July 24, 2014

A hole in England's bucket

What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?
49

Few bowlers around the world have shouldered as much of a workload as Stuart Broad and James Anderson
Few bowlers around the world have shouldered as much of a workload as Stuart Broad and James Anderson © Getty Images

Read part one of this article here

You had to be at Headingley to really understand how much treacle Nick Compton was batting in. If it's possible for a batsman to sink beneath a pitch and only pop up for air at the end of each over, Compton was doing that. He knew there was pressure on him to make runs. And while many were calling for him to speed up, many of them were cricket journalists who wanted to leave Leeds. England had more time than Harlequin and the Ticktockman.

Compton didn't, though. He was an odd choice for England. He does not fit the blueprint of an English player. He is a county player who makes runs. He is a self-made man. It's hard to see how he ever would have fit into their team environment. If Compton wasn't an instant success, he wouldn't last.

What is weird is that his batting is almost perfectly designed for England. It's how they got to the top of the world. Top-order batsmen putting a exorbitant price on their wickets. Taking their sweet time. Tiring balls and bowlers. And building totals that gave their bowlers a psychological advantage almost every time they bowl. That is what Nick Compton does. He's not pretty. He's not fun. His batting reminds no one of jazz hands. He just accumulates in his own bubble until someone pops it.

This year he is averaging 42 in first-class cricket. He will score over 1000 runs for the fifth time. Compton made back-to-back hundreds in New Zealand. Three Tests later he was discarded. Dropped for not scoring quick enough in a game that England won by 247 runs, or just because he wasn't the right kind of guy.

But Nick Compton will never play for England again. He is just not one of them.

****

To the outside world Jonathan Trott seemed like a run-making robot. Face ball. Mark crease. Face ball. Inside the crowded England dressing room they knew better.

There had to be signs before the Gabba that everything was not right. And perhaps they even tried to do their best to keep Trott happy and performing. But it didn't work. All that preparation looked silly when one Test into the Ashes their No. 3 went home. Their wellness technicians had failed.

Trott was the poster boy for calm, efficient, focused England. But after that Test he became the poster boy for everything that was wrong with English cricket. The lack of fun. The tedium. The strictness. The soul-sucking machine that ate the good times. Trott wasn't having fun. He wasn't feeling relaxed. So when his cricket went wrong he tried harder. Which just made it worse.

England did much the same. The team might have stayed on the tour. But mentally they checked out. The sight of an English player smiling at practice disappeared. Meanwhile Darren Lehmann had his face in perpetual smile mode. Andy Flower had been one of the best coaches in the world, but now he looked like a confused man. And he couldn't change tack. He just kept sailing in the same direction he always had.

Flower backed himself and his ways. But while his ways did so much, they also appeared part of the problem. With England on seemingly endless tours, and playing and preparing in the same grinding way, it was no great surprise that key members couldn't handle it anymore. Trott went home. Swann gave up. Anderson was zombiefied. And Matt Prior's game stopped working.

When Andy Flower delivered his epic pre-match valediction in Sydney, Trott and Swann were gone. Prior was out. And the other senior players looked on blankly. Flower could no longer move his players.

In the Ashes, Mitchell Johnson provided shock and awe. England produced shlock and awful.

England could have used "rebuilding". But it lacks the sparkle of "new era". So it became a catchphrase. Low ebb, which some suggested, was never going to stick for the ECB

****

Where did Simon Kerrigan go? Had Shane Watson actually blasted him into oblivion? Were there groundsmen sweeping him up off the pitch at the breaks? Because he bowled eight overs at The Oval, and then was never seen again. He was not even seen as Australia tripped all over their second-innings total-setting. Not even for an over. When Swann retired in Australia, he didn't even get his name mentioned. James Tredwell did. Monty Panesar played. And Borthwick played.

Scott Borthwick. You remember, right? The Durham batsman who England picked as a bowler five Tests ago. He took wickets, perhaps not brilliant ones, but any wickets in Australia should have received a gift of land back in the UK. He shared his only Test with Boyd Rankin.

Rankin is gone as well. Not that he ever felt included. He was hired to play goon number three in the second act of the Ashes. Big men, bouncing the ball hard into the wicket and making Australia jump. He was an underwhelming understudy to Chris Tremlett.

Tremlett phoned his performance in. He was picked on memories and hope. One Test in and England decided he was not who they wanted. It seems like they never told him. He just continued to turn up day after day, essentially refiling paperwork that didn't need refiling, not knowing if he'd ever be needed again. He and Michael Carberry are not fans of ECB communication.

Michael Carberry was sort of the follow-up to Nick Compton. He fit in better, and he could do a great Viv Richards impersonation. But despite all those people in the ECB camp, it seemed no one would provide him with an answer for why he wasn't there anymore. He might as well be Graham Onions or James Taylor, if either of those people still exist.

****

In the 2012 World T20 they failed to make the semi-finals when they turned up as reigning champions. They collapsed from a near unloseable position in the Champions Trophy final.

They lost to the Dutch.

****

At Trent Bridge a tired Stuart Broad ended the match bowling at Stuart Binny pace. There is a thought that Broad is a clever bowler who can out-think a batsman. He can be. But you know when he's really good: when he bowls really fast. Full or short, but really fast. With swing, or even without, but fast, yeah. Because Broad can bowl really fast. He is a proper fast bowler. His spell at Durham in the Ashes was fast. His spell at Lord's against the Kiwis was fast. His hat-trick against India was fast. His hat-trick against Sri Lanka was fast. So the sight of Matt Prior up at the stumps to him as he bowled the old man's Saturday- afternoon spell of gentle outswing was not inspiring.

Broad has bowled a lot of overs. Graeme Swann has bowled more.

Swann bowled so much, he seemed to be playing for more teams than just England. I'm sure he must have played some ODIs for Sri Lanka, and a Test series for Bangladesh. Increasingly, you could hear the creak of his elbow as he bowled. He had it fixed once, and to celebrate, he bowled a lot more. England spent much of his career with no other spinner and no serious allrounder to share the load. Swann bowled until he was no longer good at it. He could have bowled in two more Tests while being no good at it, but he'd bowled enough. He doesn't bowl now.

His friend Jimmy Anderson still bowls. He bowls more often than any seam bowler has ever bowled at Test level. He bowls more than spinners as well. At Trent Bridge a year ago, he bowled a 14-over spell. It won the Test match. It was his last five-wicket haul. He has not been horrible since then. He was Man of the Match at Trent Bridge. But he doesn't look like the Anderson who helped England get to No. 1. He looks like a man who has bowled more deliveries than anyone else in the world. He's a hologram of himself; you can literally see the flickering as he runs in.

When England's batsmen stopped making their monumental totals, it was these three men who saved them. Regularly. Now one is gone, one is a hologram, and one is bowling slow. Why? Because England's schedule is stupid. Stupid. They simply play too many Tests. They play Tests more often than India and Sri Lanka play ODIs. They play Tests while you are sleeping, when you wake up, and during your afternoon nap. They do it over and over again. They're probably playing one now.

And while old players like to say modern players are soft and can't handle workloads, and that they bowled 83-over spells barefoot in the snow, the truth is, no one has ever endured the workloads these three men have had to endure at the top level. And here is a little secret for you: others have played a lot of cricket, but most of it has been in county seasons. It rains a lot in county seasons. You can bowl in third gear in county seasons. You can coast in county seasons.

None of Swann, Broad or Anderson are all-time greats. Swann is the only one with a bowling average of under 30, and it's 29.96. At Test level, they can't coast. They are just not that good. They have to play at their absolute maximum or they will fail. They played to their best. They went as hard as they could.

During their time together they beat Australia. They beat India. They beat Pakistan. They beat Sri Lanka. They beat New Zealand. They beat West Indies. They beat Bangladesh. And they drew with South Africa.

They lost to the schedule.

When Giles Clarke said that Alastair Cook came from the right kind of family, cricket groaned in the UK. It was proof that your upbringing and background still mattered in England

****

The phrase "new era" is grating. And too close to "new error". It sounds like it has been market-tested, or suggested by a sports psychologist. It's positive and peppy, and it doesn't really mean a thing. South Africa are in a new era. India are in a new era. Australia are using old players in a new era. Sri Lanka are about to enter a new era. It a new era for New Zealand too.

England could have used "rebuilding". But it lacks the sparkle of "new era". So it became a catchphrase. Low ebb, which some suggested, was never going to stick for the ECB.

So what is new? The chairman and captain are not new. The coach is not really new. The bowling coach is not new. The two main bowlers are not new. The No. 4 batsman and wicketkeeper are not new. The old coach is there, hiding somewhere behind his green curtain at Loughborough.

So what is new? The selectors are new. The assistant coach is new. Nos. 2, 3 and 6 are new. Two allrounders are new. And the managing director is new.

They fired their batsman most likely to win them matches. And their batting coach. And they continue to lose. It's more than possible that a positive catchphrase won't win it for them. It's more than possible they can't manage this. They couldn't manage Kevin Pietersen, and these last nine Tests have been as bad as what they said, hinted or leaked KP's behavior to be.

KP didn't fail consistently against the short ball. KP didn't bowl the wrong lengths. KP didn't put six fielders out for a No. 10. KP didn't bowl the bowlers to death. KP didn't schedule the bowlers to death. KP didn't drop all the simple chances. KP didn't take over world cricket. KP didn't mismanage the players. KP didn't fail to communicate with the players. KP didn't get the analysis wrong. KP wasn't outcoached. KP didn't get mankaded. KP doesn't back people based on their family. KP was KP. For better or worse.

This whole team was crumbling in front of them and they were whistling new era at us and moaning about someone they asked their fans to move on from. There is a hole in your bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza.

****

When England officially announced their part in the Axis of Admin with Australia and India, they tried to spin it as their way of saving cricket. They thought we were all incredibly stupid people. Some in the "small seven" felt England were joining India and Australia in a new empire. One last chance at grabbing at power and money. Others were disgusted that England would be involved with those dastardly Indians, who were clearly running, or ruining, everything.

Their team has been just as bad.

They pissed on a cricket pitch. Some claim there was such bad karma that they haven't won a Test since. But they also didn't win at The Oval, so it might be more than urinating causality.

They stole Sri Lanka's coach right before Sri Lanka came over to play them. They have more money than Sri Lanka, and they wanted Farbrace. They got Farbrace. It was all a bit, "I want an oompa loompa now, daddy."

Stuart Broad not walking seemed to break the heart of every major sports newspaper writer in the UK. Those men who had not watched cricket outside the Ashes in decades suddenly noticed it and got upset. Stuart Broad had nicked to slip (actually it was a drop by Brad Haddin, first) and not walked. And he'd done it to the bowling of that terribly entertaining young No. 11, Ashton Agar. It was against the Spirit of Cricket.

They had also invoked the Spirit of Cricket rules when Ian Bell "made a mistake", wandered out of his ground while the ball was still in play and was run out by India on the last ball before tea. Andrew Strauss wandered all the way into the Indian dressing room to have him reinstated. Or reintegrated.

Yet Broad is happy to do up his shoelaces for hours on end when England want to slow down the over rate. Or leave the field at the end of a drinks break to go to the toilet to take time out of a game. No team has ever been as organised or professional at time-wasting as England. They are the Neo of world cricket. Time literally stops when they want it too. And that has been a lot of late.

When the Sri Lankan offspinner Sachithra Senanayake legally mankaded Jos Buttler, England were upset. They were less upset about all the twos Buttler had scored while he was out of his ground, repeatedly getting a head start. Sri Lanka had broken the spirit of the game; Buttler had just broken the Laws, even after being warned.

When James Anderson puts his hand over his mouth, he is sledging someone. When Joe Root pretends he is clapping his hands near a batsman to gee on his team, he is really sledging. Swann once said he wanted to kill a player during a tour match in Sri Lanka. Pietersen bad-mouthed James Taylor to his own team, and abused Strauss to the opposition. His team-mates abused him back. The whole team had an honesty session. KP was too honest and they dobbed him in.

Off the field they are not much better. Paul Downton said stuff about Pietersen, then apologised. Giles Clarke, well, he is Giles Clarke, there is no other like him. Well, actually he is a lot like Pietersen. Arrogant, bombastic, prone to saying stupid things, and breathtakingly unapologetic. And ultimately living in his own world.

When he said that Alastair Cook came from the right kind of family, cricket groaned in the UK. It was a massive step backwards. It was proof that your upbringing and background still mattered in England. All the Sky money you want can't shake that single damaging impression that cricket in the UK is still for those who went to schools older than Wisden.

There are some that think English cricket has an image problem. Really, they just have a problem.

****

The Lord's balcony is a private place to chat. But conversations there can be seen by anyone left in the ground. So the conversations between Cook and Broad were looked at with great interest from the press box. So too were the conversations between Anderson and Moores. And then again when Cook and Moores sat there. All three conversations were had with the door of the balcony shut. All three were serious and long. England were still in the ground four hours after play.

It looked more like soul-searching than them naming their favourite songs from Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Occasionally there was a ghostly figure moving behind them, but the men didn't turn around or fear them; they just continued their haunted conversations.

They seemed oblivious to the fans still drinking their champagne in the pavilion. They didn't stop if someone stumbled out onto the ground to take an out-of-focus selfie. Nor when the Sky cables were removed or the boundary-rope triangles were collected.

All three conversations looked exactly like people breaking up in a public place. There was no anger, just a devastated acceptance. The stench of hurt and confusion could be smelt from the other side of the ground. They had the look of men who didn't know how to get out or improve. It was a balcony. It could have been a gallows.

****

Sports teams love business fads, because people in sports haven't worked in business much, so they have no idea how unimpressive business methods are. How pointless and depressing it all is. Group hugs. Thought showers. KPIs. Punch a puppy. Blue-sky thinking. Singing from the same hymn sheets. And endless matrixes. England's backroom is littered with these sorts of things.

They even employed the famous Myers Briggs personality tests to better understand how to best use their players. Or how to best fire them.

You cannot fail a Myers Briggs Test. But if England took it right now, they would. If England lose 4-0 against India, they will be ranked sixth in the world. Supposedly the most professional side in cricket's history. Sixth.

They manage. They test. They superfood. They analyse. They sabermetric. They annoy. They waste time. They spin. They rule. They catchphrase.

They lose.

Jarrod Kimber was 50% of the Two Chucks, and is the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ygkd on July 27, 2014, 7:22 GMT

    So what if there's a hole in England's bucket? It's only in the bottom..... See, blue-sky thinking works!

  • CricketFanIndUS on July 26, 2014, 6:44 GMT

    Actually England is not a bad team, really all the top 6/7 teams are at roughly the same level, with the exception of Australia being a touch above the rest. England have a deep batting line up and have not bowled as badly as the media projects. There were so many brilliant deliveries to get batsmen out in this series. They just replaced injured Prior. You never know how soon a team can turn a corner and get good results. There is not a big difference in effort in a winning performance and a losing performance. Sometimes it just comes down to execution, having a good plan from the coach/captain, or getting some breaks, given that most of the teams (top 6/7) have talented players. We have seen how close all the recent test series have been lately (that India was involved with and even other teams). Who knows, by this time next year England may be in a good shape.

  • on July 25, 2014, 9:44 GMT

    While I agree with almost all of this, the criticism of Stuart Broad is unfair. He isn't fit, at all, and his knee is in pieces. He needs 8 months off and an operation, but that won't happen until they run him into the ground.

  • _-Will-_ on July 25, 2014, 9:37 GMT

    On second thought, maybe its fairly simple after all:

    Perhaps, not heeding a warning 'bell' 'prior' to this 'broad'scale deterioration, England failed to nip things in the bud, instead allowing them to take 'root' and 'flower' into something 'moore' than they anticipated...

  • _-Will-_ on July 25, 2014, 9:00 GMT

    I cannot fathom the enormity of the toll these defeats, and subsequent handling, have had on the England side. Is it as bad in there as the articles and commentary suggest? And what exactly has eroded the resilience of otherwise fine players with outstanding records who are actually in the 'click'?

    Teams lose, they get whitewashed, they may go ages without a win. It happens. But the fallout here is unprecedented to me! I am not as well versed in cricket history (or other cricket details for that matter) as others who post here, but I can't recall anything of such magnitude happening in the past couple of decades. Not the losses of matches, but the loss of so many players for so many different reasons other than age related retirement?

    No offense intended either, and as an Indian, I cannot gloat. We have had our issues, whitewashes, win droughts etc - all are well documented!. A particularly long one was just broken a couple of days ago. One match at a time for us, if you please!!

  • Patchmaster on July 25, 2014, 1:46 GMT

    Brilliant article. My main things are this. Bell gets more chances than anyone in the history of Test cricket, yet Compton gets three. Broad is bowling medium pace, at best, and is probably injured, yet keeps others out of the team, when he should be dropped even just on his immature batting and throwing away of wicket. Cook is not a leader of men, he is not an inspiring character (such a Vaughen etc) and he needs to go back to County cricket. Lythe of Yorkshire is scoring runs like wildfire - get him in, and quick. Stokes needs to go back to County cricket and Woakes can have his chance. Blood a young spinner, forget ECB public schoolboy rules, just get someone in and stick with them, if not, get Ali to work on his game a lot more. Gale of Yorkshire is a real leader, and he can really bat. He's the obvious choice for captain. He is everything Cook isn't - tough, run scoring and inspires his team mates.

  • lyoung on July 24, 2014, 23:45 GMT

    Fascinating articles. But it would be wrong to think that it is only England cricket that suffers from these kinds of issues. There have been recent similar happenings to other countries: Australia in India, homeworkgate, players coming and going on that tour; WI players frequent run-ins with their board of control; NZ's new coach replacing Taylor with McCullum as captain and the mediafest over the fallout; Ganguly's bust-ups with coaches. Quite often the machinations behind the scenes is more exciting than the on-field cricket!

  • on July 24, 2014, 23:01 GMT

    Brilliant ... but why, oh why, does it take an Australian to hold the mirror up to English cricket?!

  • on July 24, 2014, 22:06 GMT

    I think modern-day cricket teams rely too much on analysis and planning. Cricket is a tactical game, yes, but it's not like football where the formation dictates the strategy. Games can be won or lost due to individual brilliance, a lot depends on the pitches, and momentum is a very big deal in cricket. Essentially it's an unpredictable game.

  • ygkd on July 24, 2014, 21:48 GMT

    There are two starting points for coaching - teams need coaches but not as much as coaches need teams and all coaches should seek to make themselves obsolete or they will find that they become so by default.

  • ygkd on July 27, 2014, 7:22 GMT

    So what if there's a hole in England's bucket? It's only in the bottom..... See, blue-sky thinking works!

  • CricketFanIndUS on July 26, 2014, 6:44 GMT

    Actually England is not a bad team, really all the top 6/7 teams are at roughly the same level, with the exception of Australia being a touch above the rest. England have a deep batting line up and have not bowled as badly as the media projects. There were so many brilliant deliveries to get batsmen out in this series. They just replaced injured Prior. You never know how soon a team can turn a corner and get good results. There is not a big difference in effort in a winning performance and a losing performance. Sometimes it just comes down to execution, having a good plan from the coach/captain, or getting some breaks, given that most of the teams (top 6/7) have talented players. We have seen how close all the recent test series have been lately (that India was involved with and even other teams). Who knows, by this time next year England may be in a good shape.

  • on July 25, 2014, 9:44 GMT

    While I agree with almost all of this, the criticism of Stuart Broad is unfair. He isn't fit, at all, and his knee is in pieces. He needs 8 months off and an operation, but that won't happen until they run him into the ground.

  • _-Will-_ on July 25, 2014, 9:37 GMT

    On second thought, maybe its fairly simple after all:

    Perhaps, not heeding a warning 'bell' 'prior' to this 'broad'scale deterioration, England failed to nip things in the bud, instead allowing them to take 'root' and 'flower' into something 'moore' than they anticipated...

  • _-Will-_ on July 25, 2014, 9:00 GMT

    I cannot fathom the enormity of the toll these defeats, and subsequent handling, have had on the England side. Is it as bad in there as the articles and commentary suggest? And what exactly has eroded the resilience of otherwise fine players with outstanding records who are actually in the 'click'?

    Teams lose, they get whitewashed, they may go ages without a win. It happens. But the fallout here is unprecedented to me! I am not as well versed in cricket history (or other cricket details for that matter) as others who post here, but I can't recall anything of such magnitude happening in the past couple of decades. Not the losses of matches, but the loss of so many players for so many different reasons other than age related retirement?

    No offense intended either, and as an Indian, I cannot gloat. We have had our issues, whitewashes, win droughts etc - all are well documented!. A particularly long one was just broken a couple of days ago. One match at a time for us, if you please!!

  • Patchmaster on July 25, 2014, 1:46 GMT

    Brilliant article. My main things are this. Bell gets more chances than anyone in the history of Test cricket, yet Compton gets three. Broad is bowling medium pace, at best, and is probably injured, yet keeps others out of the team, when he should be dropped even just on his immature batting and throwing away of wicket. Cook is not a leader of men, he is not an inspiring character (such a Vaughen etc) and he needs to go back to County cricket. Lythe of Yorkshire is scoring runs like wildfire - get him in, and quick. Stokes needs to go back to County cricket and Woakes can have his chance. Blood a young spinner, forget ECB public schoolboy rules, just get someone in and stick with them, if not, get Ali to work on his game a lot more. Gale of Yorkshire is a real leader, and he can really bat. He's the obvious choice for captain. He is everything Cook isn't - tough, run scoring and inspires his team mates.

  • lyoung on July 24, 2014, 23:45 GMT

    Fascinating articles. But it would be wrong to think that it is only England cricket that suffers from these kinds of issues. There have been recent similar happenings to other countries: Australia in India, homeworkgate, players coming and going on that tour; WI players frequent run-ins with their board of control; NZ's new coach replacing Taylor with McCullum as captain and the mediafest over the fallout; Ganguly's bust-ups with coaches. Quite often the machinations behind the scenes is more exciting than the on-field cricket!

  • on July 24, 2014, 23:01 GMT

    Brilliant ... but why, oh why, does it take an Australian to hold the mirror up to English cricket?!

  • on July 24, 2014, 22:06 GMT

    I think modern-day cricket teams rely too much on analysis and planning. Cricket is a tactical game, yes, but it's not like football where the formation dictates the strategy. Games can be won or lost due to individual brilliance, a lot depends on the pitches, and momentum is a very big deal in cricket. Essentially it's an unpredictable game.

  • ygkd on July 24, 2014, 21:48 GMT

    There are two starting points for coaching - teams need coaches but not as much as coaches need teams and all coaches should seek to make themselves obsolete or they will find that they become so by default.

  • Paul_Somerset on July 24, 2014, 21:30 GMT

    The problem, DC75, is that this England outfit is NOT in a re-building phase. This is a clinging-to-the-past-at-all costs phase. We've gone from Giles Clarke, Peter Moores and Andy Flower ruling the roost in 2008 to Giles Clarke, Peter Moores and Andy Flower ruling the roost in 2014.

    If you were truly re-building, the first four names you'd need to replace are Cook, Bell, Anderson and Broad. They're shot to pieces, as Kimber so eloquently describes. But instead the sole purpose of this pantomime is to keep as many of yesterday's men in employment as possible, from Flower downwards.

    Oh, and losing the Ashes IS the end of the world. I can easily foresee England turning this series around and beating India. There is so little between the sides. But who cares? Nothing is being put in place to regain the Ashes.

  • ram4crictheory on July 24, 2014, 21:12 GMT

    I agree with most of the things in the article, but I think this current team is not as bad as it is looking players wise, drawback is the strategy of playing. In a playing XI, assign a specific role to specific player and select the right person to do the job. The problem I look in the team is all the batsman play similarly. We need some to disturb the line and length of the bowlers, some to save the wicket, some to rotate the strike, etc., similarly for bowling economically&aggressively.

    There were many who were against Sehwag being in the team for his consistency, but I strongly believe Sehwag was main player for India to achieve number one rank in tests, I would always take that gamble because when he clicks he wins the match single handedly, in other cases other 10 players would do the job. The win% of India went up only in Sehwag's era.

    @DC75. nothing is end of the world. Even if England loses its test status, it is not end of the world, but do we like that happening

  • DC75 on July 24, 2014, 18:08 GMT

    I think it is too much of negativity fora side that is in rebuilding phase, they will play better in the next few games, it is not end of the world and neither is losing ashes the end of the world. I only wish they had handled some of the players better - KP, Compton, Finn, and the array of other bowlers...

  • aby_97 on July 24, 2014, 16:58 GMT

    Again a wonderful article by Mr.Kimber. I hope ECB reads this, they should take out a leaf from BCCI's book of giving a long rope to a promising talent. And someone as promising as a Nick Compton would be great in English whites. And again, Fabulous article; oozing every bit of information.

  • inswing on July 24, 2014, 16:57 GMT

    I can see the disappointment of an England fan, but come on, England are not that bad. They had a very close series against SL, where both Tests were decided by a few balls. Against India, they had the upper hand in the first Test, and lost a well fought second Test. This is when the wicket is not helping them like it should. England will end up winning at least one or two Tests in this series. Cook and Bell will come back into form. They have a bunch of decent all rounders and a deep batting lineup. Let's relax and not over-read the situation. Sky is not falling.

  • CricketChat on July 24, 2014, 16:56 GMT

    Bopara and Samit Patel need to be brought in. Where did Morgan go? After Trott and KP pushed themselves into oblivion, I thought Morgan would be a permanent fixture in the middle order.

  • Crickeyvet on July 24, 2014, 16:08 GMT

    Great article sir. Take a bow indeed. loved your assessment of Jimmy Anderson's form lately "He's a hologram of himself; you can literally see the flickering as he runs in"

  • 64blip on July 24, 2014, 16:00 GMT

    Hard to argue with this article on the day the England Lions squad is announced and Flower emerges from 'behind his green curtain' as the coach. Hands up who thought, at the end of the fifth test in Australia: "Ooh, I know! Keep Cook as captain, end Pietersen's international career, bring back Moores as coach and Flower can take charge of the Lions. Success can only follow!"

  • on July 24, 2014, 15:28 GMT

    Brilliantly written analysis, and I agree with a lot of the points you make. Anderson needs a rest. i wonder if Cook is on the verge of a Trott-style breakdown (certainly, repeatedly suggesting more hard work as a cure for his batting ills suggests a form of mania). There are many changes in England since 2005-2010, and the rot seems to me to have set in properly at end 2011 (with the Pakistan series). The batting disintegrated first, and the bowlers have had to carry the can for this (fewer rests, and often more overs). So they break down. Now players "play through injury". Give them a rest. Use a rotation policy. Oh, and most important, remember it's a game. It's supposed to be fun.

  • on July 24, 2014, 15:07 GMT

    A hole in the bucket is OK, if you have no water to fill in. Even if there is water around, it is still worthless if those who are supposed to fill in the water go out gathering wood instead. That too, either dead-wood, or tender twigs!

  • BillyCC on July 24, 2014, 14:20 GMT

    This is a great article. England's good players were only just that: good, never great. Swann fulfilled his potential and averaged 30, hardly Laker or Underwood status. So has Anderson and Broad, and their averages are nothing to write home about. Together, they managed to peak at the same time and created a good attack. Then one retires, one starts pushing opponents around and Malfoy just ain't got it anymore. The hole in England's bucket is growing, dear Henry.

  • SagirParkar on July 24, 2014, 14:07 GMT

    kudos on a brilliant and passionate article Mr Kimber..

    love the section on the karma bit - as you sow, so shall you reap !

    a lesson the ECB needs to learn...

  • Uticensis on July 24, 2014, 13:20 GMT

    Its a great article Jarrod, even if the splitting it up into different mini-essays thing (which you started) has dated very quickly ... The only think I would say is that its hard to be joyous when you're losing. That said, Australia turned it around.

    The sacking of KP, meanwhile, continues to acquire Macbethian proportions.

  • toowkd4u on July 24, 2014, 12:47 GMT

    Fabulous article written with such passion and insight. It is interesting to highlight the contrast between English football and Cricket. The football team is filled with supposedly incandescent talents who light up the EPL every saturday but somehow cannot seem to play with each other. On the other hand, English cricket seems to shun the Maverick genius, the ones with the left field personalities. Cricket is played by 11 men, but it is inherently an individual game, it rests on the achievements of brilliant individuals, Sachin, Dravid, Lara, Ponting, Sangakkara, Murali, Warne, Wasim, Waqar to name a few. That is why individuality needs to be embraced in Cricket. Also, it is travesty that there are so many parks in this country but no one seems to be playing cricket, except for a few from the sub-continent. In India, come evening, every available nook and cranny seems to be filled with kids playing cricket, including the streets; not even with a bat and ball at times. Passion missing.

  • aus_trad on July 24, 2014, 12:17 GMT

    Difficult as an outsider to say with confidence what is wrong with English cricket, but a few points come to mind. Most countries do best when they maximise and capitalise on their traditional strengths. For Aus, it is tough, hard-hitting batsmen, genuine quicks, and leg-spinners. For England, it is more like stodgy, bat-all-day batsmen, medium-pace swing and seam bowlers, and finger spinners. Why no specialist finger spinner in the test team? Is Moeen good enough to hold his place as a bowler (or a batsman, for that matter)? If not, he shouldn't be there. Spin bowlers like Swann come along once every half century or so. Pick the next best (or try them one after the other until one does the business, as Aus did!). Batsmen: Nick Compton sounds like he might fit the bill. Any more like him running around? Why is a bowler of Anderson's class being bowled into the ground? As for KP, I would have given him more chances: he's a match winner, and to win matches any team needs match winners...

  • drdickdixon on July 24, 2014, 11:00 GMT

    Excellent - and damning. Carberry, Compton, Borthwick, Kerrigan - remember them? Mind you - there was a time 3-4 years ago when Australia tried pretty much every spinner under the sun in their county game before settling on Lyon.

  • jolo on July 24, 2014, 10:54 GMT

    Great article Jarrod: funny; empathetic; brutal; accurate; and clearly caring.

    In cricket, but in sport more generally, the constant failure of England to allow freedom of expression, to embrace risk, individuality, flair - it's just so demoralising. And I don't blame the players. It is the system in which they function, all the petty little back room men, the valuing of tradition over effectiveness, that needs to be deleted. Watching generation after generation of young talents transformed by some force of psychological erosion, from potential-filled artists to soul-destroyed metronomes mouthing meaningless words as they drown and lose... Remember Jimmy's wild hair and wilder swing? Remember Root's gleeful smiles just moments ago? Watch as his joy is degraded by percentage play.

    Perhaps it's the fault of the Victorians who invented so many of these wonderful games. They defined and delineated these games, bringing order and structure to play. Other people just play them...

  • on July 24, 2014, 10:45 GMT

    Take a bow for such an insightful review.

  • Dafffid on July 24, 2014, 10:24 GMT

    All true, but I wish more journalists had said more of this a lot sooner, indeed even when England were winning but the cracks were showing. It was obvious well before the 5-0. But it's worth noting, the schedule is the schedule, and once you've agreed to it, pick a team to suit it. England act like it's a constant surprise to them. Broad SHOULD be balling properly fast short spells, Anderson should be bowling far less - not now when it's too late, but over the last 5 years. But England have insisted on a stream of 6th batsmen - nearly all of whom have failed or made no difference to the result - in the hope they will provide the extra runs needed to compensate for their inability to finish sides off. Why do they always let teams come back at them? Because as this article perfectly illustrates, their bowlers are tired and not bowling at their best through an entire innings. And that was true even when they were on top. Pick another bowler, fix the problem.

  • MSC66 on July 24, 2014, 10:22 GMT

    Great article Jarrod, it sums up what is wrong with English cricket it has at its heart a control freakery somewhat akin to New Labour.

    The sacking of Pieterson and the continued overlooking of Nick Compton and to a lesser extent Michael Carberry is baffling. There really does appear to be a 'one of us' mentality within the dressing room. Both Compton and Carberry have demonstrated guts, application and technique over the last 24 months in England colours to drop in Sam Robson with his limited range of strokes and inability to impose himself on attacks must have Mathews and Dhoni laughing in private. The Australians rated both of them, no higher accolade. I would love to know who the coterie of players is that are allowed to settle their fate.

    As for KP yes he is difficult and his loyalty sometimes questionable where he thinks the wrong direction is being taken, but he is typically proved right, albeit in hindsight. He is England's best player and he cares.

  • on July 24, 2014, 10:09 GMT

    yes. sums everything up without missing any detail.

  • SurlyCynic on July 24, 2014, 9:41 GMT

    Superb. I love Jarrod's articles and this is one of his best.

  • Madpashcrickers on July 24, 2014, 9:16 GMT

    "None of Swann, Broad or Anderson are all-time greats. Swann is the only one with a bowling average of under 30, and it's 29.96. At Test level, they can't coast. They are just not that good. They have to play at their absolute maximum or they will fail."

    Excellent article Jarrod and you've hit the nail on the head as to why England's main seamers end up bowling so many overs - because they're not that good at getting batsmen out. Broad and Anderson's strike rates and averages are ok but nothing special. That makes England's treatment of genuine strike bowlers just baffling - in 2012 vs South Africa when Finn was at a peak they were handing the new ball to Stuart Broad who was bowling at medium pace. Even now Liam Plunkett, the only genuine fast bowler in the side, is asked to flog himself into the ground with the old ball.

    Like Michael Vaughan said the other day - if Broad and Anderson can't do the business then the captain has to take the ball off them and give it to someone else.

  • DirkL on July 24, 2014, 8:50 GMT

    "Just how much Test Cricket did Duncan Fletcher play?" Fair point, but glib and superficial. Fletcher played 111 first-class matches with a bowling average under 29 and batting average over 23. Except for a brief spell with Western Province, those matches were for his country; mostly called Rhodesia, later Zimbabwe. Most of those matches as captain. The teams he played against included Transvaal, the famous "mean machine" that contained Henry Fotheringham, Graeme Pollock, Ali Bacher, Alan Kourie, Vince van der Bijl and others. The games were not called "tests", and lasted for only 28 hours of play over four days rather than 30 hours over five. But rest assured, the toughness of the game, the expectations of the supporters, the size of the crowd -- all these compete very favourably with most modern Test cricket.

  • hraghava on July 24, 2014, 8:14 GMT

    Since Ian Botham retired, how many freakishly brilliant, English born, English bred talents have we truly seen on the international stage? Could it be that any of these freakish talents (Mark Lathwell, Rob Key anyone??) was simply NOT allowed to shine because of a stifling and stuffy English view on "what an English cricketer should be, and how he should play"? Freddie Flintoff, close... but not really..... 1992 WC final, England coasting at 150/4, Lamb & Fairbrother at the crease - Imran gives Wasim the ball saying "bowl fast, forget no balls and runs".. we know what happened next....Had roles been reversed, can you imagine Goochie giving Chris Lewis similar instructions? Would Tendulkar, Lara, Ponting, Wasim, Waqar, Ambrose, Walsh, Inzi, Anwar, Kallis, been half the cricketers they turned out to be, had they been born / bred English???

  • DustyBin on July 24, 2014, 7:50 GMT

    thank you for articulating all my own thoughts about England's problems. I wish I had solutions-part 3 of your article "what needs to change", perhaps? I have personal prejudice against Paul Downton (when he inexplicably kept better keepers out of England's 1980s teams). Then on Sky during the last Test he said that England wouldn't select any bowler whose action may be ruled illegal; so we never would have picked Murali if he'd been born in Leeds? (& we won't be getting any mystery spinner selected any time soon.) 4th test 11 after the forthcoming defeat in Southampton : Compton Hales Ballance Patel Root Buttler Woakes Rashid Jordan Finn Foottit-no chane but why not speculate..?

  • Paul_Somerset on July 24, 2014, 7:47 GMT

    "The old coach is there, hiding somewhere behind his green curtain at Loughborough." That's the key.

    During Peter Moores' previous term as coach Andy Flower was his assistant. Then Pietersen got rid of Moores, leaving Flower in charge.

    After the 2013-14 Ashes disaster Flower announced that he would not be resigning. Shortly after that he duly did resign. And shortly after that he was promoted to become the ECB's technical director of elite cricket coaching. Moores was appointed to Flower's old role, enabling the old firm to carry on as usual.

    If the fallout from the Ashes showed that certain players and coaches simply could not work with the team's top scorer, then the correct response from a cricket point of view would have been to sack those players and coaches. But this is not about cricket. It's about office politics.

  • becham100 on July 24, 2014, 7:40 GMT

    Brilliant writing. Keep at it.

  • spindizzy on July 24, 2014, 7:37 GMT

    Jarrod, it isn't just that you have written this article oh so well.

    It is that in doing so you have laid the faults of the current English system bare for the world to see with a clarity I've not seen elsewhere.

    Thank you for this, it better bloody win an award!

  • on July 24, 2014, 7:03 GMT

    absolutely brilliant article,you are just too good.I hope ecb is not reading this article:-)

  • on July 24, 2014, 6:37 GMT

    Great one Jarrod! You have mentioned all the problems that England are facing! It's quiet similar to the song, "There's a hole in my bucket!" Perfect, I would say!

  • on July 24, 2014, 6:12 GMT

    2 of the most honest and well written articles by Jarrod. They precisely point out everything that is ailing English cricket. The ECB and others concerned wud do well to go thru these and then keep them as a reference for improving the situation.

  • csr11 on July 24, 2014, 6:00 GMT

    Jarrod, great to read the new you.. your long form articles of late have been very well researched and have a nice narrative flow.. i would love to see more honest long form writing on cricinfo.

    On the subject of England's woes the one good thing about bad times is that it forces introspection, and that is what this article seems to be all about. Victories have provided England the luxury to ignore some of these problems for far too long. England can still come back in this series, but that will take hard decisions and a change of attitude that doesn't come overnight.

    For the sake of entertainment we hope this will be a well contested series, not like the drab and one sided affair last time around.

  • ToneMalone on July 24, 2014, 5:16 GMT

    "Jimmy Anderson ... bowls more often than any seam bowler has ever bowled at Test level." It's a risk that should have been well-learned by now. I remember the workload of Australia's standout pacemen during the dark years of the early-mid '80s - strike bowlers who were then asked to do the stock bowling as well. Guys like Bruce Reid (destroyed on an India tour) and Merv Hughes, whose knee finally gave way. Overwork wasn't the only factor in their careers ending, but it sure didn't help them or others.

    For the record, I still think Australia is still at risk of the same mistake, using the injury-prone Watson as an all-rounder over someone like Faulkner who can bowl more overs. But England is the worst culprit. They need to try a specialist spinner, select a captain willing and able to use them wisely, and also make use of a proper all-rounder in the bowling attack. Anderson & Broad deserve better.

  • Stormf on July 24, 2014, 5:12 GMT

    Well written article. Thank you.

  • on July 24, 2014, 4:40 GMT

    Superb article and well written. Looks deep into the troubles of the Present day English team

  • on July 24, 2014, 4:26 GMT

    i gotta say you write so well and eloquently. i love find it so different from the podcasts you do which is refreshing. Supremely talented young writer love your style. I think the word that describes england now is shock. a year ago they had won the ashes 3-0 and they never expected to be taken 5-0. Old teams of england knew their ashes fate and accepted loss but this team so accustomed to winning had to keep winning to make sure their machine like actions werent exposed and losing 5-0 sent a shockwave through them so deep that it will continue to affect them for the next 2-3 years. Begs the question whos gonna take england by storm and turn it around. I really see noone except root.

  • on July 24, 2014, 4:17 GMT

    excellent article....... well done

  • JaranNirsi on July 24, 2014, 3:48 GMT

    Absolutely brilliant.... in content, context, syntax and simile and metaphor. Great cricket writing, and placing it in the larger perspective of all human interaction, and endeavor. Keep writing, and educating your reader while entertaining him!

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • JaranNirsi on July 24, 2014, 3:48 GMT

    Absolutely brilliant.... in content, context, syntax and simile and metaphor. Great cricket writing, and placing it in the larger perspective of all human interaction, and endeavor. Keep writing, and educating your reader while entertaining him!

  • on July 24, 2014, 4:17 GMT

    excellent article....... well done

  • on July 24, 2014, 4:26 GMT

    i gotta say you write so well and eloquently. i love find it so different from the podcasts you do which is refreshing. Supremely talented young writer love your style. I think the word that describes england now is shock. a year ago they had won the ashes 3-0 and they never expected to be taken 5-0. Old teams of england knew their ashes fate and accepted loss but this team so accustomed to winning had to keep winning to make sure their machine like actions werent exposed and losing 5-0 sent a shockwave through them so deep that it will continue to affect them for the next 2-3 years. Begs the question whos gonna take england by storm and turn it around. I really see noone except root.

  • on July 24, 2014, 4:40 GMT

    Superb article and well written. Looks deep into the troubles of the Present day English team

  • Stormf on July 24, 2014, 5:12 GMT

    Well written article. Thank you.

  • ToneMalone on July 24, 2014, 5:16 GMT

    "Jimmy Anderson ... bowls more often than any seam bowler has ever bowled at Test level." It's a risk that should have been well-learned by now. I remember the workload of Australia's standout pacemen during the dark years of the early-mid '80s - strike bowlers who were then asked to do the stock bowling as well. Guys like Bruce Reid (destroyed on an India tour) and Merv Hughes, whose knee finally gave way. Overwork wasn't the only factor in their careers ending, but it sure didn't help them or others.

    For the record, I still think Australia is still at risk of the same mistake, using the injury-prone Watson as an all-rounder over someone like Faulkner who can bowl more overs. But England is the worst culprit. They need to try a specialist spinner, select a captain willing and able to use them wisely, and also make use of a proper all-rounder in the bowling attack. Anderson & Broad deserve better.

  • csr11 on July 24, 2014, 6:00 GMT

    Jarrod, great to read the new you.. your long form articles of late have been very well researched and have a nice narrative flow.. i would love to see more honest long form writing on cricinfo.

    On the subject of England's woes the one good thing about bad times is that it forces introspection, and that is what this article seems to be all about. Victories have provided England the luxury to ignore some of these problems for far too long. England can still come back in this series, but that will take hard decisions and a change of attitude that doesn't come overnight.

    For the sake of entertainment we hope this will be a well contested series, not like the drab and one sided affair last time around.

  • on July 24, 2014, 6:12 GMT

    2 of the most honest and well written articles by Jarrod. They precisely point out everything that is ailing English cricket. The ECB and others concerned wud do well to go thru these and then keep them as a reference for improving the situation.

  • on July 24, 2014, 6:37 GMT

    Great one Jarrod! You have mentioned all the problems that England are facing! It's quiet similar to the song, "There's a hole in my bucket!" Perfect, I would say!

  • on July 24, 2014, 7:03 GMT

    absolutely brilliant article,you are just too good.I hope ecb is not reading this article:-)