Grated Expectations

There’s been a lot of reaction to England’s latest capitulation, and what it might mean. The Australians are gleeful and fair enough too, the English would be the same if it was the other way around. As is ever the case in these circumstances, the more thoughtful think about the consequences of continued one sided encounters, hoping against hope that the English will get their act together. It’s not their problem, any more than it was 25 years ago when they were dominant home and away. What that decade or more of batterings did do was force the nascent ECB into action to do something about it. And with success too, albeit a fairly fleeting, complacent success. This time around, there’s no sense of a determination from the governing body to fix things, more just the opposite.

There are a few caveats to be offered up – that England getting trounced in Australia is far from new, and the Australians themselves haven’t won in England in 20 years, while a focus on the Ashes to the detriment of all else has long been an issue in the mentality of too many in England. It’s true of Australians as well, but the difference is that they see smacking England about as a delightful consequence of their overall aim rather than the aim itself. But the suited and booted at the ECB made lots of noise about their two year plan to deliver the Ashes and they have failed quite spectacularly, though it’s unlikely they’ll acknowledge that. This isn’t a surprise to anyone paying attention, England were always going to be lambs to the slaughter (how ironic that was the title of a cricketing book when the shoe was on the other foot) because they just aren’t very good, and are declining from a position of outstanding mediocrity.

So what to write about it? There is no shortage of outraged shock out there, no shortage of lamentations for the latest death of English cricket, and a fair degree of anger. But not so much from us. Which is why this tweet from a sports journalist allowed the writing of a post:

Lee is right. We’ve written far less, what we have written has been more with weary resignation than the molten steel of outrage.

Partly it’s that none of this comes as any kind of bolt from the blue. All of us have banged on about the way the policies of the ECB were going to lead us to this point, not because of our truly magnificent insight into the complexities of the game, but because it was utterly bleeding obvious to anyone paying more than cursory attention. England haven’t just been pumped in the Ashes, they’ve been beaten up by India and New Zealand at home this year as well. They’re two good sides, but that’s only an excuse if the expectation is for England to lose on their own patch to good sides, which is to set sights low enough to be subterranean. There is a fair element of the ECB justifying it precisely on this basis, which is to suspect they accept declinism.

It bears stating yet again that the Hundred is not to blame for this debacle, but the strategy that culminated in the Hundred is. We all salute and appreciate the might of Darren Stevens, but the issue is not a game that allows his longevity, but one where in his mid-forties he wouldn’t noticeably weaken the England team if he was selected. There are only so many times these points can keep being made without us being bored of our own voices, and fed up with screaming into the void given so little attention has ever been paid to it. Not to us, who cares if anyone listens to us, but to anyone in a more prominent position making the same points.

Talk to most cricket journalists and they’ll be saying similar things with varying degrees of emphasis, but little of this gets into the general media because the wider public isn’t interested in the detail of how a successful England team is created, but only that it happens. More than that, they don’t pay that much attention to them doing adequately, but they do tend to notice a complete shellacking and their relatives in Australia sending rude Whatsapps to them. In the specialist cricketing publications the frustration is clear, in the national press less so; it doesn’t get past the sub-editors and the general readership won’t invest the time in learning about the problems, and more pertinently, they shouldn’t have to. Broadcast media, particularly Sky, have revelled in their own domination of the right to watch English cricket, and as a commercial entity have spent more time talking about how good things are than they ever have the likely future coming. They are entitled to do that, for the disaster the ECB have created is not down to them, but it might affect how much they’re prepared to pay for the particular joy of covering England being crushed on a regular basis – their refusal to bid for this series could be a harbinger of the future.

It’s customary at this time to point to a post or a paragraph where we predicted this, but our output hasn’t been one of a couple of comments proclaiming Nostradamus level awareness, it’s been the whole bloody website for years, the whole set of responses in the comments from those who visit. The Pietersen affair, whatever the rights and wrongs, was about an organisation whose prime motivation was no longer putting out the strongest team possible onto the field, and that was the main reason for the rage involved, the justifications on any issue possible except whether the central one as to whether it made England stronger or weaker. It certainly wasn’t the personal tribulations of someone none of us know and aren’t in truth overly keen on.

That is in the past, the anger transmuting in the subsequent years as the ECB continued down a path of prioritising other things, anything, except the fundamental point of their existence in making the game of cricket – ALL of the game of cricket – as strong as it could possibly be. The removal of free to air cricket was a symptom of a complacent organisation that felt they were in a strong position to take financial advantage of their success, irrespective of whether it undermined the foundations or not. The refusal over many years to acknowledge that it might have caused other problems was symptomatic of that shift in focus, but once again, it is not the reason for this series and shouldn’t be said to be, not least because it was fifteen years ago that it happened. It is one of a myriad of decisions and policies that compound each other, year in, year out, progressively weakening the fundamentals of the game, no one item to blame or single out, all of them pushing the direction to where we are now. Even when some things change (such as the new found enthusiasm for letting the public see the sport) they are being responded to in isolation rather than with a strategic approach, a sticking plaster applied to a gaping wound.

The latest excuse for the abjectness of the Test team is that white ball cricket has been prioritised. It’s true, but it’s still not an acceptable rationale. Other countries have piled into the revenues created by T20 without destroying their Test teams, and while there is a wider issue at stake about the increasing domination of the short forms of the game, that doesn’t justify England going backwards relative to the others. White or red ball is a false dichotomy only the ECB seem to get away with. Australia don’t, India don’t, and with the disparity in income to the rest of the world, those are the nations England should be compared to. Only here is this given even the slightest credence. And that applies to all those years when England had a reasonable Test side and a piss-poor one day team too. It wasn’t an excuse then, it isn’t now, and winning World Cups is not a pretext for an inability to put 300 on the board in Tests.

Likewise, the way the debate around the public school contribution to the England team is framed is to miss the point entirely. Having more or less the entire batting order over an extended period of time having been privately educated is not grounds to attack the private sector, but to point out the hideous failure of English cricket to maximise the talent available to itself. There is just no excuse for that – it’s not about the 7% who make up the 94%, it’s about the 93% who only comprise the 6%. It is a total failure of the coaching structure to so appallingly waste the resources available, an abysmal flop in turning young players from an extraordinarily large intake into good cricketers

Shifting the county championship to the margins of the season, on green or tired pitches, undoubtedly has an impact, but it’s not just the hardware of when and where it is played, but also the software of the mindset of those who play in it. It might well be the case that players are choosing to thrash a quick thirty rather than knuckle down and battle through, but calling out a single player for thinking that way is all about that player. When it’s true to an extent of an entire generation, it’s about those in authority who have created the circumstances to allow it to happen.

The England hierarchy have encouraged it, the media have amplified it. Jason Roy was selected to open in Tests and the selectors applauded for their daring by far too many. There are still those calling for Liam Livingstone to be in the side, not because he might make a Test cricketer (for all I know, he might), but because he plays sexy cricket, hits the ball a long way and gains the pundit plenty of column inches to push the case.

What did anyone expect? There is no plan, except to make as much money as possible, not for the wider benefit of the game of cricket, but for the bank balances of those involved in the game professionally. Don’t expect those who rely on it for their living to come out and be publicly angry about it, because their livelihood and comfortable income is dependent on more of the same. The ECB officers have seen huge rises in salaries (well, apart from the expendables at a lower level who they made redundant) and it’s impossible to avoid the suspicion that lining their own nests is the principal reason for far too many ECB acolytes, as each big deal provides yet another large bonus, yet another big pay rise. Consequences? There are none. If they go, it’s with a fat cheque. If they play, they earn more and aren’t going to complain in a short career.

All of this was expected. All of it was coming. This is not accidental, it’s a consequence of repeated decisions made by those in power who remain entirely unaccountable to anyone outside the small circle of people for whom the mutual financial benefit overrides any other consideration. Sure, we can call out the players, who haven’t been good enough and have folded repeatedly. We can call out the coaching team who have made baffling selectorial decisions. And many of those will pay the price for this debacle, for sacrifices are demanded. What will it change though? What material difference will it make? England can get a better coach, but Duncan Fletcher had far more to work with than whoever takes over from Silverwood, and had the backing of an organisation that was determined to improve the quality of the player base.

Yes, I’m still angry. But not at the results, I’m angry it has taken this entirely inevitable shoeing for too many to wonder what has been going on. What the bloody hell did they expect to happen? What the bloody hell are they going to do about it? Because if the answer is to tinker around the margins, to call for the latest flavour of the month to be shoved into the team or to debate which bang average opener needs to replace the other bang average opener, then get used to more of this. Far too many people have been warning of what would happen and dismissed as cranks and extremists, well the ECB and all those who hang on to their coat-tails and line their pockets accordingly have made this. They should own it, they should take responsibility. But they won’t, and that, above all else, is why I might be still angry, but most of all, I’m contemptuous of them.

21 thoughts on “Grated Expectations

  1. Marek Dec 28, 2021 / 6:30 pm

    […throws a couple of Molotov cocktails into the mix…]

    I wonder if even what you’re suggesting would make any difference, because I suspect there are still unmentionables which nobody wants to talk about. Specifically, i wonder about the following:

    –if there’s more of a softness in English culture–which often manifests as a readiness to make excuses and to avoid acknowledging culpability in a situation, either one’s own or others’–than there is in some other cultures. In some areas of life that might be a very good thing–it’s possible it might produce more understanding people with a slightly less superficial commitment to diversity, for example–but it’s pretty useless for producing a highly competitive elite sports team, and it’s especially useless in producing a test team, where hard graft for relatively little thanks is the order of the day,

    I think this a lot when i hear all the whingeing about the scheduling of the Championship and how that means you might as well slog your way to 30 than knuckle down. As Paul Farbrace suggests in this article (https://www.cricbuzz.com/cricket-news/120396/englands-test-batting-at-rock-bottom-with-deep-rooted-issues), that might be missing the point. They might be difficult pitches, but they’re not minefields: batters who faced Verity or Freeman on a sticky dog might want to have a word about that! In relation to which…

    –the players are complicit in this. They want more money. That’s fine, but most players are already compensated very handsomely for playing a, to be realisitc, niche sport which is not that popular. The salary cap suggests that an average county player might get around £65,000–or almost twice the median salary. Unlike forty years ago, they are not living financially precariously–even if they’re not very good county players.

    And one of the reasons that knuckling down is not very in vogue is that there’s always a nice little pay cheque for six weeks in the BPL, MSL, BBL, CPL, T10, Emirates Super League or whatever. They don’t need to (this is also touched on by Farbrace in the article above). But that involves devaluing red-ball cricket, devaluing something intrinsically more complex in favour of something more instantly gratifying (including financially), devauing graft and work in favour of a quick lay.

    So at the moment tests are doomed partly because of the atrtitudes of the players. It needs more players to say “you know what, I VALUE red-ball cricket, and I need to put my work and my money where my mouth is and play for Lancashire this year rather than toddle off to the IPL” or “I’ll try and work my way back into the Championship first XI rather than signing a white-ball-only contract so i can play in the CPL”. And related to that…

    –we as fans do the same thing as the players. After all, what’s the average gate for a Championship match? And then, why should it be surprising that counties put 80% of their training resources into white-ball training, as I read about one county a few years ago? It’s going to get you far more walk-ins if you get to Finals Day than if you win the Championship. Tests are the same–outside the “Big Three”, they’re struggling to get the crowds. So there’s a sense in which we (we as in the whole group of people who support cricket) are getting what we’ve expressed that we want–and it’s not test cricket.

    If we seriously want to remedy that, then probably both players and fans need to get a whole lot more radical and a whole lot more bolshy. Because look at what happened at Yorkshire in the 1980s for example–it isn’t, or at least not necessarily, that there’s an unchallengeable set of leaders up there somewhere who can simply do what they want whatever players or fans want. So how did we get to a point where Clarke, Graves and Harrison were even options for running the ECB? Where numerous counties had racist coaching staff and not a single player called it out till recently? Where the Hundred was accepted more or less as a fait accompli by players, counties and fans? (What if, for example, Surrey had said “fuck your Hundred; we’re simply not interested in hosting it”) Where the ECB openly bullied one of the first-class counties and no other county stood up for them? These are questions it might be worth contemplating–not in a finger-pointing way but in a “how did we get here, do we really want to be here and if we don’t, how can we get out of here?” way.

    […stands well back…]

    Liked by 1 person

    • dArthez Dec 29, 2021 / 6:36 am

      England (due to financial resources) had the opportunity to actually give primacy to First Class cricket, or at least significant support in ways that smaller teams such as the West Indies, Sri Lanka and South Africa never could have afforded.

      England, India and Australia are just about the only nations that can compete with IPL, CPL, Big Bash etc., contracts – for the other teams such a contract for 6 weeks of work is worth about as much as a central contract (for example note that Kyle Abbott made more on his Kolpak domestic cricket deal than he would on a South African central contract).
      So the money to prioritise red ball cricket is there.

      England also has the advantage, compared to most (all?) other nations, that Test cricket is (was?) the most popular format for spectators. But due to the realities of modern life (and the 8-5 jobs that come with them), it can’t be reasonable to expect FC cricket to pay for itself. And it probably does not anywhere. But there are many things and institutions like that.

      The Royal family being one (they might draw in tourists and all that, but of themselves, Royalty costs more than they immediately generate – and if tourists is a valid excuse to maintain them, the same applies to Test cricket and FC cricket – come to think of it, why has the Royal family as an institution not been properly privatised by the State?).
      Proper public education being another. Parks and playgrounds. And I can go on. The value is not immediately apparent – but things like education, parks and playgrounds pay themselves back over the longer term (healthier people, smarter people, reduced stress level, improved competence in sports etc, reduced crime levels).

      What has been sorely lacking among the powers that be is to maintain and nurture the public goods, or the commons. And that probably has been the case in England for 40 to 50 years. Across political divides. Hard to see cricket somehow be(com)ing an exception to that. Because it implies that British people need to revolutionise their politics in a good way, and I hate to say it as an outsider, but I have seen little evidence of people being allowed to even advocate for that (see how Corbyn was vilified for running a typical 80s style Labour idea set – not saying that that would have been right, just that the political space to advocate for meaningful change is simply not there – people really need to battle to create such space first).

      Liked by 2 people

    • maggiej Dec 29, 2021 / 10:29 am

      Probably a sweeping generalisation but i think there are two types of cricket fan. Those like us who love test cricket and go to watch this incredible game with its nuances and skills, and those who just go for a good day out with plenty of beer and singing. Sadly i don’t believe there are enough of the first group to make much difference to what will happen in future while the second group really don’t mind what they go to watch. I wonder who actually went to the Hundred last year? It can’t have all been mums and kids.

      Unfortunately you are probably right about the players. If it’s easier and more lucrative to play SF cricket, plus that’s what they are pretty much being coached to do according to Paul Farbrace in that vg article you link to, that’s what they will do, however much they like the idea of being a top test player. Until the ECB financially rewards players for playing test cricket to the extent that they don’t feel the desire to join the T20 circuses, this is unlikely to change, except for a very small number of players in my view.

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  2. Mark Dec 28, 2021 / 6:30 pm

    This is exactly why 2 years ago I decided to cancel Sky, and BT sports packages. I also haven’t purchased a ticket at the turnstile since. (It was the only way I could actually do anything tangible as a protest as to how the sport was being destroyed by unaccountable morons and greedy charlatans.

    They refused to listen. Worse still they were happy to use their surrogates masquerading as sports journalists to ridicule those of us who tried to warn what happens when you don’t produce test cricketers anymore. Well, they now own this debacle, and if there was a faint pulse of integrity at the ECB there would be mass resignations at the governing body. The fact this won’t happen, and the course set for the ice berg remains intact is further reason why nothing will change, and why I will not pay a penny to this absurd organisation anymore.

    Sport is not a purely commercial pursuit. Yet the governing body sees it only in that light. Well fine, if cricket is only a commercial enterprise maybe it’s not a good idea to produce a shitty product, and laugh and sneer at your customers. This is basic 101 business school level stuff. Certainly you wouldn’t employ people on enormous salaries who don’t understand this. Yet that is precisely what the ECB do. They haven’t quite got to the Gerald Ratner stage where they openly admit, and boast what they are selling is shit, but it can’t be long seeing the hubris of these people. Sadly it seems few of the customers care enough to take action. In Ratner’s case they walked out immediately.

    At least I have made my minuscule gesture, and financially walked away. Which is why the anger is no longer there. Just a sadness at what has happened to a great sport. And for the first time In fifty years I have had a nice deep sleep during an Ashes down under. I wake up refreshed before looking at the overnight score card and having a good laugh over breakfast.

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  3. StaffordshireKnot Dec 28, 2021 / 6:58 pm

    The Aussie bowlers have been very good. Very good indeed.

    First three: Cummins, Hazlewood, Starc.

    As good as: Roberts, Holding, Croft…….or Pollack, Steyn, Philander…….or McGrath, Lee, Gillespie.

    But even their second string – Richardson, Neser, Boland – plus Green have been too good.

    WTF is going on?

    We have Anderson, Broad, Woakes, Wood, Robinson, Overton plus Stokes.

    Which of them would get into the Australian side? Maybe Jimmy Anderson but he is (39), then Broad (35), Woakes who can only bowl effectively in England and Wood who can’t play 4 consecutive tests.

    True, there’s Archer, but he is injured – for a whole year now – so is Stone. Then there’s Curran.

    Let’s not even talk about the spinner – it’s too depressing.

    The ECB have sold out English test cricket.

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  4. Marek Dec 28, 2021 / 8:15 pm

    Random statistic of the day: only five England players under the age of 30 have a test hundred (two of them have two). Of those five, one will turn 30 before the end of England’s next home series.

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  5. Aden Biddle Dec 29, 2021 / 12:21 pm

    I really like this piece as it explains the various issues that encompass cricket as a whole. I think there is a disconnect as to what England performances do to grass roots cricket and how the generation of money can’t just be the main aim. There is a lot of discourse online where people look to bedunk someone who points out one of the issue highlighted where as you point out its a mixture and each issue can be blamed and debunked as equally as the other, this misses to point. As someone who doesn’t go to county cricket my passion is club cricket and playing cricket and a poor England side moves cricket to the margins from the 90’s to 2005 cricket clubs and participation plummeted and in recent years has had a boost from the COVID restrictions stopping foreign holidays but this could all be reversed. I have sighted Fleming are NZ or even 90’s Zimbabwe as sides England are more like and that they need to first look to compete before they can really start to win, but I don’t think that in their bubble (mental and physical) they see themselves like these sides I appreciate the fortunes of one of these sides were curtailed due to other reasons but from Fleming to Vettori NZ became the Williamson team we see now, instead of being greater than the sum of its parts England or in effect worse. I can’t comment on the County system as I don’t watch especially being in Sheffield where there isn’t a first class team to watch without a drive or train to Derby or Leeds.

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  6. Metatone Dec 29, 2021 / 3:15 pm

    First of all, well said legglance.
    All the signs have been there, we’ve all written or commented on them at various times in the past few years.
    Random thoughts:
    1) County schedules have been broken for a long time. I’ve been in London nearly a decade now and I looked at memberships when I first arrived – comparing the game schedule to my work and holiday schedule. Just doesn’t work. Especially when you throw in that at least the odd game is going to be rain hit. Which is to say, Marek is probably right, we can’t expect 4-day CC to pay for itself. So unless the ECB values it, it’s going to suffer. (Which leads me to thoughts about the structure of the county game, but that’s for another day.)
    2) I don’t think English culture is weak. What we see from other sports (rugby union, RL, football, cycling, even cricket) is that it very often comes down to the structures of the game and the tensions between international and club setups. When each of those sports temporarily gets the balance right, suddenly we’re competitive.
    3) That said, there’s something weird and rotten in the England culture’s attitude to spin bowling. Worse, despite the value of a great spinner in the short forms of the game, English cricket still thinks of spinners as batsmen first.
    4) Part of the original point of central contracts was to avoid our bowlers being crocked for the big moments. If there is anything where Root’s bad captaincy really is to blame, it’s been mishandling of bowlers. And don’t get me started on the England medical team over the years.
    5) Beyond legglance’s point about the lack of state school players being a waste of talent, I’ll add again that when you look at who still has great passion for the game, lot of immigrant community talent has just not been tapped. Being realistic about how various sports have grown, cricket can’t afford to not welcome talent in a more competitive landscape for talent.
    Those are all very random thoughts, because legglance’s key point is bang on, we’re here because of multiple layers of overlapping bad decisions. Or multiple layers of overlapping FAIL as the internet speak might put it. And that’s why in the end the buck comes back to the ECB, because they are the ones in a position to influence more than one or two things.
    I hate them for failing and I hate them for turning English Test cricket something I mostly shrug at. I couldn’t even enjoy home victories because they were won papering over the fault lines that would lead us to where we are now. Even the feted away victories of the Silverwood era contained the same old faults papered over. Waiting for the inevitable unravelling (alongside watching them break the most exciting bowler we’ve had in a while) just took the joy out.

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  7. Steve Dec 29, 2021 / 8:25 pm

    Flippantly throwing in the line Australia have won in 20 years in the UK while of course true completely misses the point. It is Also true that by the time they return Autralia will not have lost in England in 8 years while Emgland will have lost twice in Australia. In the same time. We can cut this to look favourable either way.

    The reality is over 20 years England have won 9-5 in England and Australia have Won 18-3 in Australia and looking like it will become 20-3. Its also worth noting 3 of the 9 games England won in England were by less than 5 runs or 1 wicket. Series have been mostly alive till the last game in England. Australia have actually made a comtest of it.

    So yes its sad to us England can’t compete in Australia. With this perhaps the worst batting group, root ecluded, we have seen.

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    • Marek Dec 30, 2021 / 10:11 am

      This seems very defensive–I notice Australian fans often are when it’s said that Australia are anything less than perfect.. I don’t think it was a flippant point at all–he was pointing out, if I understood it correctly, that a lot of teams fail to win away over lengthy periods of time–and, however you dress it up, the Australian team hasn’t in England. If you think he’s saying that the performances have been exactly the same for each team, then I don’t think you’re reading the piece very closely–he talks about a capitualtion and being trounced in the first ten lines alone!

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      • Steve Dec 30, 2021 / 10:10 pm

        I realise he is acknowledging the reality of the current capitulation and that something needs to be fixed but it suprised me to see here as its really the same kind of language that the ECB and others will trot out to gloss over what is clearly a systemic issue to defend the status quo. Playing away is hard and we are fine with that but to draw an equivalence in the performances is really not looking at the detail.

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        • thelegglance Dec 30, 2021 / 10:40 pm

          You think I’m excusing the ECB? Ok, well it’s a view.

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          • dannycricket Dec 31, 2021 / 8:36 am

            I should have realised that you were secretly Inside Cricket! The signs were there all along. You’re friends with the editor of Wisden, you always take Tom Harrison’s side in any argument, and you always wear an ECB blazer. How could we have missed this until now?

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        • Mark Dec 30, 2021 / 11:32 pm

          It’s not a defence of the ECB…it’s just a statement of the bleeding obvious. If the ECB try to hide behind home wins in the last 7 years years so be it. It does not get them off the hook. Although I suspect it was very important for them to claim at the time that all was well. In fact I know it to be true because that is exactly what they claimed. Now they have no shelter to hide behind because they can’t win at home either.

          It does not mean we on here agree with that defence, as anyone who has read this site for the last five years or so will know. To pretend otherwise just makes critics look completely one eyed. From 1989 to 2005 Australia won comfortably the series here. But that was a truly great team. Not like the one of the last six years.

          The reality is it just shows how poor away teams have become generally in test cricket in the last decade. Not surprising with so little preparation and endless white ball cricket. The big problem for the ECB is England are now hopeless at home as well as away.

          The ECB must be laughing their socks off at the very novel suggestion of this site being accused of being too pro ECB!

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    • StaffordshireKnot Dec 30, 2021 / 10:32 am

      England cricket fans now know what it’s like to support the Wallabies.

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      • Steve Dec 30, 2021 / 10:13 pm

        Its a good comparison as Australian Rugby has almost all its player base drawn from private schools (with recently notable contributions from the Pasifika communities but that is also a group small in numbers in Australia).
        Cricket is the reverse.

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    • Mark Dec 30, 2021 / 2:10 pm

      This has the potential to be 5-0, which in turn follows a 4-0 in 2017…. which followed a 5-0 in 2013/14, with another 5-0 in 2007. The one exception was 2010/11 when Australia were coming to terms with life after Warne and McGrath.

      I heard Mike Atherton say that there was only one 5-0 in the whole of the twentieth century. (Haven’t bothered to see if that is true) but assuming it is…then things have got very bad for England in the last 20 years. Most of the stats for away test wins for most if not all test playing sides and away series wins are going in the wrong direction.

      The even bigger problem for England is they are now finding it more difficult to even win at home. Australia two years ago, India just gone. None of this concerns the ECB because they have plonked all their chips on white ball cricket for the next fifty years. I really don’t think they expect there to even be test cricket in thirty years time.

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      • dArthez Dec 31, 2021 / 10:37 am

        Only the 1920/21 Ashes saw a 5-0 score line. And given what transpired in the Great War, should probably not even be seen as something of a surprise.

        There were a few other series that saw the same scoreline (eg South Africa being blanked in Australia 1931/32, West Indies whitewashing India in 1962), and there was a series between England and Australia that ended 5-1 (1978/79, but that was of course a heavily depleted Australia. And if memory serves the Ashes were not even on offer then.

        To get 3 of those series in the last 5 in Australia (with a 4-0 to go with that), just suggests that it is like shooting fish in a barrel. If it had not been England (or India), Australia would long have insisted on similar treatment of England as say Sri Lanka receive. Rock up once every 6 years for a couple of Tests. If that.

        Winning at home will come again. Just ignore the fact that say South Africa manages 300+ in an innings once every other year or so (seriously, their batting has really gone off a cliff). Just ignore that batting more than 30 balls will be a ‘long innings’ by West Indian standards, and just ignore that Ashok Samaraweera (made up name) is just about the only able-bodied Sri Lankan who has not won a cap for his country, and is under the age of 40.

        England can keep beating sides that have even less quality. But obviously for the health of the game that is akin to constructing an origami bridge over a massive chasm the ECB have created. Willingly.

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      • Marek Dec 31, 2021 / 12:02 pm

        Just for fun: number of innings played by West Indians in tests of more than 150 balls in the last three years: 19. More than half of them were by Kraigg Brathwaite or Nkrumah Bonner.

        Number of such innings played by England batters in the same period: 43. Almost half of them were by Root or Burns.

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  8. Mark Dec 31, 2021 / 11:08 am

    The really bizarre thing about the numerous 5-0 score lines of the last decade or so is they coincided with some of the (so called) greatest cricketers England have ever produced. (On stats at least) Anderson, Broad, Cook, KP and Root. Still didn’t do them much good.

    Either the rest of the team must have be pretty inept or maybe stats are not all they are cracked up to be in modern cricket. Of course Australia are a good side, particularly at home, even a great one in 2007, but it’s not a great advert for the game. The so called big three is rapidly becoming the big 2, and yet I’m not convinced this Aussie side or this current Indian side are their best vintage.

    I agree with you about whether England increasingly deserve a 5-0 series, but it’s only about money and tv revenue now. Perhaps (pre Covid) the barmy army is seen as a worthwhile financial benefit for the Aussie hospitality industry? The fact that the ECBs preferred broadcaster, Sky did not want this series or the India away series (the big 2) says a lot I think.

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  9. Marek Jan 2, 2022 / 1:21 pm

    For the sake of cricket, we should probably all read this if we’re able to (trigger warning if you need one), although we might not want to. It’s the depressingly familiar kind of thing that tends not to be restricted to one place if other sports are anything to go by.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-02/jamie-mitchell-cricket-abuse-on-india-and-sri-lanka-tour/100715912?utm_campaign=abc_news_web&utm_content=twitter&utm_medium=content_shared&utm_source=abc_news_web

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