Tuesday, 5 August 2008


At the risk of offending BB (see post below), I have decided to write on cricket anyway as I am poorly and feeling sorry for myself. So I am propped up in bed and listening to the rain.

England's performances since the latter part of 2005 have, in the main, been dire, inadequate, or simply mediocre. The one good Test series, in my view, was the 2006 Pakistan series, won (now) 2-0: Strauss was an effective and efficient captain who led from the front: Panesar and Harmison put together a couple of good bowling performances and Chris Read looked to be getting his batting together.

Then, of course, the selectors took the bizarre decision to hand the captaincy to Andrew Flintoff, and to bring back Geraint Jones, and the rest is history. Since then England have generally beaten poor sides and been exposed by good ones.

I don't understand the unfolding narrative of "playing like millionaires" - a statement that usually means England's batsmen flash their bats like video game swords and nick the ball to slip or wicketkeeper. It implies a genius hampered by an unpredictability. In reality this is not the case: England's batsmen struggle to judge the lines of deliveries, seem uncertain when to play, are unable to play themselves into a long innings. None of this is new: over the past 20 years batting averages have risen to such an extent that each of the major test nations now have one more player who averages 50, and 40 is no longer the guarantee of a class player, as it used to be - England have been largely immune from this (KP averages exactly 50); in addition, since 1991 there have been only 7 scores over 200 by England players (Gooch, Hussain, Thorpe, Trescothick, Key, Collingwood and Pietersen). England have failed to produce any players of consistent world class with the bat.

Or the ball. Hoggard, Harmison, Panesar - all average over 30. Caddick and Gough averaged about 28. You have to go back to Bob Willis to find an England bowler who took loads of wickets at a very good average.

In short - the technical ability of England players is not improving, nor is their mental strength. Ian Bell's brilliant 199 was a case in point. He spent a very long time in the 190s, advancing through streaky singles, and it was clear to me at the time he'd be out before 200. Players, time and again, get into a position where they could, with technical and mental application, dominate the opposition, but throw it away. As if they are frightened of the possibility of success - it is easier to fail and think of the excuses than it is to come close to success and know that the only thing that stood between you and success was yourself.

After the Ashes debacle of 2006-07 the Schofield report was supposed to set out a blueprint for the development of English cricket. Instead it shows all the flaws of early twenty first century Britain. We got a report (good, we always need more reports) more layers of management (also good: promotes efficiency and accountability, and we got rid of David Graveney (which seemed odd to me). Net effect: the bizarre selection of Darren Pattinson.

There is also a limit to how long you can argue that you have a team in transition, and when you have to admit that your players are simply not of a high enough class. England cricket has too many players who fair to middling, and part of the problem (I suspect) faced by the managers and leaders of cricket, is that the players coming through are also....not quite good enough.

A depressing thought, but I am not sure I see any evidence to the contrary.

ooh...my guts are churning again....

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