Self Denial & Uncomfortable Truths

In amongst the litany of white ball cricket that we have been served by England over the last couple of months and away from the high profile Test Series’ that have/are going on in South Africa this winter, one might have had to look mighty hard to know that the England Lions, supposedly our next generation of Test cricketers, were playing their counterparts in the West Indies at the same time. Now we might not expect for England’s 2nd string to garner as much attention as the Test Squad, but considering that we have been once again embarrassed in Australia, I did feel that there might have been some added focus on this tour (especially as the Lions play an ever decreasing number of red ball games). However apart from the odd murmuring on Twitter, a fairly hidden scorecard on Cricinfo and a very hazy stream on the WICB website, this tour felt that it passed most by. And boy are the ECB glad it did, as England were pretty much humiliated by their West Indian counterparts on slow, spinning tracks. As a reminder this is not India B or Australia B, but the West Indies, who have seemed to lose all of their best players to the T20 world tour, who have made miniscule investment in their domestic game and who have a board that makes the ECB look like a sane and well run administrator.

It has been highlighted that winning away from home in red ball cricket is one of the tougher assignments, but this wasn’t even close, it was a complete horror show from the Lions from start to finish. The England batting line up startled by the ball turning on a non green seamer fell apart in a heap and our supposed spin bowling savior was not only completely out bowled by his teammate but hardly threatened to take a wicket. So who do we turn to for some accountability for this debacle, well yes our friend Andy Flower is now running the Lions and of course, he was quick to blame the heavy series defeat on anything and anyone but himself:

“It is right to examine whether the systems and people we have in place are right, its purpose is to bridge gap between county and international cricket. What we want to do is create tough young competitors so when they get the chance to play for England they are adding to the team’s strength. It is a very important role.”

“You have to be able to learn about the opposition and solve problems out in the middle in real time. Unfortunately our batsmen have not been able to do that,” said Flower. “We made the same type of mistakes again and again which is the most disappointing aspect of the tour.”

Well this seems vaguely familiar, an England team devoid of ideas and with only one plan, comes unstuck when the conditions aren’t to their suiting. Now I’m not going to say that Flower is a truly awful coach, because that would be incredibly unfair; Flower toughened England up after Peter Moores part 1 and took England to the top of the Test rankings, but it soon came apparent that England’s attritional, bowl dry tactics were quickly being worked out by the opposition and disliked by his own players. It is also fair to say, that Flower wasn’t the most approachable or liked England coach in England’s history, even putting aside the Kevin Pietersen debacle, with many in the press and the team feeling uneasy about criticising Flower’s tactics or overbearing personality for fear of redress. So after the disaster of the 2013/14 Ashes, whilst certain individuals were hung out to dry in public, Flower was able to slip through the backdoor with reputation intact (in the ECB’s eyes at least) and allowed to take up a role looking after England’s youth set up (then latterly the Lions) and having a large say in the running of Loughborough, the so-called bastion of England’s youth development. Naturally, there were no interviews for this position, no outside candidates, as the ECB have proved time and time again, success is optional, but being from the right type of family is mandatory for their management roles. So when Flower comes out and says that they have to examine the systems, the systems that he is actively in charge of, then surely it’s fair to question Flower’s worth and expertise after seeing the Lions humiliated. Loughborough has also been under his watch and whilst it has always been a basket case of an organisation, England’s pipeline of young talent is getting worse not better. These might be the difficult questions that people hesitate to answer as Flower seems to have some aura of invincibility in front of the press, but surely someone has to question where England’s investment in our youth is going, especially since we have been thrashed by a team who have virtually no support from their board.

Flower being Flower naturally had his ‘get out of jail card’ primed and ready:

“There is no doubt it (franchise T20 tournaments) is going to become more of an issue. The increase in number of franchise T20 tournaments and the draw of being involved in those, and earning money outside county contracts, of course that is going to compete with our programme,” he said. “We have been dealing with instances like that over the last couple of years. At the moment Strauss wants to make decisions on individual basis which is a mature and fair way to go about it. But I can only see those issues increasing over next couple of years. Without a doubt some players will be torn. There are more choices available these days and that is the reality of the world we live in now.”

Would these be the very franchise tournaments that Colin Graves and Tom Harrison have pinned as the only answer to the malaise of interest from the masses in English cricket? Seems slightly contradictory to me and more a poor excuse for what was an incredibly embarrassing performance by the team and an inept performance from the coaching staff. We have of course seen a few high profile individuals decide to become white ball specialists over the past few weeks, Rashid, who was too mentally weak for England’s Test team (supposedly) and Hales, who was too lazy for the Test team (supposedly) decided that they would rather make money elsewhere than trawl through the arduous (and poorly paid) county season knowing their card had been marked with regards to Test honours. Don’t confuse this as me taking the rise in T20 competitions lightly, there seems to be one every other week going on somewhere in the world, but this is not the raison d’etre for the lack of talent and application coming through the pipeline for English cricket. As Danny pointed out, the All Stars Cricket programme looks like a giant ‘white elephant’ and investment levels from the ECB in grass routes cricket is quite frankly pitiful. We then have the county championship, supposedly the breeding ground for the next generation of England’s Test team being pushed further to the fringes, with games in early April and then mid September (perfect timing for green seamers and rain affected matches) and wonder why our batsmen are unable to play in conditions that aren’t typical English conditions. From 2019, this is going to be even more farcical when Harrison’s T20 circus comes to town, alongside the T20 blast and various other forgettable white ball tournaments.

All in all this seems to be a pretty gloomy view for the supposed aspirations of England’s Test team and Director Comma’s proud assertion that he wanted to take England to the number one slot again, though one soon learns not to take any of Strauss’ comments at face value. Once Cook, Anderson & Broad retire, the cupboard won’t just appear bare, more like ransacked. Of course, this goes back to priorities once again, make money or strive for sustained red ball success and we certainly know which side the ECB’s bread is buttered on. So for those of you out there who enjoy England’s success in the white ball format, then times might not be too bad ahead, but if like me, you are a fan of the traditional game, then the future is looking bleak. The ECB have had their cake and eaten it, and no doubt, when Bayliss finally decides to quit the England set up, Andy Flower will be welcomed back with open arms. After all, that’s meritocracy ECB style…

Update: I’ve only just realised that we have part 4 of the ODI series against NZ starting tonight. Naturally any thoughts on the game or on the above, then please feel free to comment below:

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28 thoughts on “Self Denial & Uncomfortable Truths

    • Sean March 6, 2018 / 10:30 pm

      Strauss was always the mouthpiece, Flower was always the one calling the shots still. Rumours have it, that he’s still picking the team…

      And yes, he has done bugger all, but he obviously doesn’t need to.

      Liked by 1 person

      • LordCanisLupus March 7, 2018 / 5:02 pm

        See the Lions list to West Indies A. See Blackwood made 99. Also Sam Hain played a great almost solo effort which must have made Malcolm Conn happy.

        This is a quite tricky winter…

        Like

  1. Miami Dad's 6 March 6, 2018 / 10:03 pm

    Next winter’s trip to Sri Lanka will be particularly interesting. Leach and Bess both impressed with the Lions, having also impressed previously on turning wickets in First Class cricket. Odds on Ali and Crane playing the first Test?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sean March 6, 2018 / 10:32 pm

      Depends who’s picking the team. Character always preferable to skill, so expect Liam Dawson as our number 1 spinner…

      Liked by 1 person

    • alecpaton March 7, 2018 / 7:56 am

      Ali’s not a bad selection as front-line batsman in Sri Lanka (he was pretty handy with the bat in India, if displaying diminishing returns with the ball).

      Leach has to play (barring injury or a total collapse in form), otherwise what is the point of domestic red ball and Lions cricket?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Miami Dad's Six March 7, 2018 / 8:35 am

        Given the paucity of options in the middle order since we prematurely jettisoned KP (remember him, anyone?), Ali’s batting form could still cement him a place, which probably would spell bad news for Bess – as they won’t want x2 off spinners in the same side (although if they could find a way to play x4 medium pace right armers in Australia, they bloody well will).

        I still think Rashid is our best bet, which is frankly a little depressing. I wonder if there’s anyone in the England set up who thinks so too, anywhere.

        Like

  2. Miami Dad's Six March 7, 2018 / 8:30 am

    So I put it on before bed last night, and for the first time I noticed that I found myself turning off when Roy got out. I think either the prospect of watching Root and Bairstow bat turned me off, which might be the case*, or Roy has become some sort of ‘thing’ for me. I don’t think by any stretch that he’s a great batsman, technically or mentally, however there is something about watching an attacking batsman with such power down the ground that I really find watchable. It irritates me when he tries to sweep or hit outside the V, but he’s good to watch and I think also sheltered from the basket case Test scene at the moment.

    * Root was always going to nurdle along prettily at a run a ball, whether he got 30, 100, or most likely 60odd. Bairstow I like, in general, but I’m minorly annoyed on behalf of Hales, who opening with Roy has been part of the big plusses of this ODI side, and certainly hasn’t deserved to be dropped even if Bairstow is obviously excellent too.

    Like

    • AB March 7, 2018 / 12:46 pm

      I find it hard to believe that there isn’t room for Hales somewhere in this lineup. Some dolt on twitter produced some nonsensical stat where two largely meaningless figures are added together in arbitrary fashion to create a third even more meaningless figure that “proved” it was a good decision because Hales’ meaningless number was 2% lower than someone else’s meaningless number.

      Lord spare us from the fucking analysts and their sub-GCSE level statistics.

      Like

      • quebecer March 7, 2018 / 11:23 pm

        The only blip on Hales’ limited overs record was in Australia. His performances over a long enough period of time for it to matter suggested he was the best limited overs opener we’ve ever had. That’s not hyperbole (although a bit depressing).

        However, I do think Bairstow is important in the ODI team, as much as anything because batting at 7 in tests and hardly playing any county championship games several limits his opportunities to bat.

        Like

        • AB March 8, 2018 / 10:07 am

          Could we not have Bairstow, Roy and Hales as the top 3, and move Root to 4, and drop one of our many pointless allrounders?

          Like

  3. Sri.Grins March 7, 2018 / 10:07 am

    Taylor seems to be in great form this series. interesting match.

    Like

  4. BobW March 7, 2018 / 10:35 am

    Well England blew that in the last ten overs. Could have been a huge score. Still leaves the series interestingly poised.

    Like

    • dlpthomas March 7, 2018 / 11:52 am

      Our bowling wasn’t much chop either. There has been a lot of talk about Mark Wood but I remain unconvinced. (but as always, I look forward to being proved wrong)

      Like

    • quebecer March 7, 2018 / 11:24 pm

      I’m still a little freaked out by how we’re disappointed at not getting 400.

      Like

    • LordCanisLupus March 7, 2018 / 4:56 pm

      Indeed it is interesting. But there will be no repercussions or landslides as a result. The Graves/Harrison partnership are displaying an evangelical zeal and believe leadership is all about “Do as I say”. As interest in the game wanes these two carry on regardless. Dealt a very bad hand they are bluffing on 8 high.

      Like

      • Sean March 7, 2018 / 6:26 pm

        But that doesn’t sound like the ECB values they like to preach:

        ECB Values

        Stronger As One Team – We are stronger together. We allow for individual strengths and beliefs but head in the same direction. We respect, support and really listen to each other along the way.
        Push New Boundaries – We are bold, brave and curious. We challenge and don’t settle. We forge the future whilst remembering our roots.
        Passion For Play – We are here to inspire & be inspired. We are serious about what we do, but don’t take ourselves seriously. We enjoy the journey and have fun.
        Be The Best In The Game, On & Off The Pitch – We train hard. We strive to be our best to help the team be the best. We celebrate our victories and learn from our let downs.

        Like

          • Sean March 7, 2018 / 7:19 pm

            Probably some highly paid marketing agency with a focus on company values (don’t get me started on those)…

            Like

        • Mark March 7, 2018 / 8:54 pm

          Whoever wrote that utter meaningless, contradictory shite should be taken outside and and tarred and feathered. I want names. Who wrote that cobblers?

          One and together
          Individuals and all going in the same way as a herd.
          Future & the past
          Inspire and be inspired
          Serious and not serious
          Off and on the pitch
          We win, we lose

          We are a bunch of bland automatons who do what the management tell us.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Mark March 7, 2018 / 5:02 pm

      The Counties made a big mistake when they started competing against themselves to host Test matches. And then the ludicrous arms race of updating their grounds to pander to the ECB overlords demands without knowing where the money was coming from. They should have been charging the ECB a small fortune for the privilege of allowing The ECB to use their facilities. Where else was the ECB going to hold its test matches? Uxbridge? Guildford? Wembley? Twickenham?

      The ECB make a fortune from selling the rights to international cricket, they should pay to make the grounds to their required test match standard. A lot of the smaller venues got suckered into paying huge amounts in redevelopment costs in the hope of holding a test match or a crumb of a an ODI game. Durham, Cardiff come to mind. Not sure if Somerset fell into this trap.

      The big venues were always going to get the preferential treatment once the grounds were up to the required standard because they hold more people.

      So now the ECB will pay the selected chosen favourite grounds for not holding a test match leaving the little guys in the cold. Sounds like the EU agriculture policy of paying farmers not to grow crops.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sri.Grins March 7, 2018 / 4:00 pm

    Gibson has asked the right question. whose line is it? this concept of some imaginary line is ridiculous. What maybe the right line to one may not be the right line for another.

    For example calling someone a monkey is never as serious as questioning someone’s parentage indirectly insulting a mother in India. It may be completely different in other countries .

    Either you are a motormouth in which case you accept that a share of insults about your family would come your way or you don’t sledge in which case you can take the moral high ground if someone insults your family.

    This bit of sledging for all it is worth and then assuming that noone would cross a line that is arbitrary is extremely weird and time these guys who are sledgers who complain about others sledging them be laughed at instead of being supported.

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus March 7, 2018 / 4:59 pm

      If kids acted like this…..

      Sorry if that sounds sanctimonious but these are grown adults getting into it over “your mum” insults. Your penultimate paragraph hits it bang on.

      Always interesting to see mention of “The line”. Fascinating construct.

      Like

      • Sri.Grins March 8, 2018 / 9:10 am

        Nice article on cricinfo about the fascinating everchanging construct ‘The Line’ 🙂

        As chappell puts it in another article on cricinfo, OZ cricket culture on sledging and the standard defense they put up about the line deserves to be junked.

        Like

  6. Mark March 7, 2018 / 5:20 pm

    “What we want to do is create tough young competitors so when they get the chance to play for England they are adding to the team’s strength. It is a very important role.”

    Notice there is absolutely no mention of cricket ability. We just lost a test series because we had no one who could take wickets on flat pitches. No pace, no spin. But hey, tough competitors is what the Lions coach is looking for first.

    “You have to be able to learn about the opposition and solve problems out in the middle in real time.”

    How about they have the technique to do the required discipline? That would solve some of the problems out in the middle, and the opposition can then go f*** themselves.

    We do sometimes produce players with some ability, but we disguard them because they don’t come up to the mental requirements (whatever they are?) demanded by the clipboard carrying coaches. How many players techniques have the England Lions coaches improved?

    Liked by 2 people

  7. nonoxcol March 7, 2018 / 6:06 pm

    As ever, here to recommend every post that gives the Holy Roman Naked Emperor a kicking.

    Liked by 1 person

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