First up, if you haven’t already read them, please look at the efforts of the seven respondents to the Panel questions below. They gave some thoughtful responses, some excellent points and food for thought. Thanks to all of them.
So what are my answers to my own questions:
1. How do you think England sit as an international team after the 1-1 draw in Bangladesh? Glass half-full or half-empty?
I have a lot of problems with the acceptance of the second test defeat as if this would have just happened regardless what team we put out. Each series and each dynamic is different. We decided to not give 100% in the second test, resting players and giving the impression it was a practice match. And then our batting subsided. The blame went on the spin bowling, and the batting was largely ignored, save for the savaging of Ballance. We’ve been banging on about the batting for a while now, and the chairs have been shifted around again. Haseeb Hameed is opening, Duckett is at 4. This doesn’t bring me much in the way of comfort. Cook has 4 tons in 43 tests, Root’s conversion of 50s to tons remains a concern (and one of the better ones to have), while Moeen doesn’t have a long-term future at five, in my view. Stokes and Bairstow are solid citizens in the middle order, but we need big hundreds from somewhere. So, unsurprisingly, after two drawn series, my glass is half empty.
2. Ravichandran Ashwin? All time great, or product of the current environment?
He’s the premier spin bowler of his era, so doesn’t that make him an all-time great? His average is pretty damn good, he takes a ton of wickets at home and he’s a pretty decent batsman to boot. He’s a very fine bowler. A couple more of years of this and he’s destined for the stars. But our generation bestows greatness much easier these days. The need to be out in front is paramount. Greatness is sustained high level of performance over many many years, or a brief period of such electric high standard that few in the world will ever match it. I pose this question, is Mitchell Johnson an all-time great?
3. Three seamers or three spinners for England? How would you go?
Sick and tired of the debate, to be honest, because it is shrouded in forgetting the past and also wishful thinking. Stuart Broad does not average 143 runs per wicket in India by accident. Chris Woakes has a ton to learn in these conditions. Ben Stokes was very good in Bangladesh, but to me there’s that question of workload with him, and he’s had injuries very recently. India could break his back if wickets aren’t falling. The fact we are wishing for a rapid James Anderson recovery speaks volumes. As for the spinners, well we have what we have. I think we need to focus on players who take wickets on turning pitches rather than “stock bowling” but that’s what it’s all about now. I don’t know if it matters to be honest. With Stokes and Moeen being all-rounders, then the other balance doesn’t matter so much. What I do know, is if you want bowling dry, then Rashid isn’t your man. If you want bowling dry, why would you even pick him?
4. Do you think Ben Duckett has a future as a test match opener / middle order or no long-term future at all?
Simple answer? No idea. I’m not sold on him at all at this time, but then I have been wrong many times before (see, up until now, Jos Buttler). He’d be another Alex Hales as an opener. He’ll have good series, and he’ll be undressed by the new ball a lot of times. In the middle order, if we can solidify the top order, and he comes in at 100 for 2 on quite a few occasions, he could be a major asset. I think his long-term future is as a high order ODI batsman (possibly a number 3 after Hales and Roy). Duckett has a lot of goodwill within the media set-up, and not without reason. But I don’t see him as “our David Warner”.
5. Finally, what do you think the series score will be and why?
I don’t think we will lose 5-0. If we do, that should not be allowed to stick. Things would need to be looked at. Coaches, captain, players etc. The English team is not one that should be beaten 5-0. Setting ourselves up, mentally, for it, is more media management, more softening us up, and turning defeats into triumphs. The same media that had us winning all seven tests last summer, and still struggling to comprehend how we drew at home with Pakistan. I think there will be at least one draw, and I think we can get into some decent positions and turn them into win(s). Winning the series might be out of the question. Remember how decent spinners like Shaun Udal have had their day in India. 3-1 would be the worst I’d expect if we were being honest with ourselves. Let’s hope they can do better than that. Cook and Root need to make key runs, but others need to make tons.
Good luck to Haseeb on his debut. Good luck to Rajkot on its test debut, and let’s hope for some exciting cricket and some surprise performances.
Comments on Day 1 below….