I allowed myself a little chuckle this morning. I am watching the print and TV media grow their adult teeth again. Mark describes it as “they are learning to be critics again”. Some were, of course, and some notably weren’t, because. Well we all know why. But now they have a chance to be free and they are taking it. Instead of taking pot shots at players for being “too intense” or “mentally fragile” they can now go at the collective again.
Exhibit A – I saw Chris Stocks put up a tweet of such blinding, well, blindness that I couldn’t help but laugh…
“Can’t think of a recent home loss that’s left so many questions and so much bile.”
How about Headingley 2014? Or Lord’s later that year? But then again, it wasn’t their sort of bile. That was a vocal section of the fan base asking what the hell was going on? Precisely what did the decisions of the previous year achieve? When would one individual stop being blamed, and when would another individual actually cop some from this de-clawed media mob?
Here at BOC we weren’t shocked by Trent Bridge. Why would we be? We’ve lost a load of test matches recently. It’s why we agreed, sort of, that Cook’s caution on Saturday at Lord’s was merited because something like Trent Bridge is always on the cards. There are many reasons to have a go at Cook, but Lord’s was really not one of them. But the media still play that game, as you may have seen from the laughable “Cook needs to repeat what Atherton did in Joburg” type headlines. If you’ve been watching test cricket for any time you will know Cook has made two 4th innings hundreds in his test career, and one of those was chasing a target. The other was at Perth, where he batted nearly a full day in 2006, while battling a technique the Aussies had slightly exposed. That he came through that was testament to his ability and mental strength. But he’s only played one successful second innings rearguard in my recall and that was Brisbane 2010. His Ahmedabad innings, although in a losing cause, was not to be sniffed at. All these innings are 5 years or so old. Cricket is, or should be, a “what have you done for me lately” game.
I don’t want to make this about Cook, but that’s the thing. It really is hard not to, when you look at how the media have reacted to this defeat. We endured years of cardboard cut-out captaincy, but because the press have a crush on Alastair, for whatever reasons, the captaincy was always sacrosanct. No such pact exists with Joe Root. This is truly a rookie captain, a man picked to lead England because he’s our best batsman. If anyone is going to have to learn on the job and need some slack given his way, it’s Root. But the signs aren’t good. By way of a small example, it was the Nasser Hussain “two grumpy bowlers” routine. How would Root handle his two grumpy bowlers when the batting had “let them down”? I never once heard that question asked of the previous captain, who seemed not to have those two on a leash either. It was almost funny to Nasser, who wouldn’t have stood for that nonsense when he was in charge, and who managed Gough and Caddick, that these two could almost defy their captain. Seriously? I actually think Broad is a good team man – he bowls through pain, he bowls his heart out most games (I really don’t want to like him, but I just can’t help it) – and Jimmy is just Jimmy. But Root is expected to control them, when they were exactly like this under Al, and no-one murmured anything? Watch this space for more on that.
Then there is Gary Ballance. He is on the media ducking stool. I think that stool should be named the Nick Compton seat but let’s leave that for a moment. Ballance is a selector’s nightmare. You know he has a wonky technique. Many players do. But he is burning it up in Division 1 cricket, which is of a pretty decent standard these days, and that’s an indication of decent form and ability. So what are selectors to do? Ignore the form of a man who made four test hundreds in his early career, or go with the evidence that he’s been well and truly “found out” at top level. The sheer lure of these sorts of players have been the undoing of coaches and selectors for all time. In some ways I feel sorry for them, but also remember this. At peak anti-KP time, James Whitaker could throw Gary Ballance’s record on the table, and he did, and they seals clapped like they were about to receive feeding time. Any player should do well to remember that. Your useful life as a player is only as long as some in the media need you to be. The other players should be thankful Ballance is there at the moment, because it stops them being in the hot seat. In the Mail’s round-up, all four of their writers would drop Ballance, three would keep Jennings (Newman would bring back Hameed – not a lot to say about that), and the replacements are drawn from Hameed, Malan, Westley, Stoneman and Buttler. All four would drop Dawson. But we’ll come to that later.
Ballance is about proving the media right. They love that even more than we do. There is an agenda, alright. Not one of them (that I knew of) wanted Ballance back. Precisely the same with Compton. The difference in the two is that Gary was Joe’s captain pick, while the rumours I hear is that Cook could not abide Compton, and he certainly wasn’t Alastair’s choice. What we had with Compton was more insidious, with his problems put down to being too intense, too desirous of success that it hurt (Pringle couldn’t write an article without comparing him to Ramprakash – but then, I always saw with Ramps, if he was that intense, and failed because of it, how come he had a half decent Ashes record against those all-time greats?) With Balance, it is the criticism of technique. It’s not far off the mark, but as I said, you have to make a decision as a selector. Do you ignore a very good run of form, from a player who put it together in his early career, or do you move elsewhere? If the selectors don’t think he’s up to it, then Comma and his precious processes, and sitting in on selection meetings, should stick to it. Not say, as they appear to have done “we wouldn’t have picked him but Joe really wanted him”. This is where Newman, as always, is having his cake and eating it. If they make a choice that’s wrong, hang them. If the captain makes a choice that’s wrong, hang him. If the Coach can’t be arsed with county cricket then that’s fine. And if Andy Flower likes him and he’s duff, keep absolutely mum (Liam Dawson).
So Gary is in the firing line. We know that. Picking him again will give the media some more raw meat to chew on if and when he fails. I sometimes think he’s chastised more because he doesn’t look good. You don’t pay to watch him bat. He’s no Lara or Gower. Who should replace him? Well that’s where people like Whitaker, and yes, Bayliss should know who they like and who they don’t. But there’s no four day cricket on, and George Dobell nails that in his amazing new piece, and Bayliss seems to make a virtue of not knowing anything about the county game. What about Chuckles Farby, does he know anything? Have they identified anyone they think may have a bit about them. Notice the Liam Livingstone bandwagon ground to a halt? I’ve seen a little of Stoneman this year, and he looks good, but I’m just not sure he’s the answer. There are no sure things, but he seems to have a tighter technique than Jennings. I liked Gubbins at Middlesex, who looked a scrapper. I’ve always had time for James Hildreth but his time has passed on the back, it seems of a couple of errant sessions against the short ball. If you are talking Jason Roy, have a day off. The one I like is Dan Lawrence at Essex – and that pains me. But the pundits seem wedded to Westley. I might be lucky but whenever I see Kent, Sam Northeast looks the part. But his record is modest.
The succession planning, such as it is, doesn’t work. People hark back to Fletcher pulling Tres and Vaughan out of his hat, but there were some duff ones too. If he’s having Vaughan, he’s having Adams too. Now we have an England Lions set-up acting as a shadow team. Westley made a ton in the last outing, so he surely must be the next in line. Is he any good? Well only one way to really find out.
This test was lost by the 1st innings, but the 2nd is the one that alarms me more. There was no sense of fight in the team. One of the things that Flower’s teams (pre- difficult winter) in particular displayed was making teams really work for their wins. Those 9 down draws, those battling matches. Under Bayliss and the good environment (see Dobell for the way to tear that drivel apart, as we did with Moores, but with panache) we fold like cheap suits. We haven’t really shown that in a while now. The rearguard 150 in a losing cause. The battling back to back to back 70s and 80s that hold the opposition up. You tell me what has changed? You might be tempted to say if what it takes to get that back is a return of old Flower, then you might even sell me that. You might.
Remember when Harrison, the old Empty Suit, made, by inference, playing exciting attacking cricket more important than winning? Well, we played exciting, attacking cricket in this test match and we flopped. People I like on Twitter tell me Empty Suit knows what’s best for the game with his background in TV rights and entertainment. No he doesn’t. He knows what might be best for TV companies and the game, whatever it might be, can be flung into an increasingly meaningless, increasingly soulless T20 tour of the world.
What we have is a confused picture. South Africa were dead losses a week ago, and now are certainties to win the series. England were a team with flaws, but super-talented, but are now a team where they are flawed and super-dumb. We have a chief who wants attacking cricket, a coach who creates good atmospheres, a selection panel that delegates to others, a Lions coach in the shadows doing lord knows what, a Comma who comes out only rarely, an ECB who have split the county game apart, and a media re-discovering its bite when it doesn’t need to save Al.
So this takes me on to the bowling. England’s bowlers haven’t been hauled over the coals for this one, although their performance on Day 1 wasn’t, according to people who watched it, up to scratch with too much short stuff – where have we heard that before? Anderson and Broad are the untouchables, and their performances still merit that status. Jimmy is still the best we have, Broad a potential match-winner when the stars align. Mark Wood, therefore, is in the spotlight because there has been a disappointing return from him. I’m always a bit wary of having a go at bowlers because there are only ever 10 wickets to go round in each innings. Wood hasn’t looked himself, and that is a potential Simon Jones type quickie. What do you do? Keep him on and hope it clicks, knowing he is test class, or send him back to the Blast and prepare for benchwarming duties Down Under? I don’t have the answer. The easy one is to drop in and see how Toby Roland-Jones does. I wouldn’t go mad if you did that.
Then there is Liam Dawson. First of all, it is not his fault he has been picked for England. I think we should all remember that. Secondly, he’s not been awful in these two tests. He’s not shone either, but with the ball, he’s a regulation spinner. He’s not Lovejoy. Thirdly, in this test, he batted OK. England see him as a pseudo-all rounder, again that isn’t his fault. He isn’t the glamour pick, he isn’t Adil or Mason, so it’s open season. He should never have been picked, but he isn’t Gavin Hamilton (again, if Fletch is having Vaughan, he’s owning that one too). Belittling him is not fair. I don’t think so, anyway. Adil, a crowd favourite around here, has simply not made a compelling case to be our spin bowler. Pretend all we want, there’s not match-winning performances, there’s not the body of evidence to call our clowns “clowns” for not picking him. Some are seduced by Mason Crane – why not? We’re looking to pluck something from nothing. They’ll soon forget if he flops – success has many parents, failure is an orphan.
The test match that concluded provided some big lessons to England, but the first one should be never take South Africa for granted. They chopped out a weakness, corrected a selection mistake, and put out a team unit that worked brilliantly. People might remember that happened in 2004/5, when the first test was effectively gifted to us by some odd selections. Then South Africa got their act together, but we fought back and won a brilliant Joburg win after a terrible Cape Town loss. Teams can, and do, rebound. This England team has the ability to do so. But, and despite my journo mate getting the hump about it, Vernon Philander’s game seems built for test matches, and it’s not fluke he takes all these wickets. Morne Morkel must be a nightmare to face, but England would have given up on him years ago because he doesn’t get the wicket hauls that his talent suggests. Chris Morris turned from trundler to menace in the space of 48 hours (amazing what bouncing out Cook does) and Olivier will be replaced by Rabada next time out. Maharaj provides a useful spin option. This team looks good, but the batting still has weaknesses – Kuhn as opener should be a walking wicket for example – and is by no means unbeatable. They will collapse at least once on this tour – but the thing is, so will we.
This has been a long enough ramble on the previous test, but I thought I’d finish on one last Alastair Cook note. You know I’m keeping count on the number of test centuries in certain amount of innings. You know, the 5 centuries in 94 test innings thing. But what you notice, more and more, is that this doesn’t matter at all to some. No. He’s made 11000 test runs so his place is safe. His place is safe because he is one of the best two openers in England now. That should be the only selection issue. When he isn’t, or when he doesn’t want to be, he should not be picked. He is an automatic selection with a record on decline. Previous players like KP and Bell, had their records used against them, and they were on opposite sides of the awkwardness spectrum, as they aged. I don’t think age should be used, and in that regard, if Cook remains one of our top two openers, he absolutely has to stay (how anti-Cook is that – calling for him to stay. I wish the anti-KP crowd were so even-handed back in the day).
So we have a little break now until the next test. I will be at The Oval tomorrow night to see the return of KP to a cricket field in England. I had the tickets ages ago as we are taking my American work colleague to his first game. I might even get him to write a few words on what he thought. We’ll find some things to occupy our time up until the Oval test match, as the media seem to be in silly season (after I wrote the line about Flower above, I see certain journos are now saying he should be back as Test coach!). Feel free to let me know what you think of any aspect of this piece. There’s a lot of it. There’s nothing like a loss for a blog like this.
Post writing this, England have qualified for the World Cup final. Well done to all concerned and good luck for the Final. Been lean years by their standards but a welcome return to form. Go well.
The idea of going back to Flower as Test coach baffles me. To start with, there’s the ‘success’ Moores had when he came back. There are a lot of examples across all sports of teams going back to a former manager, and very few examples of it being successful. Secondly, I genuinely don’t think Flower’s abilities lend themselves to the current situation (or to be honest, his current job). If Flower had one defining strength during his time as coach, it was being able to discipline (bully, some might say) experienced players into doing what they were told. The nucleus of the England Test side was in place before he got the job and he brought in Swann, Trott and Prior who were all experienced county players. Despite being Lions coach for over three years, I can’t see any evidence of him developing any young players to the point where they’re even remotely near Test-quality.
This is a huge problem because looking forward to the next two years, the Test coach (whether it’s Bayliss or someone else) has to basically build a whole team. Right now, the team is missing numbers 2, 3 and 5 in the batting unit, as well as a front line spinner and possibly a seamer. On top of that, Cook, Broad, and Anderson are all on the wrong side of thirty and it would be a surprise if any of them carried on for England past the 2019 Ashes. They’re also more likely to be injured, or have age-related declines in form. Either way, that’s another three spots that England will probably need to fill.
I asked George Dobell on Twitter if he could name “the Test-quality players who have been developed by Flower’s Lions in the last 3 years?” to which he replied “Hameed? Malan? Foakes? Clarke? The Currans? None proven at top level, I guess.” Let’s take Hameed as an example. In 2016, Hameed averaged 49.91 in the Championship Division 1 for Lancashire. Following this, he was selected to play for England in India where he averaged 43.80, a pretty strong Test debut in challenging conditions. In February 2017, Hameed played for the first time in Andy Flower’s Lions on a tour in Sri Lanka. Flash forward to the current county season, where Hameed has a Championship average of 19.45 and is quite honestly lucky to still be selected for Lancashire. It’s hardly a ringing endorsement of the Lions coaching setup.
If England were wanting to hire a new Test coach, I know who I would go for: Jason Gillespie. He ticks all of the boxes. He actually knows county cricket, he helped develop England’s two young star batsmen, he’s a former international bowler, he had excellent results in the County Championship, he’s currently available, and he’s Australian. The last one isn’t really a positive for me, but it seems like the ECB love copying the Aussies so I figured it probably counts in his favour.
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Wasn’t it Moores who selected Prior and Swann? He did have an eye for talent. Maybe he should be a selector
Good point, I forgot Flower was only assistant coach then. So the only one in Flower’s core Test team he actually debuted was Trott, who was 28 at the time. I cannot fathom how he got the Lions job or is being considered for a return to Test coaching. At what point in his career, past or present, has he shown an aptitude for working with young players?
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What Flower did to was provide the finishing school for Pietersen and Bell (to which we can possibly add Trott, although he had many of the attributes flower espoused already). Flower was incredibly fortunate to have not only Anderson and Broad (the best opening bowling partnership we’ve had for donkey’s years), a genuine any day of a test in all conditions spinner, and a real deal wk/batsman at #7. He walked in to the perfect captain in Strauss, but none of this should cloud what he did for Pietersen and Bell, virtually eradicating nicking offer for of them.
However, I always thought that Flower was the perfect coach for that very specific time and pace and personnel. All of which to say, I agree with you 🙂
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JG is what England need (as I said at the time when they picked Bayliss over him.) Mainly because while we have problems with our batting, our big strategic problem, coming up, is bowling. Not having found a good 3rd seamer when our big 2 are ageing – not a good sign.
I think Gillespie is a better choice now for England than when Bayliss was appointed. At the time England seemed to want a single coach, with an emphasis on the shorter forms of the game. Gillespie’s successes have almost all being in first class cricket. He also seemed to want to move back to Australia and position himself for the Australian head coach role in a few years.
Now, Australian cricket is in chaos and there seems an appetite for separate Test and limited overs coaches for England. There’s no guarantees that the Australian situation will end any time soon, so there’s no job security there. Meanwhile, being a Test-only coach will likely mean more time at home with the family. If ever there was a time to get him back in English cricket, it’s now.
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Derek Pringle called it with his usual insight last week:
Nice headline for the Stocks’ article as well.
Yep Stocks is fully aboard the ‘it’s all Bayliss’ fault’ bandwagon. Always amazed how one starts it off and how quickly the others jump on…
They had to get the word Cook onto the front page somehow. He says he wants match fixers banned for life, but has no problem playing with Amir at Essex.
Well that’s all right then.
Dear Mr. Pringle,
If the second test was uphill, I shall take uphill for The Oval as well. If it’s all the same to you.
The more I think about the Compton assassination the more angry I become. This was a take down of an England player by the England cricket elite. What’s even more hard to take is these were the same people who reacted by clutching their pearls when you know who was accused of texting his opponents, and telling them how to get his captain out. (It’s never been proven)
But the vicious leaking, against Compton, and the almost ludicrous invention of a non existent fault. (He’s too slow) did all that was needed to scramble his brain. And then the rejoicing, and gloating ( and how they gloated) when he ran down the wicket and holed out. Disgusting. I would love to say where all these leaks came from but I can’t prove it. But it was spoon fed to the muppets by someone. They used to call it treason. And the people who should have investigated it were part of the conspiracy.
Compton became another who had to go because his face didn’t fit. The list grows longer by the year. And as a result we are in a pickle. Too many ex players thrown away and of the new ones to try, no one jumps out. And the ECB has created a test window when no county matches are being played. So anyone picked will be on 20/20 form. Well played Strauss. Military planning at its finest. Empty suit wanted attacking test matches, so let’s only pick in form 20/20 players.
As to the return of Flower. Did he ever leave? And would we notice any difference? The return of the 87 page diet sheet might be worth a few laughs. But this smacks of redemption tour all over again. Not Cook, but Flowers. One last campaign down under? Seems far fetched, but the media would love it.
I have to pick you up on one thing when you say this……”This is truly a rookie captain, a man picked to lead England because he’s our best batsman. ”
No, Root is captain because he is from the right sort of family. One the sponsors like. I have nothing against the lad, but he is not there for his captains record. This is now a continuing model that won’t be broken. And they can get away with it because if you are good enough to play for England you won’t be captaining your county. The England captains job is now almost a ceremonial position. The coach can do all the heavy lifting.
Root inherits two grumpy bowlers, and an ex captain with 11 thousand runs, and a media that still holds a grudge because their bonnie Prince Charlie has gone. Good luck stamping your authority on that little lot Joe.
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“this smacks of redemption tour all over again. Not Cook, but Flowers”.
I’m all abuzz who’s going to be the first to advocate this openly. Newman? Ronay? Liew? Selvey on Talksport Radio Quiet FM? Pringle in the Canvey Island Advertiser?
The thing is…. if Flower hadn’t behaved so badly first time around the coaches were split, I could almost go for the idea. Bayliss has very little track-record in Test record. Flower has a record of toughening up a team with some promise that was under-performing. (okay, at a massively high price – but let’s gloss over that for now. Let’s gloss over the fact that it’s so very ECB to have a disaster and immediately conclude that the solution is more coaches). But, as Dobell said, Flower is so congenitally unable to share power. If we start to see stories about how touchy-feely the new Flower is (remember the smiling Gordon Brown video? Something like that) we’ll know something’s going on.
Two big pluses would be that Flower wouldn’t then be wrecking the next generation and there might start to be a tiny bit of scrutiny of what he’s doing.
Also, Gary Ballance (or, as he’s now called, Roots-Old-Pal-Gary-Ballance) apparently has a broken finger and will be fit for the next Test. How does that work?
A convenient excuse to drop him? Shhhhhh
The Ballance story has changed in the last hour and he’s out of the Third Test.
Still, he showed willing despite being manifestly unfit and won’t be forever labelled “mentally fragile” like Rashid. England’s ideal player attitude to fitness is Monty Python’s Black Knight.
Cook……. “that’s a matter for Matt.”
The black knight is a great call.
Broken finger? I’d check the groundsman’s shed for a missing hammer 😉
This might be evidence of oncoming dementia but what impact did Andy Flower on the implosion of Zimbabwe cricket? He certainly seems to have set up Heath Streak, for example
You do realise that is sacrilege?
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It could be construed as constructive assassination
Usual quality from Tim Wigmore on Sky:
So, the subscription to one of these new spcialist channels will be £40 a month, less than a tenner cheaper than the package subscription.
Not exactly a revolution, is it?
It’s been a bit of a disappointment for me, I was hoping to get Sky Sports Cricket on its own via Now TV for about £18-20 per month, but obviously that won’t be an option. Virgin TV was also a possibility, but they aren’t doing the separate channels either.
Thought it was too good to be true.
Some sports realise they are heading into a ghetto after about six months, unlike the ten years it took the ECB:
It’s a rather sad state of affairs. I completely missed the final day’s play but it sounded from both newspaper reports and from what I read on here, that it was another meek collapse.
I may be a bit/very long in the tooth, but do coaches not try and teach the young players the basics of defence anymore? The South African attack is good by all accounts but it’s not the West Indian attack of the 80’s
Edict on high Milano is to play attacking, exciting cricket. Defence is boring.
I would read George Dobell on cricinfo. It’s a revelation!
Well, the trial balloon for the Second Coming of Mood Hoover has been launched by Barney the Joker, with whom I engaged in a little twitter banter this afternoon. Barney is clealrly interested in getting one of the big boys to take him up on it (I’m blocked by Selfey, so I can’t see whether he took the bait or not).
It really is mad, but then so was going back to Moores, so I wouldn’t rule it out. Unless England win this series, in which case I can’t see it gaining much traction until after our traditional 5-0 thrashing down under.
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Selvey responded. Might be on the match report thread.
@barneyronay Yes but what credential has he ? Apart from Ashes home and away and win in India ?
Thanks, Dmitri. No surprise that Flower’s no.1 cheerleader is ready to lead the charge when the opportunity arises. Surprised he didn’t call for Saker and Gooch to come back too.
Why so coy? We knew you carried a candle for others.
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There’s quite a subsequent thread that’s developed with a particularly gratuitous “those who know” as a definite highlight.
Selvey really blocked you on twitter??? ‘scuse my French, but that’s fucking hilarious!!!
You’re just so, so, so… horrid!
I was blocked too. He also sent me an email in response to a question saying “he did not usually engage with readers” he then wentnon to be incredibly arrogant and threatened me with dire consequences if I repeated anything he said. He is a real charmer….
Um. What dire consequences would they be? You can’t force someone to not reveal a conversation. There’s no NDA or anything. Who does he think he is?
No. Surely not. Flower⚓
Picking Flower again is like the Americans finding another Bush to replace Trump.
Mind you, there is a Jeb Bush. Brother or cousin of George.
I’ve looked at Stokes when he defends and the geometry is wrong. I suggest we get Stokes to open with St Ali and see what results. Just think how the opening bowlers will be thinking…. Confusión
The Ali in my Comment was Cook…he cannot be dropped before another 40 years
Re batting: Not to pick on the individuals, but something clearly isn’t working (and there have been signs for a while that there’s a problem):
SA openers + no.3 in this match, 293 runs.
Eng: 79 runs.
Now there will always be fluctuations, but 79 runs across 2 innings on a pitch that was not that full of demons…
I haven’t seen enough of the alternatives… but there’s a real conundrum here. I think one at least has to be changed out as they are all struggling to some degree. Of the 3, I think you have to drop Ballance as Test quality bowlers and bowling plans are just going to keep gunning at his weakness and he’s on record as not admitting that this is a problem. But I’m open to idea that the best candidate to come in should replace someone else.
One solution to some of the issues might be to stop looking for a perfect #3 and start being flexible with batting order. Pick one of the young possible openers to be #3. If they are in quick b/c of an early wicket all is well. If openers put on a big stand and we need someone to come in and accelerate, put Root in and push the new boy down the order.
I may rant about the bowling later.
I noticed that Gubbins played in one Lions’ match and was promptly dropped. There also doesn’t appear much support for him in the media.
Someone didn’t like the cut of his jib and I don’t think you have to be Miss Marple to work out who.
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I noticed that and I find it strange. There’s nothing about Nick Gubbins to dislike.
The beauty about England batting selection is that if you haven’t seen all of the alternatives now, you will do soon enough…
It’s a temporary solution but sometimes it’s called for:
Proven county player, obviously capable of long innings and would be a red ball only selection so no fears of being brain scrambled by switches between formats.
Other bonus points- Used to playing on flat pitches (assuming the Ashes goes ahead), self directed, can be selected without massive fears of holding back careers of future stars, younger than Chris Rogers was when he was picked for 2013 Ashes.
Most importantly, he has a higher FC average than most the players being touted in the press and an unbeaten century in a victory in his last FC match.
Its all the “don’t overreact, they haven’t become a bad team just because of one game” that blows my mind.
ONE bad game? We’ve had about 5 years of bad games. Have none of the journalists noticed this?
Whitewashed by Pakistan away
Drew with a weak Sri Lanka away
Scraped past a weak West Indies at home
Stuffed at home by South Africa
Beat India away (good result)
Drew with New Zealand away
Beat New Zealand at home
Beat a weak Australia at home
Humiliated by Australia away
Lost to Sri Lanka at home
Beat a disinterested India at home
Drew with West Indies away
Drew with New Zealand at home
Sneaked past a weak Australia at home
Lost to Pakistan away
Beat South Africa away (good result)
Beat a poor Sri Lanka at home
Drew with Pakistan at home
Drew with Bangladesh away
Humiliated by India away
Currently drawing with South Africa at home.
Of those series, I count 2 genuinely good results, 5 overhyped wins against poor opposition, and 12 very poor series, ranging from mildly embarrassing to utterly catastrophic.
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Yep, that was the focus of my final day piece, the apparent amazement that this could happen to England despite all the evidence of the last few years. Astonishing wilful amnesia.
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Pringle gets his Metro column.
AB, you do realise you’re divulging state secrets by suggesting that not everything was going brilliantly before Day Two in Brisbane?
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One of my favourite inconvenient facts – one I never grew tired of pointing out back in 2013 and 2014, much to the chagrin of your wctts and your Duc de Blangises:
Everyone – EVERYONE – pointed out how the win in India was England’s best result there in 28 years. Many then added that the 3-0 Ashes win was England’s most convincing since Packer.
Well then how do you like these apples, also from Flower: The Later Years?
– The 3-0 defeat in the UAE was England’s worst ever series result against Pakistan
– The away draw in NZ was the first time England had failed to win a Test there in 25 years, and they were incredibly close to losing a series against those opponents for the first time in 14 years (first time away in 29 years)
– The 2-0 home defeat to SA was England’s worst result against those opponents since re-admission two decades earlier.
No-one cared. As if they never happened. I never saw one correspondent or staff writer point out the historical context of these results. So the third Ashes whitewash ever, and second in seven years, had a certain satisfying karma for people who didn’t worship at the Flower shrine.
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With the dumping of KP, Compton and Rashid (and conversely picking of Dawson) over the last 3 and a half years we’ve made selection for the England team not about merit but about “fitting in”. If the main criteria of playing in the team is submitting to an occasional ear-bashing from the opening bowlers and not challenging Cook, we cannot be surprised if when a situation calls for character there is little to be found.
1) Usual point, we seem once again to have lost the plot on bowling plans, including Broad and Anderson. Lengths, field placings etc. If another team has a Ballance style weakness, (Kuhn?) we’re not exploiting it properly. Blame feels like it belongs with coaching staff for this, along with Broad and Anderson as seniors who should be doing it right.
As an aside, one danger of all-rounders in the modern age might be that it’s harder for them to get their head straight and practice time in to go all in on bowling plans?
2) Wood’s fitness is starting to worry me. In bits of play I saw his pace seemed to drop off noticeably. This is extra concerning b/c our big two simply don’t threaten with pace very often. Is he being managed well? SA have managed Philander (who is still not 100%) better, it seems.
3) I’m not against picking a Dawson type as part of a strategy, but I think there are question marks. First is, is Dawson really the man for the job? In particular if you’re going to select an unthreatening off spinner, then he needs to be miserly – and it’s not clear Dawson is miserly enough. Second, Stokes and Anderson are both capable of keeping it tight. Should this bowling slot be used for defending or attacking? (NB. Yes, Anderson is a spearhead, but when conditions don’t suit he simply doesn’t threaten that much as he is ageing, he needs to feel happy switching to support/defence when it’s not going for him.)
I’d argue that either the Dawson slot needs to be a real miser – and that could be a medium pacer, not just a spinner, since we’re short of quality spin. Either way though, then they need to be bowling many more overs, so that the attackers are getting a real rest.
Or, if we can arrange others to do the defending, we should be giving the slot to an attacking bowler. Could be Crane, could be Rashid, could be a young pace bowler who can get it up to a real scary speed. But it seems pointless to have Ali & Stokes in this side and not be making this bowling slot an actual specialist, be it defensive or attacking, it needs to be quality, not “making do.”
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Not much to disagree with here, but a couple of add-ons:
1) It wasn’t just the lengths but the lines. Philander was threatening the stumps, England’s senior bowlers hide it outside off-stump too often. It gives superficially respectable bowling figures and IMO is the legacy of ‘bowling dry’. There are times when it’s a good idea – but a very helpful pitch like this was isn’t one of them.
2) Mark Wood took 0/129 on a pitch that helped all the other seamers. This was apparently okay though because he had a bruised heel. It’s not – if he’s playing, he’s fit.
It’s difficult to be critical of Wood because he seems a nice chap and has had a horrible time with injuries. But really, did he look like getting anyone out? His pace was down and all the movement he was getting was in one direction (in) and going early from the hand. There should be some doubt whether he can cope with back-to-back Tests but that would require a level of flexibility England never seem capable of (plus, admittedly, the injuries to Woakes and Ball don’t help). I’m not sure he should be playing Tests at all.
This is more speculative (and I’m not saying he’s aware of it) but he’s been on a lot of cortisone in recent years and that drug has a performance-enhancing element (see the Guardian’s report on how it is viewed in cycling). I can’t shake a niggling suspicion that it may have been a factor in some of Wood’s pacier spells in the past.
What’s with this obsession with the speed-gun anyway? Lateral movement, bounce, line/length, good plans – these are all more important than speed through the air (unless it’s up around the 95mph bracket).
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One bit of the match I did catch on TV happend to be a bit with Shaun Pollock analysing Woods delivery action to see why he was slower.
He did a side view, side by side Lords vs TB and saw that Wood was bowling with a bent knee at TB.
He said this was done when a bowler wanted to protect his foot / ankle in some way as it reduces the stress down the leg. The flip side is that it reduces your pace.
I don’t know how much of Woods bowling was like that, but it would fit in with having a bruised heel (or otherwise having a sore ankle).
Not to say that he should have been playing if his main weapon (pace) was going to be nullified.
Cortisone is a corticosteroid not an anabolic steroid. It is used to decrease inflammation not to build up muscle mass. By decreasing inflammation (and thus pain) it may allow some-one to bowl at close to their normal speed. However, it won’t enable some-one to bowl faster than their normal speed. (That’s a bit clumsy but you know what I mean).
I’d be more worried about the number of injections these guys get and the long term consequences on their joints.
I know of someone who was in a county set up who was told in no uncertain terms that refusing to accept cortisone injections (several, over a period) would mean they would be cut from the whole structure.
Someone one day will sue.
Here’s the article I was referring to:
A few choice quotes:
“cortisone – and other corticosteroids such as prednisone – suppress inflammation and release energy necessary for the “fight or flight” reflex”.
““Doping brings to a body what it does not have in its natural state, or that he has naturally but in doses that pass all understanding.” [Peugeot team doctor Francois Bellocq]
““It was 10 times better, a thousand times better to take amphetamines [than cortisone]. It was infinitely less dangerous”.[Luis Ocana]
“the known side effects of prolonged cortisone use include osteoporosis, cataracts, muscle weakness, mood swings and psychosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, ulcers, necrosis of the hip and thinning of the skin”.
“The French “loi Herzog” of 1966 classified oral corticoids as “toxic” and banned their use in competition outright”.
I’m not claiming any great expertise and the article acknowledges that the performance-enhancing elements of cortisone are disputed. What I don’t hear in cricket (or many other sports) is any awareness that they might exist.
With regards to Wood, I really suspect that the injuries and cortizone injections have destroyed his long term international cricket career. Sure he can take the field, but I fear that he won’t ever be the threat that he was pre-injury. The setup won’t ever admit it (the same setup kept mum about Prior’s injury, and we could all see for ourselves how “fit” he was.
For an individual ball, Wood was the second fastest on display (practically tied with Morris), Morkel was the quickest. But his pace noticeably dropped by 3-5 mph in later spells.
Philander is also not 100% fit, but his threat does not come from the pace he bowls at. And if Wood is specifically picked to intimidate with speed, well, then picking him defeats the purpose.
The fault probably lies with the medical team. Probably the most incompetent bit, no matter what we may think of Ballance, Dawson and other players, around the England setup.
If he is fit, pick him. But if not, it may be better to look at the alternatives. Oh, and investigate the medical team for what seems to be another SNAFU
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Hmm. We need to be a bit more patient with Wood I think. He’s only two Tests back from his injury, and judging him purely on that and suggesting he’s not what he was is a bit premature. Fair enough to wonder, but there’s insufficient evidence to make any kind of judgement just yet. Two Tests, just two. He’s feeling his way back in.
I thought suggesting Wood shouldn’t play the second of back-to-back Tests and that he might might have spent this summer playing mostly white-ball cricket (which is what I meant by him not playing Test cricket – a sort of Tymal Mills Plus strategy) was the definition of patience! Such an approach seems to me more like a long-term investment in Wood than ‘play every game and we’ll throw you on the scrap-heap in a year or two’..
In reply to Andy’s points, I wasn’t suggesting Wood didn’t have geniune bruising. However this seems to me exactly the sort of injury you’d expect from a player not used to bowling longer spells and who needed to be slowly brought up to the point where he could do that.
I’ll also throw in that Woakes’ injury (which – surprise, surprise – turns out to be more serious than initially reported) is exactly the sort of injury you’d expect from a bowler forced to bowl above his natural pace to conform to a pre-conceived notion of what an international bowler has to be. If Philander was English, would he have been told to get in the gym and come back when he’s 5mph quicker?
Wood can’t suggest any of this himself, of course. All they want to hear from bowlers is “I want to play every game”. Anything else is “mental fragility”.
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Definitely not enough evidence in the public domain. But there might be enough evidence in the England medical setup – the same was true in the case of Prior.
Who has the final say in selection? If the medical team says a player is not fit, can they be ignored and the player still picked?
I think my views on the medical team are notorious. So I won’t repeat them. But I see that more and more people are coming round to my view
My views on the medical “support” for the England team are also very long in the tooth now. But it seems, from the outside at least, worth questioning their continued ability to take players who aren’t fit and return them to the team still unfit and with shorter future careers than when they started.
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Not as convincing a majority as I’d like to see:
Yeah, but 61% against in the readership of The Cricket Paper probably means 99% of English cricket fans oppose Flower’s return.
England are in a very strange situation at present. Firstly, I think we forget that we lost possibly the best middle order we’ve had for maybe 50 years in Trott, Pietersen, and Bell, all of whom departed in quick succession. The emergence of Root was one of the Pietersen reality deniers main crutches, but that obscured the fact that when you lose the best middle you’ve had for donkey’s years, you don’t just replace it like that. Not in England anyway. We don’t have the same conveyor belt or depth of talent that exists in Australia or India.
As a brief tangent, this was shown in how Australia reacted when going 2 down to the Saffers this winter. They went pretty radical, but mainly because they actually could. They had players they had identified already, that were looking very good in Shield cricket, and selected accordingly. We don’t have three + batsmen identified, and no one is playing county championship at the moment.
So, I was wondering about how to approach it. Firstly, one has to accept certain realities. Stokes averages 33 in test cricket and its representative. You can’t have a #6 averaging that and succeed as a team. In fact, you want your #7 to average 40. Stokes needs to move to #8 where a 33 average is decent. Except he won’t because he’s Ben Stokes and it seems he’ll beat anyone up who tells him he’s not #6 anymore. Secondly, dropping Moeen is so unlikely we should probably forget it. Thirdly, Bairstow cannot keep and bat at #5. Over a series, let alone a whole summer or tour, it precludes the number of runs you need from your #5. Also, his keeping has improved dramatically. He’s looked very good this summer.
All of this to say, we don’t have a top 5, so I thought, well, who are the best batsmen in England? Isn’t that a reasonable place to start? Root, Cook, Bairstow… and then it’s problematic, as it’s hard not to say Ballance and Hales. We can’t just play them as a top 5, as we know Balance can’t hack it, and Bairstow behind the stumps means he needs to be lower. Hales is still one of the most talented players we have and there is an argument he shouldn’t be discarded…yet. But he’s no media darling, for some reason, and despite record breaking innings – and let’s stress this, doing things no other Englishman has done before – he seems out of the discussion.
Right, next tier. Experienced players who’ve been around a bit and are looking like they’ve matured and are good: Stoneman, Malan… am I missing anyone here?
Third tier. Young players who we like the look of but are, well, young: Jennings, Hameed, Westley, Northeast, Clarke, Gubbins, Livingston.
Which leads to the obvious question: how the fuck do you make top 5 out of that????
Right now? Cook, Stoneman, Someone, Root, Hales? Two surprises there, perhaps. Firstly, Someone at 3. No idea. I just can’t see a solution. Secondly, Hales at 5. Yep, I think it’s a consideration: we just don’t have the depth to discard our best talent; he’s batted down the order for Notts and succeeded; it takes a lot of pressure off him; technique will be less vulnerable against the older ball. The alternative is to go with either Malan, or whoever we think the best talent is out of Westley, Northeast, Clarke, Livingston (which I think is a real crap-shoot).
Essentially, I think it leaves this XI going forward, as they are our best players, and the team is balanced (enough of this 6 bowlers nonsense):
Hales (or Malan/A.N.Other)
Moores tried batting Stokes at No.8 and it didn’t go too well! Colly’s view was that if you tell Stokes he’s atail-ender, he starts to bat like one.
There’s a solid case for batting him at No.7 but England’s trouble for a couple of years has been that there are three players who’d probably be best at No.7 (Stokes, Ali, the keeper).
I think the point I’m trying to make is that he’s batting like at number eight when he’s going to get number six. Telling he’s a No. 6 isn’t changing that.
Stokes averages 37.5 at No.6 and has scored all his centuries there.
I thought he tried to play like a proper batsman at TB and wasn’t out recklessly in either innings.
Two reasons why I think they won’t demote him whatever we think – 1) His 258 has become a key part of the New England story/myth. 2) Promoting Stokes to No.6 is attributed to Farbrace. It’s the one specific thing he did that can be pointed to and they have a heck of a lot invested in Farbrace.
All fair points, Simon.
And I agree that we won’t move him, but he’s still the third best bat out of him Bairstow and Ali, and keeping him at 6 makes balancing the side even harder, pushing either Ali to 8 or Bairstow to 7. And even 38 isn’t that great an average for a top 6 batsman.
“As a brief tangent, this was shown in how Australia reacted when going 2 down to the Saffers this winter. They went pretty radical, but mainly because they actually could. They had players they had identified already, that were looking very good in Shield cricket, and selected accordingly. We don’t have three + batsmen identified, and no one is playing county championship at the moment.”
A bit of a simplification… They had nothing to lose but Australia got lucky really. Much like England now, they had 5 or 6 names to choose from but no real idea of how they would cope, and it really all came down to the Shield games that week (luckily it was early in the summer, before Big Bash took over in mid December). Handscomb made a double, and Renshaw made a century, and somehow they have both been excellent so far. Maddinson was the other, and he hardly scored a run before being dropped 3 tests later, and a month or two later that he was on leave from domestic cricket citing mental health issues. Wade still hasn’t done anything with the bat, but he did start a catch phrase and bring back the Haddin-style…. erm… “mongrel” (putting it lightly) that seemed to be missing with Nevill.
Oh, and Australian selectors would give their left nut for someone like Stokes who can average 35 at number 6. Between Maddinson, M. Marsh (ugh), Ferguson, Bailey, Steve Smith v1.0, Watson there has been pretty much nothing besides a lot of failures in that position since Mike Hussey retired. Combined with the batting failures of Nevill and Wade at 7, it’s Australia’s biggest problem. Cartwright did nothing wrong in one test before being dropped for Mitch bloody Marsh for the India tour, and now Maxwell, a “positive” batsman if there ever was one, has started out well – his century was the first by an Australian at 6 in over 3 years. And around the world at 6, India has Nair, whose 300 looks to have been an anomaly, Sharma who can’t replicate his limited overs success, or Ashwin. South Africa has Bavuma who has potential but is just making his way and only averages 30. NZ have Santner or Neesham who aren’t in Stokes’ league. Sri Lanka after Mathews and Chandimal only have players averaging less than 35. With Shafiq likely to be required to move up the order after Misbah & Younis’ retirements, Stokes may even be able to lay claim to being the best number 6 batsman in test cricket at the moment!
Good, I can have one of my favourite moans. While I can almost understand the advantage of central contracts in theory, they have the consequence that county championship players get little chance to play and develop against our best. Conversely, some of the test team lack match fitness against the red ball.
I believe central contracts justification is that they permit England management to keep players fresh. I suspect, without facts to back it, modern test players have worse fitness issues than when they played lots of championship cricket. I have no faith in the medical team and wonder how much damage is caused by gym work and whatever else the players are put through behind the scenes.
Can’t believe things will change but here we are today with a struggle to name 11 possible test players and too many injury concerns. It used to be different.
Central contracts were required when they came in because players (particularly bowlers) were being worked too hard. A test match would finish on a Monday, and players would drive to the other side of the country to play in a ODI match on the Tuesday. If England had spent the Monday trying to bowl out their opponents the bowlers would bowl 20 odd overs, and then be bowling again the following day in a high profile ODI game.
Then, by Thursday or Friday or Saturday they would start a county match for 3 days with a Sunday 40 over game in between before heading to the next test match on the Wednesday for a Thursday start. They would arrive knackered. As the summer went on it got worse and worse.
The original idea of Central contracts was that the England management could pull players out of county games, usually inbetween test matches. However, it became almost all players all the time. To the point where hardly anyone played county cricket. Then 20/20 came in to complicate things with international 20/20 matches and ODI matches and now we have the farce of test matches being played, but no county cricket. So no one can get in form to be ready to come in if the test player gets injured or is out of form.
In the old days bowlers like Fred Trueman who played before any ODI formats would just play county cricket. 2 games a week. No Sunday league. They would bowl a hell of lot more overs, but they would have whole days off when their team was batting or travelling, and weren’t expected to throw themselves around in the field.
Just had the privilege of KP smashing two sixes right over my head. Walked off the golf course. Made 50.
Good God. Gary Ballance.
Love it. Cue passive aggressive comments on social media from usual suspects
Lucky you getting to see a bit if the old magic. Just think what he could have done for the last 3 years. But he was too old, and difficult. And 300 in 2nd division was just no good. The experts want to pick players on 20/20 form now.
Surrey just won so that should help.
It’s not really for me. It’s an endurance test. You get stuck with some dickheads and it feels like a test match length day. And we had some utter bellends behind us.
The sight of adults wandering round picking up extra cups that had been discarded to claim a quid back for each was enlightening.
Do you think the fans going to the blast are new people or are there many surrey members there?
I ask this becasue obviously they hope these people will just transfer across to the new event coming down the track.
And yes the kind of bellends going seems to be the kind of people they want to attract. At least with 20/20 it’s only 3 odd hours.
A few observations. Will write them up.
I was there too. Took my 9-year-old and his best mate. Best mate’s first ever match.
The mate probably thought that T20 cricket mostly consists of getting up every other over while disinterested middle-aged office workers push past for another round/another piss. Both boys missed an outfield catch because one of the knobheads decided mid-over to stand in front them demanding I got up while the ball was actually in the air.
Of course they left to get the tube at the beginning of the last over, with a theoretical 19 to win still possible.
The £1 rebate on the pint pots leads to half the kids attending spending most of their time hunting down discarded glasses, rather than watching the game. Last week my mate’s kid (a good cricketer who loves the game) made £20+ collecting glasses. His dad was so unimpressed he hadn’t watched the match he made him give the money to charity!
I love the Oval, and I love live cricket. But T20 is definitely a game to watch on the telly.
God I sound like a grumpy old git…
KP looked in a different league to the rest. 5 sixes, having not played for months. And it was actually a really interesting match, 150 beating 140, a slow outfield and what looked a tricky surface after the ball softened. Fortunately my boy and his mate seemed to have a great time, as they had a real interest in the game. Not sure that many of the adults there will remember the result in the morning.
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39 on Twitter just now……”Pick Malan he has X factor.”
So we are picking on X factor now? 20/20 X factor.
Remember when KP was X factor?
I read some of Hughes’s books when they first came out. Quite amusing and interesting they were but you did notice the same jokes and anecdotes cropping up in each book. Among the things that struck me was his obsession with Elizabeth Hurley. Just throwing this factoid into the mixer
I am quantumly amazed that after so long and so much misery and so much torture and so much not being allowed any recognition that as a paying/watchful/mindful supporter of English cricket is still something to be aspired to.
Since I departed the game some years ago and in part limited by my health/fitness I have found great pleasure in drinking wine and making cocktails. I can still take a mojito or a fine claret onto the lawn near my little cricketers – I have a permanent seat in the main stand and enjoy the view and the weather without any notion of turmoil until the drink runs out. I have no care for Alastair Cook or the current selection of young, fresh whoever wannabee celebrities, loathe Anderson’s bullying tantrums and eagerly await news of him being red carded and can think of nothing better than listening to the trickle of the waterfall and watching the cats dart about the meadow before coming over for a cuddle – cricket, who needs it – as a footnote I see none of the England cricket team made it into the BBC paid staff selection – that’s because they’re on Sky, which I don’t have nor ever will – the England cricket team does not really exist, if it does it is in some parallel universe – you have a choice ….
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And yet. When a talented bloke walks off the golf course and smashes the ball miles over your head as you sit and watch, you just know there’s something in this daft game.
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Ah yes, the lurve thing :0)
A cracking piece of stats-mining!
Think I preferred the old one with Jimmy and Broady doing their shopping:
No. Definitely nothing to see here.
No, absolutely nothing to see here…….From that Macpherson article…..
“He was born up the road in Cambridge, but Westley is so Essex CCC that his Dad built Derek Pringle’s and Keith Fletcher’s extensions, and Ryan ten Doeschate is trying to edge his way up his 18-month waiting list.”
“If I score runs I always get a text from Cook, just saying well done, and he’s like that with every Essex cricketer,” he adds. “I just had a text from him saying, ‘what was it like?’ but I’m yet to reply. I might tell him it’s doing all sorts!”
“Now, his source of inspiration is Andrew Strauss, a player who made his Test debut after a long apprenticeship in the shires.”
He’s got the full set. Pringle, Fletcher, Cook, Flower from the Lions, and Strauss.
Strauss likes building references.
Good luck to Westley who I’ve not seen play but has taken all his chances (although it’s also fair to point out he’s had some chances Stoneman, for example, hasn’t).
But “the tourist slayer”, really? I assume this refers to centuries against Australia in 2015, SL in 2016 and SA this year for the Lions. This year’s match was on an absolute road, in a match reduced by rain to a glorified net and against an attack without Philander. Gary Ballance made runs too! In 2015, Mitch Marsh made a massive score and we know how much that meant….
As with all newbies I wish him luck. He’s going to need it.
“Outrageous off his pads.”
The SA bowlers like bowling wicket to wicket. Hope he doesn’t miss a straight one.
Nasser’s going to be in heaven at the next test match.
Plus I meant to add, over Cook’s influence on selection, whether the fact that Cook scored a century off TRJ might have given him a blackball which kept him out of the Second Test?
Was this a Selection by the selectors? or by the ex captain? , the lions coach? or the head of cricket? Did the new captain have any say?
I feel sorry for the lad, It’s not his fault.
And Malans in so 39 got his pick as well.
Clever planning? Or blind panic?
Of course the selectors nominally choose the squad and there are examples of them having real power there (e.g. picking Compton for SA, refusing to select Anderson for Lord’s last year).
The interesting one at the moment is who decides the final XI. I remember they were pretty explicit in India that it was Cook. I wonder if the captain is still in that position?
I suspect that Flower genuinely didn’t have much of a say 2014-15. Maybe he was genuinely tired of it all – or thought the team might have a rockier period than it did and wanted to keep some distance from it? His influence seems to have returned since early 2016 when he strongly backed Vince who was promptly selected. My suspicion is that his role is mainly negative (players won’t be selected if they have a blackball from the Lions – or not been in the Lions, which is the main reason why Stoneman wasn’t selected IMO) with Flower keeping his positive endorsements to a minimum (and I think channelling them through Bayliss to maintain ‘plausible deniablility’).
My guess would be that Strauss also mainly has more of a negative veto power than positively picking the squad. I’d love to know what Strauss does day in, day out. What exactly constitutes a typical week of Comma-ing?
Best I could find. http://www.skysports.com/cricket/news/12123/9842965/andrew-strauss-named-director-england-cricket-by-ecb
Also, put Downton into ECB’s site and there are nor results. He has been “erased”.