff is gone I don't have to read the word 'talismanic' in every paragrah.

Posted by 9ST9 on (August 2, 2012, 10:25 GMT)

"How can any team suffer such a rapid reversal of form and fortunes? " in my Humble opinion, today there are no super teams such as the Aussies of the early/mid 2000's . Quality of all sides have dropped a bit. As a result a side is good only as how they play on a given day. Hence, the ICC rankings can be a bit deceptive in the sense that a top ranked side might not always do well as expected on a given day. Pakistan beat the daylights out of England a few months back but lost eventually to Sri Lanka who are struggling to string together a test level bowling attack. Also the form against the Aussies in ODI's cannot be applied to tests, as we all remember how well england did in the UAE ODI's against Pakistan after the Test defeats.

Posted by karthik_raja on (August 2, 2012, 9:19 GMT)

@JG2704. Simple question. If this article is by an Indian abt Ind team. Wt wud hv been ur comments. Wont u and ur mates jump up and down and thrash this writer (as many of anti-Eng fans r doing here). If u r calling urself a neutral and unbiased(I will never forget this term - the one u used @ me, sarcastically - once) u shud also join them. rite.?? Y r u not doing that.?? Double standards huh.?? Else, I need a honest opinion abt this article from u.. Love to hear it..

Posted by karthik_raja on (August 2, 2012, 9:06 GMT)

@JG2704. re 5Wombats, Sry. I didnt knw that. I too join u in wishing him for a speedy recovery... Btw, I thought its "them" of 5 members as they always refer them as "we"..

Posted by karthik_raja on (August 2, 2012, 9:03 GMT)

@Posted by JG2704 on (August 02 2012, 08:12 AM GMT).. Surprise.. I thought u will be going all guns against Ed for coming up wid such an excuse. Bt, u chose to defend him, by saying Ind's "excuse" was not correct. So, u mean..?? Eng's "reason" for failure as mentioned in this article is rite..?? Well.. I knw u r adamant English fan.. Bt, I never thought u will come up wid such a post. Either u shud agree that fatigue is a valid reason and not excuse. Else, the vice versa. Bt, u chose it to b a "reason" in case of Eng and an "excuse" in case of Ind. Okay. Coming back to ur point, did u read Shan's post completely. He mentioned abt IPL and WI tour between WC and Eng tour. U chose to skip that. Well, u played SL in the mean time. Bt, remember, both SL and Ind series were home series for u. Bt, Ind was traveling to alien conditions.. Hope u find some difference in that.. I expect u to accept both as reasons or both as excuses. No more arguments please.

Posted by JG2704 on (August 2, 2012, 8:32 GMT)

@karthik_raja ctd -If you actually want my views as to why we have been in decline well apart from our batsmen underperforming throughout all our defeats , my main issue is that our selectors have not adapted to our strengths and are blind to how our number 6 batsmen has added nothing to the side in both times of success and failure and we should go 5/1/5 as a formation. I said this before India and before UAE so I can't be accused of jumping on the bandwagon looking for excuses when I have vocally said this even during our successes. I'm not saying this would mean we'd beat SA but I do believe it increases our chances significantly .Re 5W - he is having surgery (not sure what exactly) as he posted on another thread and I wish him a speedy recovery.

Posted by JG2704 on (August 2, 2012, 8:31 GMT)

@karthik_raja Right , now you were talking about me giving excuses for the last test defeat. All I was doing was answering one of your fellow fans direct questions as to why our bowlers failed in the last test , so then when I answer this , I get you coming on saying that I'm giving excuses. Note I said that our batsmen failed full stop. Not sure what the reason for the decline is. I would put at least 90% of it down to the batsmen being unable to dig in. I'd also like to point out that I am in no way blaming any sort of tiredness from playing too much cricket etc. One of our better posters used being undercooked as a reason for our failure in UAE which I disagree with as an reason/excuse because even if you were undercooked to begin with , we had 2 or 3 warm up games and 3 tests so we should have been up to scratch.

Posted by JG2704 on (August 2, 2012, 8:12 GMT)

@ ShanTheFanOfSachin on (August 01 2012, 10:46 AM GMT) Eng also played in that WC - Remember? OK they played 3 less matches. Re WI , they rested a load of players for that tour. If your team is overcooked or undercooked that's your problem. There weren't these sort of concerns being aired pre series

Posted by karthik_raja on (August 2, 2012, 8:10 GMT)

@Posted by fineprint on (August 02 2012, 06:47 AM GMT). I get ur point and who u mean. Well, its useless in trying to explain something to adamant and jealous people. Lets leave it ya.. Btw, I am strictly opposed to the logic behind comparing players from different era.. Lets enjoy their greatness and not get into discussion esp, when the players themselves have huge respect towards each other.

Posted by JG2704 on (August 2, 2012, 8:07 GMT)

@IndiaNumeroUno on (August 01 2012, 07:53 AM GMT) Actually they played 2 test series away from home. 1 was a 3-0 whitewash and the other was a draw or do you mean the only time apart from the time they drew?

Posted by   on (August 2, 2012, 7:56 GMT)

Ed Smith has been a really good writer and is consistent through out...but then raising the issue of fatigue and tiredness only when the team loses is not justified during this professional time...remember how reluctant Anderson and Board were to rest previously, and the english do not have to play in IPL also...It is just part of the profession, a consultant does not get into a board meeting saying that I have been working for last 1 year with constant travels so please ignore my mistakes and allow me a longer rope...issues should always be looked in perspective ...agreed the players are playing more, but simultaneously they are earning more.Hence they should not complain, and if they are so much fed up with the whole thing they should pick and choose or can sacrifice like Marcus Trescothick.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (August 2, 2012, 7:55 GMT)

No, it cannot be that cricketers are playing too much these days. As anyone who has been around since the 1960s, I know that cricketers played far more often then . Bowlers do not bowl 800-1,000 overs; batsmen do not have 50 inns yet any cursory glance at Wisdens of the past this was the case. At the elite level (as we now term it) Test players played for their counties when not on Test duty. Ken Higgs played 5 Tests v WI in '66 & 16 three-day matches for Lancs! a theoretical total of 72 days' playing. Will his modern counterpart, James Anderson, play even half that number? And so it was, year in - year out, until the modern era when the cotton wool came out and cricketers seemed to get injured far more often - it's all very ironic! There is an argument for saying that some cricketers actually need to play more these days - to avoid sillinesses like Strauss playing for Somerset! And don't get me started on touring schedules when tours would last for 5 months! Tougher men , then!

Posted by fineprint on (August 2, 2012, 6:47 GMT)

"here is a fundamental underlying explanation for such huge fluctuations . . . . Everyone plays too much cricket." . . .. similar concerns were highlighted by another writer in relation to Sri Lankan cricket a few days back, the article was titled "Gruelling schedule takes toll" . . everyone seems to be agreeing on this one fact, probably because it is a neutral comment, in favour of all the cricketers. It makes me wonder on these lines: If more cricket played by a team takes its 'toll' on a TEAM why the same logic does not seem to figure (with some people) when one is discussing 'who is a better player/cricketer/batsman ?' why do some people seem to be very sure about their assertion that more matches played would mean more runs scored by a batsman? why should players who have played more games should, for that matter alone, not be rated higher than those who have played less ? Some may have guessed what I am talking about.

Posted by Hammond on (August 2, 2012, 6:01 GMT)

Anyone why doesn't think that England ever had a "Great" cricket side either doesn't know their cricket history or doesn't want to know. England have had some some of the greatest cricket teams (and players) that have ever played the game, and never get the recognition that they deserve. Even now.

Posted by VivtheGreatest on (August 2, 2012, 4:17 GMT)

Great it seems!! LOL! Lloyds and Richards WI teams and Taylors and Waughs Aussie teams were great. This is a joke of a no 1 team who have been completely exposed in the last one year -and by the way Im Indian

Posted by karthik_raja on (August 2, 2012, 3:50 GMT)

where those Eng supporters @5wombats, @JG2704 @landl47 etc etc. Whn I saw this article yesterday, I expected them to come in this forum and strongly condemn Ed Smith for writing such an article. Since they simply don't like giving excuses for loss.. Or will they show up, defending Ed Smith's article as "reasons" and not "excuses" (esp, 5wombats wid his highly skilled thoughts).. Any guesses..??

Posted by harshthakor on (August 2, 2012, 3:47 GMT)

You are right Ed.Too much cricket is being played and there is no outstanding or great test team ,with standards of bowling and batting in decline.The number of truly great players is diminishing day by day.

However what counts against England is that they simply failed to adapt to the sub-continent conditions like great teams of the past like West Indies.On turning tracks their batsmen were lost,like in Sharjah ,where they should have won the test series 2-1.With greater resilience they could well have won the 1st test of the 2 match series in Sri Lanka and won the series.

Posted by prashnottz on (August 2, 2012, 3:37 GMT)

Not one of your best efforts Ed am afraid. If anything England has probably played less than what it should have in the buildup to the marquee series of the summer. In the previous 3-3.5 months (since end of SL tour - prior to SA series) Eng had played just 3 tests, 6 ODIs and a solitary T20I. And one of those tests were anything but marred by rain. Not only that, they also enjoyed about 5-6 weeks of break from International cricket before the current season began, and barring KP, who played in the IPL, no other English star player had to slog during these weeks. And someone like Anderson didn't even play the full quota of test matches, remember.

Posted by   on (August 2, 2012, 2:39 GMT)

Mr. Ed, since ur a also a cricketer and a sportsman you should know we dont look for excuses, we look for solutions and the discipline to conquer our weaknesses. I am offended by some of your comments on how cricket is different in different times of the year perhaps yes in County and ur underestimating the abilities of international crickets, if your playing international u ought be ready even in your sleep. The only explanation is that England is not undisputed #1, I am indian but I accept that India was nowhere close to being undisputed #1 like the Aus/WI of earlier Eras. And i was shocked when I saw an article that mentioned Eng in the same league as AUS/WI, not happy about that. There are too many weaknesses in all the teams today, and when they are exposed its not a pretty sight. So guys instead of criticizing any player/team or looking for excuses why one failed, I am waiting to see which team will rise above the ashes and take that mantle of Undisputed #1.

Posted by AndyZaltzmannsHair on (August 2, 2012, 2:07 GMT)

Whenever Eng get aspirations of being number 1, they usually play Pakistan shortly afterwards and end up getting Pakistunned. Happened in 87, 93, 05 and now in 2012. They never recover and usually have to restart with a new team from scratch. Let's hope history isn't repeating itself.

Posted by   on (August 2, 2012, 2:01 GMT)

If what this article claims is true, then the recent Australian team (1994-2008/2009) is even better than typically thought. To dominate for so long and so consistently in such a crushing manner magnifies that particular team's brilliance vis-a-vis the WI of 75-90 and the Invincibles!

Either that or it's just British excuses :P

Posted by Massive_Allan_Border_Fan on (August 2, 2012, 1:05 GMT)

Played more cricket than any players in history? What absolute rubbish. During the West Indies series, the (English) television commentators put up a comparison showing overs bowled, wickets taken, days spent playing cricket and (rather unfairly) runs scored comparing a year of Ian Botham's career with a year of James Anderson. In the days when test cricketers went back to their counties, Beefy and his colleagues played far more cricket than this lot, bowled a lot more competitive overs and presumably spent more time in hotels too. Botham thrashed Anderson in all of these statistics.

Posted by IndiaRulesEverybody on (August 2, 2012, 0:36 GMT)

Wow, I can't believe someone call this team "Great" unless the meaning of that word has changed.

Posted by the_blue_android on (August 2, 2012, 0:11 GMT)

All this is IPLs fault and BCCI's fault. Oh wait, none of the englishmen were picked for IPL because they have trouble clearing the inner circle...

Posted by the_blue_android on (August 2, 2012, 0:00 GMT)

the only time they were great was when the people were delusional!

Posted by straight_drive4 on (August 1, 2012, 23:56 GMT)

arrogance. from players and supporters - that how.

Posted by Vindaliew on (August 1, 2012, 23:51 GMT)

It may seem like making excuses, but when you look at Ed's comments in tandem with Gary Kirsten's, in how he chose to take his team for a team-building holiday rather than extra practice sessions, it does make sense. Gary Kirsten is really one of the best team managers out there these days - one only needs to look at the difference in India while he was around compared to before he arrived and after he left.

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 23:30 GMT)

@clarke501:uhmmm check the title of the article

Posted by SixFourOut on (August 1, 2012, 23:24 GMT)

It's pretty simple; English bowlers just aren't that good. Jimmy Anderson is good on his day but his record is mediocre, sure he hit a purple patch last year, but now he's back to the middle of the pack. Broad is okay, but never better than that and Bresnan is a very useful bits and pieces player worthy of most teams and Graham Swan has been found out and left wanting..........

That's just how it is.

Posted by Alexk400 on (August 1, 2012, 23:15 GMT)

For me any great side has to have great all rounder or atleast one great great bowler who can will his team to win. This team has lots of role players like florida marlins won world series. It is a good system. England can consistenly win if they keep finding 5 tall bowlers. They can beat any side on their day if they all play well. it all depends on how big your weakness is. Can england win next test ? i doubt unless england post mommoth 550+ score and put SA under pressure. Against angry steyn not possible,

Posted by legsidewide on (August 1, 2012, 22:13 GMT)

@ clarke501 Did you forget to read the title of this article?

Posted by shillingsworth on (August 1, 2012, 21:30 GMT)

@sportysam - You are either commenting on the wrong article or looking for straw men. There is no mention here of England being 'great', nor any reference to India's recent difficulties.

Posted by i.love.ice.creams on (August 1, 2012, 20:59 GMT)

This piece of writing from Ed Smith is successful in explaining some frequently encountered happenings of recent times. The critics are a bit too thin skinned and over reactive. . Within a matter of two weeks, the tide has turned against the English. If they lose now then many would mockingly comment that they never deserved to be #1 and if they recover then they would swear falsely that they new England would make it. . India also deserved identical justice with their abilities a year ago but they were debarred from it and forced under heavy introspection and criticism. Almost similar situation will arise if England lose now.

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 20:57 GMT)

@C.P.B. thing is this the 70s 80s West Indian team and 90s/00s Australian sides were great because they were not dependent on conditions.They didn't play weak opponents they outplayed good ones.The West Indians had to face Dennis Lille(regarded by many as the greatest bowler of all time),Jeff Thompson(the fastest bowler of all time),Richard Hadlee,Ian Botham,Imran Khan,Sunil Gavaskar,Geoff Boycott,Greg Chappell,Javed Miandad,Zaheer Abbas and the list goes on. The Australians had to face Wasim Akram,Waqar Younis,Allan Donald,Muthiah Muralitharan,Shoaib Akhter,Jacques Kallis, Lance Klusener,Sanath Jaysurya,Sachin Tendulkar,Rahul Dravid,Inzamam-ul-Haq,Saeed Anwar,Alec Stewart,Andrew Flintoff,KC Sangakkara and the list goes on

And you think West Indies and Australians had a walk in the park they faced the greats and came out winners to be called the greatest

Posted by CHINAMAN_UK on (August 1, 2012, 20:36 GMT)

This is a difficult one to look at in isolation... a loss often results in comments about too much cricket for the loosing side, however with a WIN little is mentioned about the opposition having had too much cricket. We need to stop being too analytical about these type of situations ater the match, simply because this is one that should have been captured BEFORE the test match , the level of cricket did not change during the test match due to some unknown factor. If we had WON would anyone be saying there is too much cricket, this is not to say that this isn't a reality.

Posted by sportysam on (August 1, 2012, 20:30 GMT)

So, when INdia loses their no:1 status, it is that they dont have the fire or they cant play ourside subcontinent, and when England is on the verge of losing their No:1 status, its fatigue.. You got to be kidding me Ed! To begin with, England was never Great as you mention!!

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 20:29 GMT)

Another English journalist making English excuses!

Posted by Alexk400 on (August 1, 2012, 20:17 GMT)

England never a great side. Its only english media hype. They beat india 4-0 and start dreaming they are great side. India sucked for sure. Great side can win anywhere. This team got beat 3-0 by pakistan. This team can't play in subcontinent. England did play well in england where their bowlers used conditions well. Now they are facing better side than them and everything unravelling infront of their eyes.

Posted by warnerbasher on (August 1, 2012, 19:39 GMT)

A great side? they are a good side in conditions that suit and are all at sea when conditions don't. They also took advantage at a time when their opposition were generally rebuilding their test teams so good luck to them. Just except the fact that the Saffers have better players and are a better team and stop making excuses

Posted by warneneverchuck on (August 1, 2012, 19:22 GMT)

We wil smash u nextyear in Ashes

Posted by bigdhonifan on (August 1, 2012, 19:10 GMT)

@getsetgopk Pakistan bowler??? Then England lost to Indian Batsman (Hashim Amla)

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (August 1, 2012, 19:03 GMT)

Now, I am a proud Indian supporter. I also admire English cricket for 2 reasons: the professionalism shown by its cricketers at county level as well as international level. Secondly, for the fact that it's the mother of cricket. A strong England is good for the sport. I commented on this several times here on Cricinfo. Unlike some Indian fans, I won't go to the level to say this is the end of England. If England win in Headingley, then they are good enough to take the series. I just wish England play just as well away from their own conditions. Right now NO team is doing that. SA are coming close. I need a genuine world no.1 and I hope one of these 2 teams become true world beaters like the WI and AUS before them. So good luck to England and SA. Haters will keep hating, cricket is too great to pay attention to those.

Posted by bigdhonifan on (August 1, 2012, 18:57 GMT)

Is Mr Ed Smith just born??? Buddy England was never a great side. they just played good at home for couple of months. It was all a media hype.

Posted by Rahulbose on (August 1, 2012, 18:51 GMT)

LOL. Last I checked this is the start of the English season, so how is fatigue a problem? Not to worry Ed, its a home series have some faith in your "No 1" team. Save the excuses for the India tour later in the year.

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 18:35 GMT)

@LeftBrain: If Cricinfo had the Like button, I would have surely liked your comment! :P

Posted by Robster1 on (August 1, 2012, 18:17 GMT)

Spot on, there's simply too much constant cricket - for supporters also, who need time to recharge their enthusiasm.

Posted by C.P.B. on (August 1, 2012, 18:12 GMT)

Khawaja Fahad, "if you play and win against weaker opponents you cannot call it greatness". So the 70s/80s West Indies side or the 90s/00s Australian sides were not great because every other side was weaker??

Posted by gmoturu1 on (August 1, 2012, 18:03 GMT)

the fact is this England team was never great. Except Cook I don't find anyone dependable. Players like Strauss, Bell, Swann, Anderson, Broad are very ordinary when challenged properly.

Posted by HLANGL on (August 1, 2012, 17:29 GMT)

Who said the current English side is a great one ?. It's nothing but an exaggeration. If you're talking about great sides, then pick WIs from mid 70s to mid 90s, Austrailians from 2000 to 2007 & (though I have never seen them) to a lesser extent Australians in 1940s. They were great sides who were used to win matches quite comprehensively more often than not. In today's game, there's no such a single dominant superlative team. All what I can say about teams like Eng, SA, Ind, Aus, Pakistan & SL is that they are good teams who can enjoy success against one another. Given the ground conditions, the players fit in to final XIs & their form, the amount of luck one's having on a day, etc. they will win matches. All these sides are more or less equal, quite capable of beating one another on their day. They will win games, not quite so comprehensively in most cases as most great sides used to do, still in between they will experience humiliations like what Eng had in UAE & also this time.

Posted by balajik1968 on (August 1, 2012, 17:03 GMT)

Too much cricket? I don't understand this. First thing is the guys who are on the international roster don't play much county cricket(a system started by Duncan Fletcher and still continued). Next, none of the English cricketers except KP ply their trade in the IPL, and even KP played just 5 matches. Considering it's 20-20 it is a maximum of 200 overs, or 2 ODI's on the field. So too much cricket is not an acceptable excuse. If that was the case the Indian and Sri Lankan players should complain the most. Fact is England were outplayed by a determined South Africa. That said, I think England is a good, not great team. They have a balanced bowling attack, with Swann providing the vital balance. South Africa seem to have found the balance with Tahir, and it is showing.

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 16:16 GMT)

its about time that we face it, England were just not good enough in the first match and thus, were beaten by the much better team, therefore we have got a lot of soul searching to do before Headingley to come back a stronger outfit.

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 16:02 GMT)

As for the authors hero i must remind him that in the Pakistan tour of England and vice versa he only manged to score only 1 fifty in 12 innings.Its as simple as that whenever the bar is set high England's true colors are visible as was against South Africa and Pakistan.

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 15:56 GMT)

Firstly England was never a great side if you play and win against weaker opponents you cannot call it greatness.There previous opponents had weakened over the years or did not have the bowling prowess to take 20 wickets in a test match.The previous encounter against South Africa of England on paper was a draw but in truth England dodged a huge bullet of a scoreline of 3-1.As in the first and 3rd test match England drew with only one wicket left.When Pakistan toured England although they were severely shorthanded in batting department again England's weakness were shown with both Asif,Amir tearing down England's so called greatness.If they had a half decent batting lineup and the spot fixing fiasco had not occurred They would have won.As for other teams, Australia is no more a force to be reckoned it is in transition,India only relies on batsman with their bowling noth capable of bowling the other team twice,as for SriLanka,West Indies and NewZealand they were are not as strong either.

Posted by LeftBrain on (August 1, 2012, 15:29 GMT)

I wont consider this article a worthy read.A typical English article trying to cover-up for a normal English problem, In-cometence. England had a couple of good years in international cricket in last three quarters of a century and all English writers and commentators were jumping on bandwagon to make-believe that England is somehow a great team. They are not. Period. Australia faced same problems of too much cricket, too much traveling, too much work. And they are required to travel more than rest of cricketing world because they are in COW corner of world geographically. They never had any probelms. Engalnd is a bunch of medicore players, just like all the other teams these days. They became no. 1 on the back of playing at conditions that suits them, against sides whe were on downward direction due to injuries/retiements/complecency. Now other teams are improving and English team is exposed!! no matter how many excuses English try to comeup with, they are a team of average players!!

Posted by tushmath on (August 1, 2012, 15:22 GMT)

GREAT..really??? they have NEVER won in the subcontinent..their fame to greatness is winning at home and beating a depleted aus team in aus.. they lost 3-0 to pak which is def not a good test team.. WAKE UP POMS..

Posted by zoot on (August 1, 2012, 15:21 GMT)

"How did England go from great to godawful?"

They were never great. They beat weak sides (Australia and India were uncharacteristically weak against England). As soon as decent sides were put in front of them they looked average. Pakistan beat them and Sri Lanka won a match as well. No-one has dominated since Australia so being top in the rankings by a small margin doesn't mean very much.

Posted by Nadeem1976 on (August 1, 2012, 15:12 GMT)

Stupid article. One loss does not matter at all. If England goes on to lose this series then this article will be perfect . At this point series is wide open and england will bounce back. England will bounce back and SA needs to play far better than first match.

Posted by prachamalla on (August 1, 2012, 15:05 GMT)

I dont think Too much cricket is the reason for England. This article seems to find a way to say that England is still the best team in the world. I cannot agree with that. What happend to England in UAE? As far as i can see, Only South Africa is ahead of others. They are probably the only team who can win in all conditions. I did not see that yet in England team.

Posted by zuber21886 on (August 1, 2012, 14:47 GMT)

now that they lose you say that its too much cricket, where were you with these words when they were winning, face the fact, england are only good on their home grounds and now they perished even there too.

Posted by Divinetouch on (August 1, 2012, 14:46 GMT)

Ed Smith wrote this article to make 5wombats, JG274, Yorkshire pudding, Yorkshirelad, Andrew Mcglashin, Boycott, Nair Hussain, Michael Atherton and others of similar sentiments feel good. Especially 5wombats.

Posted by getsetgopk on (August 1, 2012, 14:12 GMT)

@WillDuff: There are no excuses for failing to a Pakistan leg spin bowler Imran Tahir and I suppose there was no excuse for failing to an average Pakistan side in the UAE as well, horrors.. horrors...horrors, you have no idea of what your talking, something annihilated you and you still have no idea what hit you.

Posted by vattettan on (August 1, 2012, 13:54 GMT)

Ha! when India lost, it was England's greatness! Thought India are/were playing much more cricket and would have been more eligible to claim this excuse than England.

Posted by Paulk on (August 1, 2012, 13:48 GMT)

I usually enjoy Ed Smith's articles but this does not sit right. The recent Australia 50 over side was a weak team with inexperienced players. You can hardly compare them to the current SA outfit. I dont believe England was godawful. South Africa was just too good. A very very strong batting lineup and the best attacking bowling lineup in the world. They were just too good on paper and on the field in the 1st Test. Accept it.

Posted by llw5682 on (August 1, 2012, 13:20 GMT)

Oh cry me a river! England simply got beat by a team equally as good that likely spent months preparing for them. Deal with it.

Posted by criexpert on (August 1, 2012, 12:48 GMT)

Rating system 1) good openers-4 points- 2) solid Number 3/4- 4 points(main batting backbone). 3) Attacking 5/6(3 points)- They can take away the game from opposition 4) WicketKeeper- 2 point .(No drops and score some 40 avg) 5) Pace openers -4 points 6) 3rd pacer-1 point 7) Spinner- 2 point (as he has to pick wk in Subcontinent and on 4/5 day of test in other places) 8) Allrounder-1 point for extra skill Now the scores 1) SA- 2.5+3.5+2+2(Devilliers)+3+1+1=14 2) Aus-2+1.5+1.5+1+2+0.5+0.5+1=10 3) Eng-3+2.5+1.5+1+2.5+0.5+1.5+0.5(Combined ability of swann+bresnan+broad)=13 4) India-2+1.5(Dravid out so cant rate it so rating for sachin)+1.5+1.75+0.25+1+NA=8

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 12:40 GMT)

Hold on! English Players didn't even participiate in the IPL! If anything, the South Africans have had to play a lot more than their British counterparts. I agree that too much cricket can tire players out, but that's still no excuse for getting drubbed like that by a team that has been considerably busier this season!!

Posted by Unomaas on (August 1, 2012, 12:38 GMT)

I have to agree with my fellow commentators in stating that this article sounds like an exaggerated excuse concocted to sooth bruised ego's. The second test will put all speculation to rest either way so lets wait patiently for the outcome!

Posted by WillDuff on (August 1, 2012, 12:35 GMT)

Over simplistic analysis from Ed Smith. You cannot compare a weak, under-prepared Aus IDI side with a mentally well-prepared SA Test team stuffed full of top ten batting and bowling talent.

But your point about the volatility of Test teams is interesting, and it's perhaps the psychological aspect of England's No.1 position which is key: they fought so hard to get to the top that they now don't have the mental strength to maintain that position in the face of a hugely strong and confident SA challenge.

I hope we win the next two Tests, but I think there are too many misfiring parts in our team at the moment, and you cannot carry an injured spinner and two or three out-of-form batsmen against Morkel and Steyn. (Though there's no excuse for falling to the Pakistani spinner Tahir, who's pretty average country cricket standard.)

Posted by CricketPissek on (August 1, 2012, 12:03 GMT)

the timing of an article about exhaustion right after a humiliating defeat is a bit silly. you're just asking for ridicule Mr Smith. your valid facts lose credibility due to the timing of this piece.

Posted by jb633 on (August 1, 2012, 11:57 GMT)

@Rahulcricket- for once I actually agree with you. Tiredness cannot be used an excuse. Just like in the UAE we used undercooked as an excuse. Plain and simple we are not a great team but decent. It would be silly of anyone to deny we played some really good cricket from 09-11 but ever since the UAE series we have been on a downward spiral. Even if we had won this series the dismal showing against Pakistan showed the vulnerabilities. The media decided to gloss over the 0-3 defeat and focus upon the WI series. Unsuprisingly England dominated a series against a weakened side (missing Gayle and Narine). The focus of no 1 in all formats has become a media obsession and I think the focus has been lost on what it actually takes to get there. A prime example is Strauss. He scores 2 100's against a poor WI attack and all of a sudden his frailities against spin are forgotten. Come SA, facing Tahir on a turning track he looks like a duck out of water, and even worse our media seemed suprised!!

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 11:50 GMT)

Remind me when England were ever great?

Posted by valvolux on (August 1, 2012, 11:50 GMT)

As much as I bask in the glory of an English loss, who couldn't of predicted a poor first test from them? It goes all the way back to 2005 - and we must've seen it half a dozen times since where they've been able to pick themselves back up and win the series. It's obviously something they should concentrate on improving, but it seems england is pretty good at getting moving when things seem hopeless. I've always had my doubts about the likes of broad to be anything more than cannon fodder when there isnt heavy cloud about - but this is england, blue skies and sunshine never repeat themselves twice within a month. if the conditions are right, they could very well nip the saffers out for a small total. Australia managed to beat them on home soil in the final test after you would've penciled in an easy SA win. SA don't know how to finish off series. Hence why they are still number 2 without losing many series - they dont know how to win series. anyway - go saffers!

Posted by _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on (August 1, 2012, 11:38 GMT)

Because ALL teams are faced with this problem means that the playing ground is level and thus SA were clearly the better side for majority of 5 days. I think they are a better side on paper and if they continue to play to their potential, they could very well beat Eng 2-0 @ least.

Posted by CricketFan1980 on (August 1, 2012, 11:29 GMT)

I'd kill for landing a job where I have to work three-fourths of a calendar year, travel places all around the world (at least wherever the team tours), get more than average $$$ to boot. If fatigue really is the problem, then the squad must be rotated isn't it? England are in the middle of their own summer and fatigue cannot be used as an excuse when they lost one single test awfully. Like someone said earlier, what if England wins the next test because their bowlers come good this time around? It is not fatigue; it is the pitch and the opposition. England were beaten in their own game by a team that executed their plan to perfection (grind down the opposition and strangle them with the ball). Andy S and F must come up with a plan fast if they have any interest in retaining their no.1 ranking and of course the pride.

Posted by bluebillion on (August 1, 2012, 11:23 GMT)

England lost because they were scared of the SA bowling attack and chose to have the first game at the oval and prepared a slow and dry track (a lot of effort considering the amount of rain which had poured prior to the test match). And dont expect their bowlers to perform miracles at Headingly coz the pitch there has mellowed down a lot from what it used to be. Too much cricket! As mentioned in your article, the other explanations of selection, tactics and overconfidence are the right answers.

By the way Ed, did you right this article haunted by the 2003 series against SA which, incidentaly, was your debut and last series for England?

Posted by Selassie-I on (August 1, 2012, 11:01 GMT)

I'm not sure that overtiredness is a real factor here, Anderson hasn't bowled more that 10 overs, competetivley, in a day for a month before the test, same with broad, who looked non-plussed about getting anyone out. I think we just came up against a better team on the day(s) we can give more than we gave and I hope we see it tomorrow(and the next 4 days this time).

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 11:01 GMT)

Why id fatigue become a factor at all....... and I don't know why isn't it applicable from the both teams???

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 10:51 GMT)

Let teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe play more matches then!! If countries like England and India complain about playing too many matches !! Countries like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe will start improving because they will be playing frequently!!

Posted by ShanTheFanOfSachin on (August 1, 2012, 10:46 GMT)

Typical defense of English failure! Nothing more..

When India toured England after the world cup, IPL and WI tour and got thrashed 4-0 in England, NO ONE in England said it was (also) because of too much cricket, instead it was pure England supremacy.

England went to UAE and got whitewashed. It was because Test rcicket isn't predictable??, What a bad loser. Its purely because PAK played far better in those conditions AND England never dominated a quality attack in helping conditions which is a traditional thing. Instead of giving credits to PAK and accepting the deficiency, you say Test rcicket isn't predictable. You would anyone want to 'predict' any spot?, You play well and win it! As simple as that.

Now England lost badly to SA, and its due to too much cricket?. huh.

So England won purely on skills, lost due to unpredictability and too overdose of cricket(AND of course IPL & BCCI don't forget).

Contrats Ed Smith for giving a classic English excuse!

Posted by talktosri on (August 1, 2012, 10:29 GMT)

England have achieved the kind of success they have (on home turf) over the past 24 months by strangling the opposition. The Strauss/Flower strategy machine has set defensive fields, employed a battery of talented and accurate bowlers and waited the opposition out. Problem is, against equally good or better sides, this does not work. You have to attack to induce a mistake. Indians with their inept technique against genuine swing and pace can be cowed down but the big three of ZA pulled one through. Fatigue and inevitably (Also, quite hilariously I should add) IPL gets an honorable mention in the article. A dire need exists to better understand this new sports injury 'IPL Fatiguitis'. Everything from losing a cricket match to the global economic crisis seems to stem from this condition. Is it physical, is it psychological, emotional or is it just an old fashion excuse for everything?!?!?!? The mind boggles. Doctors, physios, please take note.

Posted by yorkshirematt on (August 1, 2012, 10:25 GMT)

How did england go from great to godawful? By believing their own over the top publicity, even though they're not as good as they think they are.

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 10:10 GMT)

I think I have to disagree with the premise of this article, England did not go from phenomenal to godawful overnight; they just lost out to a better side in five days at the oval. I still think this is going to be a closely fought series.

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 9:45 GMT)

Wow.. Another Englishman makes another rubbish excuse.. YOU LOST BECAUSE SOUTH AFRICA WERE BETTER THAN YOU>> DAMNIT

Posted by Highflyer_GP on (August 1, 2012, 9:41 GMT)

So if England wins this weekend, will it be because the South Africans were fatigued? Somehow I doubt that, most probably we'll start seeing articles about Fortress England and The Best Bowling Attack In The World again.

Posted by thalalara on (August 1, 2012, 9:37 GMT)

Well written with lots of reasoning on why England lost the first test, lest wait until the series gets over, fortunes might change, then we need to search reasons for SA Failure? There is no doubt that SA is superior than rest of the test playing nation, still there is an element of doubt on their sustainability.

Posted by satish619chandar on (August 1, 2012, 9:36 GMT)

England are not godawful yet.. They lost only one game in home and gave winless tours to India, WI and Australia in recent times.. Still a good team.. They did fail in tests in UAE but regrouped well in shorter format. But saying this, they were never GREATS too.. They did win a Ashes in Australia.. And beat the hell out of India in home.. They did deserve to get the No.1 tag but still, greatness is measured on what you do over a period of time.. To term them great, we need to wait for atleast 4-5 years and they need to stay right on top throughout the period..

Posted by Marktc on (August 1, 2012, 9:34 GMT)

South Africans also play domestic cricket and in their off season, many play county cricket and IPL...as I am sure all other countries players do..not much of an excuse then. This is where plaer management come in. As well as players choosing to play as much as they can for extra money...they are well paid to play..and play they should.

Posted by Ayush_Chauhan on (August 1, 2012, 9:09 GMT)

I really don't know, why fatigue is such an issue.. Look at football, it seems that the players are on the field year round. and that's just one example. I can understand performance dip cause of more cricket, but to lay the blame on scheduling for a very ordinary performance is not justified. England played bladly, just like Australia and India before them, or shall we say South Africa played better, just like Pakistan before them. So lets keep our synopsis to the game, and not to the hotels.

Posted by saravanan666 on (August 1, 2012, 8:55 GMT)

Ed, Suddenly tiredness will not catchup.. If England are really tired they would have had shown signs of tiredness against Australia itself, who were fresh when they toured England....

Posted by gullycover on (August 1, 2012, 8:32 GMT)

@ IndiaNumeroUno - What? England didnt play any test match cricket after they thrashed India 4-0? Buddy, England lost to Pakistan 3-0 in UAE earlier this year. Are you also suffering from fatigue? Like English cricket team :P

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 8:27 GMT)

This is utter rubbish. if players are exhausted get a larger squad and use rotation like other sports. what do cricketers want? five figure salaries so they can sit at home playing with their kids all year. even his own examples are contradictory. australia are just playing ODI's after a long lay off. stand up and man up that you lost to a better team. I agree that some ODI tours are totally unnecessary and can be scrapped.If a player cant take travelling around the world and playing for his country maybe he should not sign a contract to do so.

Posted by India_ANY_track_bully on (August 1, 2012, 7:53 GMT)

They were "great" because they did not really play any test matches after the home series with India, the only time they did they got thrashed!! :))

Posted by Jazman on (August 1, 2012, 7:31 GMT)

I do not understand the fuss. Why dig for reasons? They might be none. The first test, IMHO, simply came down to three top players who got dug in, were in the zone, had the odd lucky escape and the rest is history. Fatigue did come in to the reckoning, but only because the English players had to be out in the field for two days. It was a great victory for us, and hats of to Smithy, Jacques and Amla... But remember, only one unplayable ball might just have changed everything. That is cricket. England are an excellent team and the tables could turn as early as tomorrow. I wonder if Ed even considered the possibility that England might win big themselves this weekend. How will he explain that then? Are SA all of a sudden now fatigued, or will his next headline read: "England digs deep"?

Posted by RogerC on (August 1, 2012, 6:52 GMT)

One loss and excuses start streaming in. English fans can get prepared with more excuses as more embarrassment in sub-continent will happen later this year.

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 6:46 GMT)

SA are unbeaten away form home since 2006 . . . so what is this tiredness you talking about that affects all teams??? More excuses!!!

Posted by sashank on (August 1, 2012, 6:12 GMT)

Nice article. Now that England lost, it's suddenly all about too much cricket and not about the quality of the side at all. England is still the best side in the world and it can beat any team in the world.*

* Conditions Apply.

Posted by KishorKumar25 on (August 1, 2012, 6:04 GMT)

Come on, England players didn't feature in IPL, except Kevin. South africans have played more cricket than england players.

Posted by gullycover on (August 1, 2012, 5:35 GMT)

Ed, I admire your writing but this piece of yours is way beyond me. Until England is beating everyone - mostly in British backyard, everything is fine. But comes a classy team like S. Africa or Pakistan (yes, they lost to Pakistan 3-0 in not too distant past), complains about too much cricket overshadows everything. Australia - when they were dominant in the last decade - played awful lot of cricket and continuously beat everyone. As a professional sports team representing your country - its a privilege to wear your national colour. Even if you have to play every single day of the year, do not complain. Thats what you wanted to do when you were growing up. Now that you are doing it, stop complaining and get on with the buisness. Accept that S.Africa is a better team and they used the Oval conditions almost to perfection. Now try to be at your level at cricket.

Posted by Meety on (August 1, 2012, 5:32 GMT)

Had to laugh, the first couple of paragraphs is very English & it has been the reason why over the years I've sympathised with England cricketers. The press really do let rip & England are about one defeat against Sth Africa away from being set upon by the press. Inthe past I've had a chuckle because they'd be right (thru the 90s), now I just think the jokes on them. This article caught me by surprise at it went down an interesting path that just reading the heading would otherwise suggest. The comparison between County & International is an interesting one. There is too much cricket, particularly if you play all 3 formats, but then if you drop a format (or get dropped ala Punter), it can sometimes be a case of not enough cricket! The more well off countries who pay their players well, can probably demand that they take more breaks (i.e not engage in foreign T20 leagues), but it will be a fact of life for the have-nots. Specialised squads across formats could help.

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 5:31 GMT)

A thought provoking article. But I would like to to argue one point. Your assertion that "Every international team, to a greater or lesser extent, is jaded and exhausted." The exception, of course is Gary Kirsten's 'undercooked' South Africans. I think he was right on the money with their preparation, but all will be revealed by the results of the 2nd Test. If the South Africans win, I'm putting my money into shares in Swiss mountain retreats!

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (August 1, 2012, 5:29 GMT)

ALSO ENGLAND TEAM MANAGEMENT HAS BEEN ALWAYS PRAISED FOR MANAGING THEIR PLAYERS . SO HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT TOO MUCH CRICKET LET ENGLAND DOWN ?

Posted by Mr_Anonymous on (August 1, 2012, 5:28 GMT)

I think the notion that "Cricket schedules force teams to swing between being underprepared and over-tired" is definitely true, no doubt but the fact that a Test match drags on for 5 days makes it even more extreme. The redeeming grace (from a viewer/follower point of view) was that atleast the game did not end in a draw because despite what seemed like a lop-sided match, it could still have ended in a draw (likely my biggest pet peeve with Test cricket) on the last day.

Posted by chapathishot on (August 1, 2012, 5:26 GMT)

Keep it coming mate more excuses required for saving grace for the so called all time greats

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 5:26 GMT)

I don't think there has been too much travel. The last two series they played were in England, and only Pietersen played t20. Granted they have been playing county cricket as well, but surely cricket should be a full year activity? NZ would be begging for this much international cricket because it might help them improve, whereas England can only go one way once they've reached the top...

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 5:20 GMT)

Typical excuses for England losses! Though a very good piece abt Pietersen.

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (August 1, 2012, 5:18 GMT)

IS THIS AN EXCUSE ? IF I M NOT WRONG THEN SOME ENGLAND PLAYERS LIKE ANDERSON , BROAD HAD BEEN ALLOWED TO REST FROM TIME TO TIME ( IN THE THIRD TEST AGAINST WI ) KP HAS ALSO BEEN TAKING REST DURING ODI SERIES AS HE IS NO MORE AN ODI PLAYER , STRAUSS DIDN'T PLAY ODIS .ALSO ENGLAND TEAM HAD GIVEN REST LAST YEAR DURING NOV 2011 TO JAN 2012 . COMPARING THIS TO SOME INDIAN TEAM WHO CONTINOUSLY PLAYS CRICKET BECUASE OF BCCI ( LATEST EXAMPLE IS INCLUSION OF PAK SERIES B/W THE GAP OF ENG TESTS & ODIS ) & THEN THEY HAVE TO PLAY IN 2 MONTH IPL TOO . WONDER HOW WILL INDIAN PLAYER SUFFER .DHONI HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO SAY THAT " WE ARE TIRED , PLAYERS WERE INJURED " AFTER DEFEAT .

Posted by Krooks on (August 1, 2012, 5:16 GMT)

Wow what amazing thoughts you have... when India loses its cos' of not focusing on Test Cricket.

When Australia Lose it is cos it allows its players to play in IPL but when England Lose, it is either due to fatigue or cos' they are under cooked.

Just to inform you : Steyn, Kallis, Morkel, AB, JP all were playing IPL before coming to England for this series. and they had not played as a SA team for 4 months before coming to England, but you would still not give SA credit where it is due.

First you deride the No1 position in Test Cricket cos' your team is not wearing that crown and when you wear it you proclaim you are the best in the world.

Yes you are the best playing in your own backyard with your own set of pitches and balls, No shame in that, but that only makes you the king of your home and sadly even that kingdom of yours has been evaded by the mighty SA team, I wish they become No.1 cos' they are the real champions of test cricket

Posted by IAMGOD on (August 1, 2012, 5:07 GMT)

There you go! Lame excuses.. In contrast to SA, Eng played SL in April and were *fresh* when WI came by. In fact they rested many of their key players during WI and Aus ODI series. With exception to KP, nobody else played IPL... C'mon. Eng played well against mediocre teams in their backyard and won. They couldn't win in Pak or SL ... and when a better team arrived in their backyard, their backsides are burnt! Eng are like the Ind of 2011... at the top because others were mediocre!

Posted by Haleos on (August 1, 2012, 5:03 GMT)

It was not that England were exceptional. India played awful to hand over the number 1 rank. Against the teams with quality bowlers like Pakistan and SA, England are found wanting. Moreover English batsman barring KP can not cope with sub continent pitches. To be really a no 1 team, you have to beat teams in all conditions and not give reasons of flat tracks. Thats what Aus and WI in their prime did.

Posted by RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on (August 1, 2012, 4:47 GMT)

england lost and will again lose becos they wer surprisingly fussed with an out of context odi series and didnt care to give their bowlers county matches as warm ups

Posted by CoolCharlie on (August 1, 2012, 4:46 GMT)

Well well well... awsum Mr. Smith. Where was your this logic when India lost to English? At that time English were simply immortals compared to Indians . And now when your team came crashing down , now you tell us its just cause of too much cricket. Else given one month of gap they would have comprehensively beaten the proteas. We are not asking for excuses cause we already know where English team stand and where others. yours team is good at home. thats it. Greatness is an alien attribute to you in cricket i think hence whenevr you win a series, you cry out, Eureka... we think this is perhaps Greatness. We have achieved it. Well done......

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 4:32 GMT)

U are having a laugh... I completely agree on ur point re too much Cricket these days, but to use that as an excuse for the shambolic first test is ridicoulas... On that basis, India and Sri Lankas excuses for losing are sewn up and sealed for the next 10 years

Posted by sams235 on (August 1, 2012, 4:18 GMT)

Hmm, talk about hypocrisy. The same thing happens to other teams and its written off as good for nothing team. Moreover cut some slack for the English team, they just lost one game. Wait till the end of series.

Posted by zxaar on (August 1, 2012, 4:18 GMT)

they did not go from great to awful , they went from average to awful. England became number by beating indians at home. But indian tour was filled with injuries for them. They lost so many people and some who played were out of form. They did not even put any fight. further most of the time england was playing at home and gathering point. They really did not go out to other nations and set world on fire.

Posted by Arachnodouche on (August 1, 2012, 4:09 GMT)

Is this a joke? England had SIX months of nothing after the Indian tour last year, heading into the series against Pak. So I suppose that's the under preparedness Smith's talking about, accounting for the whitewash. Why can't these writers and the fans face up to the fact that the English team was never that good to begin with? They beat a transitional Australia and a pathetic, aging India at home. That time is gone, now all English fans have to look forward to are a series of humiliations, beginning at home against the Saffers, and then down in India. Bon voyage!

Posted by Chris_Howard on (August 1, 2012, 4:08 GMT)

The only problem with the "too much cricket" theory is it's already been blown away early this year, i believe her on Cricinfo, where a writer demonstrated that bowlers of 40, 50, 80 years ago bowlers hundreds of more balls a year than those of today. Touring teams used to play heaps of cricket. I suspect what has changed is the intensity of the cricket played. So, altho today's cricketer is in fact playing less cricket over the course of a year, he's playing most games at a much higher intensity than his counterparts of 80 years ago. Also, players are training much harder, both in the gym and nets. So, combining the greater intensity of the matches and the training, has created a relentless high physical demand on player's bodies - no easy going matches for the body to cruise while still getting a workout. The solution - play *more* cricket matches but of lower intensity, such as touring teams against county teams.

Posted by Y2SJ on (August 1, 2012, 4:06 GMT)

I dont understand how come it is too much cricket if it is England loosing and Greed when opponents loose. Stop complaining about schedule and too much cricket. These guys are professionals and can take a break when they want. England bowling attack is one sided and does not have a heart. That is the reason for their failures against SA, Pakistan earlier. If they dont get their act together, they will be humiliated in India

Posted by mansman on (August 1, 2012, 3:39 GMT)

@sidpod, that return came in from "deep point". Well played!

Posted by hardikvyas21 on (August 1, 2012, 3:31 GMT)

They have just lost one Test match. Stop over evaluating. The real problem is the media coverage these days. Start finding faults in England's armory once the series is over. Didnt they just beat Aus convincingly in ODIs? Give the champs some space.

Posted by sidpod on (August 1, 2012, 3:12 GMT)

Good piece, Ed. Now it is too much cricket. When other teams have lost in similar scenarios, their boards or their greed for riches has been held responsible. Well played.

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