England in Australia 2013-14

Tough times for Finn and Root

Vithushan Ehantharajah

January 15, 2014

Comments: 43 | Text size: A | A

Steven Finn claimed five wickets, Cricket Australia Invitational XI v England, Sydney, 2nd day, November 14, 2013
There were not many high-fives for Steven Finn during the Australia tour © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Steven Finn | Joe Root
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With England's men winning in Australia on the same day that the blundering Sydney Thunder ended a 19-game losing streak, reports of full moons and pigs being cleared for landing at Brisbane Airport were, as of yet, unconfirmed.

But as emphatic as England's 172-run win was against the Prime Ministers' XI in Canberra it could not hide the fact that this remains a squad with a host of problems as they try to claw back from 1-0 down in the one-day series.

The decision to send Steven Finn home is sad but inevitable. His absence in Canberra, against a team of players who happened to be free from Big Bash League commitments, confirmed what was coming. To say it has been a sudden fall is not quite right, but his disintegration on this tour has been alarming and, often, painful to watch.

The sight of the six foot seven inch bowler, who has terrorised ODI batsmen on the pace sapping tracks of India and the UAE, walking through a once ferocious action so tentatively, as training aids and water bottles were packed away, was a sad one. How can it be that the youngest Englishman to take 50 Tests wickets spends the last moments of training, deep into an Ashes tour, undergoing remedial work on his own?

Much of the discussion around Finn's demise - and it absolutely is - emanates from alterations that have yet to benefit him. The suggestion that his country and county have been at loggerheads over what's best for him contradicts the noises made by all three parties involved.

Whether dealing with David Saker and Kevin Shine at the ECB, or Middlesex's Richard Johnson, the indication is that messages to Finn have been clear. Over the last English summer, both sides liaised regularly, as amendments were made. Middlesex's director of cricket Angus Fraser was not a fan of Finn's shortened run, but he was happy to admit that different things needed to be tried and tested.

Even the Australians had little trouble sympathising with Finn. Brett Lee, captain of the Prime Ministers' XI, was "shocked" at the paucity of cricket he has played on this tour. "Where is Steven Finn?" has been a starter for chats over schooners in this part of the world for the last month.

One question does remain: how much responsibility should Finn - a player who made his international debut in 2010 - be taking for his own troubles?

At times for Middlesex last season he tried to bowl too fast, some believing he was approaching county matches like a net. But there were signs that genuine progress was being made. Against Derbyshire in August, he had the ignominy of completing a pair inside six hours in a County Championship encounter, but filled that time with a hostile spell of bowling (albeit for the reward of a single wicket). The sort of spell that suggested he was too good for that level. Neil Dexter, his captain in that match, was hopeful it was a sign of even greater things to come.

Now he will be trying to remember what it felt like to be in control, bowling fast and straight.

While not in same state as Finn, there are two more England cricketers who are starting to look as though this tour is the last place they want to be right now. Although it was a comfortable win in Canberra, the top order was again unconvincing as Alastair Cook and Joe Root both fell for 1.

Neither was a surprise: Cook has had to lead the tour from hell and Root is showing the effects of his workload since his debut in December 2012. From then he has played 40 matches across all formats, seven more than the next busiest player who is Ian Bell.

From No. 6, to opener, back to No. 6 to No. 3 - Root has moved so many times within the English system it would make Craig Bellamy blush. Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire's director of cricket, has been particularly damning of England's handling of Root, who he feels should be starting at the top of the order.

Despite coming into an experienced side rediscovering their strength after losing the No. 1 Test status following defeat to South Africa in 2012, the responsibility placed on Root's shoulders has increased exponentially. After being moved to open in Tests at the expense Nick Compton, Root's initial Ashes experiences (although that already amounts to nine Tests, something it would have previously taken at least three years to amass) were tough.

His battles with Mitchell Johnson in the Ashes were compelling (and Johnson returns for the second ODI in Brisbane). An 87 in the second innings at Adelaide, his debut at first-drop, spoke volumes of the desire to get his hands dirty and convert grit into quality. But those battles have clearly taken a lot out of Root, who looked fatigued during his 23-ball innings at the MCG in the first ODI.

It's a far cry from the bopping boy who walked out at Nagpur over a year ago, with England teetering on 139 for 5. He displayed remarkable confidence and self-assurance that even had Kevin Pietersen double-taking, as the pair punched gloves in the middle and Root offered his tuppence to a man who had hit one of the greatest knocks in recent memory at Mumbai, just two Tests previous.

What Root is undergoing is a period of self-reflection that virtually all young batsmen go through when they first come into Test cricket; where a player begins well before subtle chinks in their armour are ripped open bit by bit, for all to see. In Root's case, it's a unwavering desire to play forward without fully committing. Geoffrey Boycott once described this moment in a career as simply "growing up" while Australia batsman Ed Cowan called it a much-needed "therapeutic cleanse".

Root and Finn are the types of player England's rebuilding should form around. In the short-term, however, they both have some personal battles to overcome first.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by ScottStevo on (January 18, 2014, 0:07 GMT)

@Nutcutlet, not sure where you're getting those stats, but Steve Waugh was, at the very least, 5'10.

Posted by   on (January 17, 2014, 7:33 GMT)

Listening to the radio last night the blame is on the England coaches. They've tried to change his action, which is a ridiculous thing to do. Why change what worked to get him to the top? He's not the only player the England coaches have messed up either!

Posted by bundybear1977 on (January 17, 2014, 0:45 GMT)

@mux164 - LMFAO - Love it! Go the colonials!

Posted by Mervo on (January 16, 2014, 22:57 GMT)

Root seems a good future prospect if he can sort out some of his shuffling at the crease. GIve him a couple of season in the Counties first. At least he is English born and developed and not a colonial import.

Posted by warnerbasher on (January 16, 2014, 18:12 GMT)

Root will be ok. Many a young batsmen have come a cropper down under on their first tour and I reckon he will be a fixture in the Pommy side for years to come. Given the abject batting of far more experienced players on this tour its a bit rich to place to much responsibility on the young lad. Plonk him at 5 and let him develop. Compton to open with Bell at 3.As for Finn send him back to county cricket and let him build his confidence. The furnace of an Ashes tour is no place to lose form. My third piece of advice as a gloating Aussie supporter is more attacking cricket please and less of the gamesmanship that have infested English cricket in recent years. My last piece of advice to the ICC is reduce Ashes tests to 3 per series until England become test standard agaim

Posted by   on (January 16, 2014, 10:32 GMT)

@Kev Martin - which article were you reading? The second half of the article was all about Joe Root!

Posted by Nutcutlet on (January 16, 2014, 10:27 GMT)

@Posted by 'facebook' on (January 16, 2014, 3:19 GMT): I see where you're coming from, but I seem to recall a throwaway remark from one of the TV or radio pundits that Taylor was regarded as "too small'! This, if true, is about as crass a remark as it's possible to make. The list of short men who have been brilliant bats, is, of course, a long one: Bradman (5' 7"), Tendulkar & Gavaskar (both 5' 5"); Steve Waugh (5' 6"), Jayesuria (5' 7"). OK, Laura was a relative giant at 5' 8". Go back a hundred years, Gilbert ('Croucher') Jessop - arguably the greatest destructive bat of all time - was 5' 7" (and 11 stone). Go back 80 years & the redoubtable Eddie Paynter (Test av 59.3; 4 tons) was no more than 5' 6". Sizeism has no place in cricket, any more than it has a place in the rest of civilized society. To those who argue that James Taylor is 'just too small' - go hang your heads in shame. Does any one say, for example, that Boyd Rankin is just too big? Eng's obsession with inches: tripe!

Posted by mux164 on (January 16, 2014, 4:53 GMT)

sorry steve i dont think you will get a game as there are too many englishmen in the team, if you were south african or a new zealander you might get a look in

Posted by   on (January 16, 2014, 3:19 GMT)

I have to agree with Jackiethepen. The treatment of Taylor is embarrassing. A hugely talented young man that has obviously got on the wrong side of someone in the upper management. Root is good but he's no better than any of the other young batsmen coming through, yet he is allowed to fail time and again. There needs to be a serious clear out of England's backroom staff after this tour. Things have got so bad if they put Ray Illingworth back in charge it couldn't get any worse.

Posted by Maroubra_Flyer on (January 16, 2014, 1:58 GMT)

I think the England guys have been over coached. Finn had a problem with his knee hitting the stumps - well just move a half step to the left - ,also the rule about a no-ball being awarded when the stumps are broken by the bowler is the most ridiculous rule I've seen. It actually disadvantages the bowling side as the bail is already removed - why a no-ball. I can't understand why people aren't up in arms about this. I also think Root is fine just young, he needs to just rethink his batting on his own. He should never have been promoted to No 3 - way ahead of his time, but he'll come back. Gee you Poms you eat your own. All will come back together with Kerrigan. The hardest done by is Pietersen, THE quality bat in England's side & look how he's been mucked about. Pick & Stick, form is temporary but class is permanent. Hope England don't do what we did last couple of years & England in the 90's & keep the faith

Posted by bren19 on (January 16, 2014, 0:26 GMT)

Of course the bloke has confidence issues. Imagine coming on tour as a young bowler and not getting picked at all. A poor performance or two in warm ups and the selectors say to him "you are not good enough". If he has the ability, pick him and back him. That would have been all the confidence he needed. He is not questioning himself for any other reason than he was not picked. selectors said he was not good enough and now he believes it. Picking him might just have been the confidence boost he needed - not like it could have been any worse for England if he played.

Posted by Kelum_w on (January 16, 2014, 0:19 GMT)

@ KricketWicket couldn't agree with you more There was a nice article in the DailyMail re the Flower vs KP issue about how Sir Alex never dropping his best player at least unless he had a replacement. I guess it's a bit hard for us to make assumptions from outside the inner group or at least until we get the details of their internal review but for some reason the coaching staff hasn't been made accountable for the demise of England, that is their batting, bowling and even more importantly their fielding. Who knows maybe the batsman didn't really listen to Gooch, or the bowlers didnt follow Saker's advice on line and length but somewhere something is definitely amiss. From afar it looks to me the Eng team looks like a bunch of employees disengaged with their employer, kinda like how Australia looked like in Ind and Eng last year (where are the publicized Watson Clarke feuds now) . Flower may be an awesome coach but I think some kind of change is needed, either in his style or him.

Posted by   on (January 16, 2014, 0:16 GMT)

Is it just me who has noticed the name Root in the headline, but he isn't mentioned in the article once? Weird.

Posted by oxfordlaw on (January 16, 2014, 0:01 GMT)

Let's get REAL shall we!!. Finn is most probably England's best chance at having a top flight fast bowler. He has a better strike rate : 48, than Broad : 58, & even Dennis Lillee : 52. Based on his current wickets after 23 tests - 90, after the same number of test as Broad - 67, he will have close to 270 wickets ( Broad 238). Just look how everyone once scoffed at & joked about Mitchell Johnson...... now NO MORE !! Get Finn a decent coach and then England might have a weapon to the take them forward to regain the ashes in 2015.

Posted by   on (January 15, 2014, 23:48 GMT)

The coaches should go, if anyone.

Posted by Patchmaster on (January 15, 2014, 23:05 GMT)

The best bowling coach in the World, is working for New Zealand.....and they have the fastest bowler in the world, and a great fast swing bowler and an up and coming leg spinner....all found and coached with tiny resources compared to England. take a bow, Shane Bond.

Posted by   on (January 15, 2014, 22:34 GMT)

@OoohhMattyMatty I don't think the effect will last anything like 10 years. 10 months might be more like it.

It does spell the end of some players. Finn and Root will not be those dropped as a result. Prior will likely be back as well. Panesar? Carberry? Trott? Tremlett? Bresnan? I doubt we'll see them much.

Pietersen and Anderson probably have no more than 2 -3 years left each (I'd put money on Pietersen retiring in September 2015 - barely 18 months from now).

England's biggest issue is the loss of a quality spinner. The first they've had since "deadly Derek" Underwood. It's going to be very hard to come back from that. Also a settled opening partner for Cooke.

Outside that Cooke, Bell, Root, Buttler, Broad, Finn and Stokes will be around to support Anderson, Pietersen and Prior as those 3 approach the ends of their careers. Add a good opening partner for Cooke and a quality spinner - and there's you England team for the next 18 months.

An opener and a spinner. Hmmm

Posted by Kolpak1989 on (January 15, 2014, 22:31 GMT)

Root reminds me of Phil Hughes. Loads of talent but has been quickly worked out by international opposition. Needs to go back to County for a while to polish his game. Problem is, there is probably nobody better than him to replace him in the England team in the meantime.

Posted by disco_bob on (January 15, 2014, 22:25 GMT)

I might be reading to much into this but in hindsight England displayed their insecurities and fear of attack, by ostentatiously giving Clark, one of the best Cricketers on the planet, free singles in order to exploit his 'fear' of Broad and the short ball. To me it was England projecting their fear that if their own weaknesses are probed then they will collapse like a house of cards. As it transpired Clarke confidently and unhesitatingly pulled his first short ball of the second innings away with disdain and after another go, that was the beginning and the end of England's plan A.

One by one Australia have targeted an England weakness, and except for Stokes, each England player has failed the test that is Test cricket. Strangely Finn, seems to be affected merely by watching the destruction around him and England publicly humiliate him and send him home as if it's all his fault. Cook needs to give up the captaincy to Bell and KP needs to be vice captain.

Posted by Ms.Cricket on (January 15, 2014, 21:17 GMT)

Finn, Compton, Root - English selectors have handled these awesome talents poorly.

Posted by StraightBatToAStraightBall on (January 15, 2014, 21:12 GMT)

This is an extraordinary indictment of the current England coaching set-up. Sure, players lose form all the time, but the protracted destruction of Finn's confidence, all played out in the most public way possible, is simply bad coaching and bad management. As well as classic shooting-self-in-foot. Finn is still No.3 in the world ODI bowling rankings. His averages and economy rates, at this still very early stage of his career, compare competitively with the maturer bowlers Anderson and Broad. And his strike rate is better than any of them. So he is (or was) a hugely valuable asset. That the England management and coaches have had him fall to pieces under their stewardship and guidance is not only tragic for him, but even more relevantly, a disaster for England. Are we really going to let these guys "rebuild" the team? On the current evidence, and in the additional light of the Ashes implosion, the necessary skills are simply not there.

Posted by Herbet on (January 15, 2014, 20:22 GMT)

Finn is the bigger deal here. He has been truly messed up to the point where he can no longer do something that was once natural and automatic to him. Root, I think, will be fine. He's had a tough tour, but is by no means the only person to struggle on their first visit to Australia. And he has the excuse of facing Mitchell Johnson in one of his fleeting purple patches. He's young, has a 180 to his name v Australia and with a rest and a few games for Yorkshire under his belt will be as right as rain.

Posted by   on (January 15, 2014, 18:58 GMT)

I feel for Finn. He has been over coached to destruction. I watch the England batsman with their inane waltzes in the batting crease and conclude the same! Just look at Warner, Clarke and Haddin (by some coincidence the highest scores in the series) and look how they address the ball. I'm now not convinced about Flower and Gooch can go for me!

Posted by OhhhhhMattyMatty on (January 15, 2014, 18:43 GMT)

Fair play to Australia. While they got smashed in 10/11 and 2013, they caused such significant damage, that the defeat in 13/14 will put England back 10 years or so.

The way they've attacked Finn and Kerrigan, to the point they may never recover, has broken up half of England's future attack already. While Joe Root's confidence has been shot to pieces so badly, he's now afraid to hit a ball in anger!

3 of England's future XI have been smashed and crushed by Australia.

While conversely, England damaged Australia's newbies initially and then allowed each and every one of them to find their feet and then dominate them (Warner, Smith, Lyon etc.)

Posted by jackiethepen on (January 15, 2014, 18:38 GMT)

Root has been given the opportunity to succeed few are granted. By comparison Taylor has had to make his own way, joining Notts to play in a higher division and gradually being promoted up the order. He has impressed in all three formats of the game. But he is not connected to any media lobby which is prepared to hype him. Root was ridiculously promoted by the Telegraph journalists, especially Berry who claimed he was the reincarnation of Sir Len Hutton and was already perfect. Such nonsense helped no one, least of all Root. But it was meant to drive a wedge between Compton and the England side to allow Root to occupy No 2. By this means Bairstow could occupy no 6. Such were the machinations. Both Bairstow and Root are now struggling. They need now to return to Yorkshire and rebuild their careers. They have been mis-promoted and mis-managed. Talent takes you only so far. The next step is the one that makes you into a Test player or not.

Posted by seantells on (January 15, 2014, 18:26 GMT)

more than Root , Finn should be given a go infact he should've used in test series too some wickets were ideal for him

Posted by KricketWicket on (January 15, 2014, 18:13 GMT)

Root is a decent player. And that's where it ends. The way he is over-hyped is unbelievable, and probably gave him a false sense of how capable he was. Now that his true capability/averageness has been exposed, it has become clear that he is just like so many other dull, boring and disciplined English cricketers (e.g. Cook). And the one real Star they have (KP), look how they treat him. Any way, if KP succumbs to all this trashy bashing - England's loss may well end up being IPL's gain. And Indian's will surely treat him like a star that he is. But I for one just hope that KP continues to play for England - otherwise it is going to be painful to watch them bat.

Posted by TripleCenturian on (January 15, 2014, 18:08 GMT)

Why the focus on Roots weakness and limitations when four or five other more senior batsmen struggled in the last series? Bell plummeted from the dizzy heights of a Sports Personality nomination after his summer run spree. Cook has lost his bearings as to where his off stump is. Priors loss of batting form impacted negatively on his keeping and Trott was clearly affected by illness but could not overcome a short pitched battering akin to Bodyline.

Let's be straight. Root is a quality batsman. He has struggled against good bowling, inconsistent selection and by playing too many versions of the game so lacks any consistent approach to his batting.

Let him start the domestic season with Yorkshire, focus on the longer format alone and see how he does in a home series against weaker opponents. Then his class will out.

Posted by The_Rohit on (January 15, 2014, 17:51 GMT)

For a change England should do what they do not usually. Do not smother Finn in 'performance' academies, overanalyzing his action and trying to get into his head. And don't waste his time in county cricket. Scout the IPL teams and try and find a team that will pick Finn for a bargain price, but will play him. There will be no better examination at this stage for him than to face up to the likes of Gayle, Kohli, Dhoni, AB, Pollard, KP on batsmen friendly tracks. Johnson came out a different bowler on the other side of the IPL. Let Finn do the same. I think it was Imran or Akram who said that in their team, they would simply help a bowler identify the problem. To come up with a solution was up to the bowler.

Posted by hhillbumper on (January 15, 2014, 17:51 GMT)

Does this and the regression of other bowlers not suggest we need a good bowling coach.Finn has immense potential that seems to have been mucked up by the coaches.potentially there is a lot of bowling talent coming through but God help Overton mills and Ripley. Keep away from the England team coaching or else your bowling career is in trouble

Posted by Nutcutlet on (January 15, 2014, 17:16 GMT)

Perhaps the most damning indictment of the Ashes' fiasco is the damage that's been done to upcoming stars - Root and Finn. Both have had their heads so messed about that the first call when they get home and return to their respective counties is to undergo a thorough de-tox with Jason Gillespie & Gus Fraser. How those two excellent county coaches must have seethed as they began to realise how much damage has been done by the Ashes' coaches and management. Both have been set back a year or more, when both should have been coming home having made good strides towards becoming top class Test cricketers. Again, I look to Paul Downton to be his own man and rid England's team of the toxin.

Posted by   on (January 15, 2014, 16:55 GMT)

They will both be fine but they need to go back to their counties to regain some form so for me the lineup for the 1st Test vs Sri Lanka in June would be: 1)Cook 2)Compton/Carberry 3)Bell 4)Pietersen 5)Morgan/Ballance/Taylor 6)Stokes 7)Prior/Bairstow/Buttler 8)Broad 9)Jordan/Rankin 10) Anderson 11) Kerrigan/Borthwick

Posted by   on (January 15, 2014, 16:38 GMT)

It seems unlikely that Finn's present problems with his action and moment of release are closely related to the old problem about knocking over the stumps. It sounds as if he is experiencing a more fundamental disintegration of his entire bowling action, based on loss of rhythm and perhaps a loss of motor control. The reports that he has developed a kink in his action, in an effort to overcome the difficulty over releasing the ball, are particularly discouraging. In a nutshell, this is code for having developed a throwing action to compensate for not having the control to be able to bowl "naturally". This is potentially career-threatening.

Posted by   on (January 15, 2014, 13:40 GMT)

I don't think anyone was hailing Root as the next Sachin. He is a good player with a terrific temperament, but he does have technical issues that need to be resolved before he can kick on.

Posted by Kirstenfan on (January 15, 2014, 13:22 GMT)

I'm sure at the end of 2004, in South Africa, exactly the same article could (and possibly was) written about Jimmy Anderson and the changes to his action, and look where he got to. But I am sure the 'Finn law' and the flaw that caused Finn to bump into the wickets fairly regularly was a cause for change and subsequent lack of confidence.

Posted by sreni on (January 15, 2014, 12:28 GMT)

Root is very average bat. As usual English media hailed him like next Sachin, now after a year of failure, they are not accepting the truth but finding some excuses.

Posted by   on (January 15, 2014, 12:23 GMT)

Jot Root shares a management Agency with some other players - and ex players. that's why he was over-hyped. He was the Great White Hope, the one that brought the average age down a a little, Future England Captain material. He'll likely come good, not least because he'll be given every opportunity to do so, unlike Compton, who was jettisoned as soon as he stopped scoring centuries.

As for Finn - some of the blame lies with him. Quit knocking the darn stumps over, mate. When they introduce a new law, entirely because of one player, then that player has an issue. Own it. Hopefully, he will be back, though.

Posted by SeanB on (January 15, 2014, 11:31 GMT)

England should start with Joe Root leading the test team, Cook and Compton opening. Cook can still lead the 50 over side, but he looks lost as the test captain.

Posted by AJ_Tiger86 on (January 15, 2014, 11:21 GMT)

Root is a very limited batsman who has been exposed by a very good bowling attack. That's all there is to the story. There's no need to over analyze here.

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (January 15, 2014, 10:53 GMT)

How can a good bowler who was bowling fine a few months ago, fall so far off the pace that he is so unsure of himself he is taking baby steps during his run up? England management is turning upside down.

Posted by itsthewayuplay on (January 15, 2014, 10:12 GMT)

Hmmm. Give Root a chance in a settled place prefereably his batting position and give him a run in the team and then perhaps people will better placed to judge him. Tendulkar had his no 4 spot and refused to move from there even when the team needed him most at 3 in the disastrous 2011 tour. Root has shown his flexibility to bat anywhere so the least he deserves is a chance in his preferred spot. Finn's decline in performaces has been worrying. He was easily the best bowler on either side in India in 2011. But the thing he going for him is that there's still plenty of time before he's due to hit his peak which for fast bowlers is about 27/28. The most important for Cricket England not to write him off. Remember Mitchell Johnson was the target of ridicule mostly from Aussie supporters. Bit a time and they'll be fine.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (January 15, 2014, 9:51 GMT)

Finn has all the ingredients to be a top pace bowler and will be back. Good for him to get out of that toxic England camp for a bit and go back to his county.

Root should have a solid career but after one innings he was absurdly overrated and hyped by the press. As usual.

Posted by BradmanBestEver on (January 15, 2014, 8:52 GMT)

I feel sure that they are grateful for being exposed to genuinely tough opposition early in their careers.

Comments have now been closed for this article

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Australia v England at Sydney - Feb 2, 2014
Australia won by 84 runs
Australia v England at Melbourne - Jan 31, 2014
Australia won by 8 wickets (with 31 balls remaining)
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