England Did Not Win The Ashes, Australia Lost It

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I do not want to take anything away from England but quite frankly they were the slightly better side of two poor sides.

We have just seen one of the least competitive series of cricket played for a long time. Despite the 3-2 scoreline it can be argued that this Ashes was less competitive than some of the 5-0 white washes that England have seen in the past. There was no one session that was close. No match went into the 5th day and most struggled to get a 4th day, 18 days play out of a possible 25, this included rain delays in two of the tests.

There was a bit of drama but nothing really that will be high on my memory in years to come. The fact of the matter is that Australia could not bat in grounds that had a bit of sideways movement while England could not bowl on flat pitches. Cardiff did not suit the Aussie quick bowlers, the English bowlers did not have genuine pace to trouble Australia at Lords or the Oval. Edgebaston and Headingly were the two games where Australia proved once again that they lacked any basic skill or patience when it came to playing a swinging ball. If Australia had knuckled down a bit in that one crazy session at Edgbaston it would have been a totally different story. They showed no fight at all, England put the balls in the right areas and Australia helped them out.

Chris Rodgers was the only player to show anything in this regards. Despite all this negativity there are positives for both sides. Australia have shown enough on the Lords and Oval pitch that they will comprehensively beat England in their own country next time round unless England find a genuine fast bowler. For England the positives have to be the way that Broad bowled on pitches that aid him, Cook’s captaincy has to be praised and also the form of Joe Root is a major positive.

On the negative side for England the problems of an opening partner for Cook have been masked over by the win. Lyth had a shocking series and as a result is under pressure. There is talk about Ali coming into to open against Pakistan. This would be a good move to play two spinners but him opening is a short term move as he would struggle in the next series
on pacy South African pitches. Maybe he could take the place of the out of form Ian Bell and move into the top order? There is definitely a tough winter coming up for England.

As for Australia they have a new era beckoning. Smith takes over from the retired Clarke, whilst they have also lost Haddin, Watson and Rodgers most likely. They need to identify the replacements and give these guys a good run in the side. They like England have a tough time coming up.

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Bell, Bopara & Cook all playing for their places?

Alastair Cook and Ian Bell in action during the second ODI against West Indies

England travel to Sri Lanka on the back of two ODI series losses. This series is key to the squads preparation for the upcoming world cup which starts in February. Unlike the majority of international sides England have lots and lots of questions to answer before the world cup starts.

India, Australia and South Africa for example have had a settled squad in place for the last two or three years, whilst England have chopped and changed and then brought the original guys back into the fold. It is a very English problem that the side faces. Like many of England’s past sides they do not have players of the same experience as the other sides. This is not due to them having a young squad it is due to the constant experimenting to the ODI side.

Bopara is probably England’s most experienced ODI player now, yet he is inexplicably dropped from the summer’s series against India and Sri Lanka. The reason given was that they wanted to experiment with pace bowling. Ian Bell is another who seems to have been around for ever, yet I can not remember an ODI series where he has been the best batsman for England.

I do not blame either Bopara or Bell, I blame the lack of clear leadership in English cricket, particularly for the shorter forms of the game. Conversely to Bell and Bopara we have England captain Alistair Cook. It is very clear to all that he is only in the side because he is the captain. If he once again fails in Sri Lanka will the selectors make the right call? I somehow doubt it.

In the eyes of the selection committee I fell Alistair Cook can do no wrong. For England’s sake I hope they come to their senses and relieve him of all captaincy matters. He should go back to batting only in test cricket, where he is an undoubted star when the captaincy pressure is off.

Who opens for England? The answer can’t be answered without mentioning Alex Hales. Surprisingly he only played in the India series, but will feature up the top. If England did not stumble on his re-selection we probably would have seen Bell and Cook again opening, ZZzzzzzz..

Bopara, Broad, Root, Morgan, Voakes, Jordan and Butler have to play. Anderson deserves one last chance in the world cup, although he has never cut it at ODI level. Especially in the sub continent, so another poor showing in Sri Lanka before the world cup may do him more harm than good. Another key player for England is Moin Ali, he has to play but in my eyes can be assisted by another spinner. Ali is now a genuine all rounder, so play him as a batsman that bowls not the other way around.

Ali opens for England in T20 cricket so why can he not do the same in the ODI squad?

The Sri Lanka series will be very interesting to see how England line up. Lets hope they pick the best side and not the side that are most chummy with the coach.

Selectors taking England back to the 90’s?

A bug bear of mine is the way the English selectors work. The problems of the late 80’s and early 90’s looked to be over with has returned.  This being the constant chopping and changing of squads.

 

As a child I remember watching Greame Hick and Mark Ramprakash play every other test series. They are just of a few of the unfortunate players who the ECB ruined. These were two of the most talented batsmen that England have ever produced. This is evident in the stats not only in county cricket, but their international record is much better than what people think. They had good games but one or two bad games would see them dropped. Others on this list could be Rob Key, Jack Russell, Adam Hollioake and lately Ravi Bopara just to name a few. Rob Key’s last match for England included an Ashes double century. Ravi Bopara scored an impressive 3 centuries in his 13 test matches that he played, but one bad series saw him never return to test cricket.

The problem that troubled English cricket for so many years went away under the stewardship of Hussain and Fletcher. It was with great work behind the scenes and strong management that this was allowed to happen. This set up the basis of the great Ashes winning side under Michael Vaughn and later the dominant side that Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower built. Its no surprise that this was best period in England’s cricket history since World War 2.

There were times when a young Andrew Flintoff was not performing regularly, he seemed over weight and constantly injured. If he were 6/7 years older I am sure that the English selectors would have quickly disposed of him. Under the management at the time they stuck with him. Look at the Michael Vaughn that won the Ashes they used a minimal 12 players for the whole series.

My point is that if the selectors pick a player he should be given time to make the position his own or time to show that he is not capable of doing the job. Poor Nick Compton played in 9 tests  scoring 2 hundreds and 1 fifty in that, he was dropped not on form just to make space for someone more exciting. There is nothing wrong in that but the next time that England needed an opener in the side he was overlooked for Carbury.

The Hampshire opener (Carbury) himself has been mistreated by England. He was portrayed as one of the two scape goats with KP for the failed Ashes series. Talking of openers how did the selectors see fit to promote Sam Robson ahead of Varun Chopra? The former Essex man has been overlooked too many times now. Saying all this Robson is a good player and I hope England do not drop him now until they know for sure that he is good or not.

The English selectors need to be more consistent in their selection process, this should also produce more consistent results on the pitch.

 

England v India – My Thoughts

Following a sports team can bring many highs as well as many lows. Especially if that team is the Indian cricket team. I can’t quite bring my self to understand what happened in the test & ODI series, but be sure we won’t be hearing the last of these problems for both sides.

Where to start with India’s problems? The same old problems of a test series abroad still haunt Indian cricket. On paper India should have performed far better than they did in the test series. The only players who can take any consolation from the series are Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Murali Vijay, Ajinke Rahane and MS Dhoni at a push (a big push).

Talking of Dhoni, he did well in patches with the bat but not to the level we expect from him. He seems to be playing within himself. His captaincy was at times to safe in the test series. India started the series very well, with a battling performance on that flat pitch at Trent Bridge, and a great win at Lords. But after that game we saw the same Indian performance that we got in the UK last time around, albeit with different players.

I have said it for a while now but India have a great bowling attack to compliment the star studied batting. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is looking more and more like a young James Anderson, while Sami and Ishant scared the English with their pace. Shame Ishant Sharma got injured after Lords, his injury made a difference. Punkaj Signh tried very hard but wasn’t really up to the standard.

There were two other talking points for India to think about in the test series. The first being the situation between Jadeja and Anderson. This odd little saga, seemed to take the stuffing out of India. For some reason the accuser (Jadeja) was found guilty of his offence, while the accused (Anderson) was not tried at all for another two weeks. What’s more is that Anderson was let off scot free forcing the ICC to re-asses the Jadeja charges also.

There has been lots of talk that Dhoni and his players felt let down by the coach and board not supporting them. Since the Anderson hearing India seemed like a team who didn’t care. I would like to clarify that both players were found innocent, but have you ever seen MS Dhoni so animated, ever? “Captain Cool” got angry, definitely one of the most sporting players around currently. For this reason I know what speculation I should believe. I also believe that Jimmy Anderson is a great bowler but on the field he seems to cross any sporting line constantly.

India bounced back well in the ODI series with Raina even adapting to lots and lots of short pitch bowling. One big disappointment was Virat Kohli, we need him to come good.

England’s main problem is Alistair Cook. He had a poor test series, not reaching three figures once. He was called out by many pundits as being tactically out of his depth as captain also. In many ways India’s shockingly bad batting in the last few test matches has prolonged Cook’s captaincy.

The England selectors now have a massive headache in the selection for the World Cup and Sri Lanka tour before that. Cook is still the ODI captain, yet 99% of people that know anything about cricket know that Alistair Cook does not merit a place in the ODI side.

A special mention needs to go out to Moin Ali, England seem to have found a rough diamond there.

Questions to answer:
Should Dhoni step down a test captain to concentrate on limited overs captaincy?

Should India replace Duncan Fletcher?

Should England pursue with Cook in ODI cricket?

Who are the next captains for both sides?

 

England show how to self combust in one tour of Australia

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The last few months have seen an amazing turn of events for the England cricket team. The media had built up the side to levels that they probably were not. Statements were branded about by former pundits without really looking at the facts. This included things such as Botham stating over a long period of time that Prior was the best wicket keeper batsman in world cricket. One tour has seen the heart of the side ripped apart. This shows the media were wrong in their assessment of the side, they are both mentally weak and lack any real quality to win under pressure.

1. Kevin Pietersen:

It is clear he has been made the scapegoat for the poor series. All this despite being England’s leading scorer in the series. I am very sure that his axing from the side is to take pressure off captain Alistair Cook. The selectors took the easy root in announcing that they wanted to rebuild the side with younger players. It is hard to argue their point. If KP has been dropped why hasn’t Bell, Cook or Prior been dropped in the same way?

2. Andy Flower:

Before the series many people in England stated that he was the best coach in international cricket. This title seemed very odd to me because he has not achieved half the things that either Gary Kirsten or Duncan Fletcher has. He was a good coach who had his own ways, in some senses he seemed ideal for England. Yet again one bad series and he has left his post.

3. Swann/Prior/Trott and Anderson:

For so many years these players have been the backbone of English cricket. Before the series started these were all players who were considered by the English media as the best in their positions. They all did not perform, it is just more evidence that the media over hyped all these players. Prior was dropped, Swann retired in an undignified, Trott has his deamons and the old Jimmy Anderson returned.

Once again English cricket has shown its self to be a shambles. There is no coach, the best batsman has been forced out the side, the leading spinner and wicket keeper have retired or been dropped respectively. Whats more odd is that they took the KP decision without even asking a potential candidate to replace Flower. The shambles with the ECJ makes them the laughing stock of world cricket.

England back to the captaincy drawing board?

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After another loss for his side, Alistair Cook seems to have cracked. In a frank press conference after the series loss he told the media that he is considering his captaincy future. The future for England is now very uncertain, if Cook ends his captaincy can he still have a place in the ODI side? Can England have three different captains in the three formats?

What’s next for Cook?

It seems Cook will renounce his ODI captaincy but we are unclear if he will call it quits as test skipper. His place in the test side is still guaranteed on past performance but its a whole different ball game in ODI cricket. He has always seemed a little out of his depth when it comes to the shorter formats of the game. It is unclear if he will actually step down yet and if he has been pushed out. All will become clear in the next few weeks.

Who should England pick?

The candidates to replace Cook seem a little limited. The stand out man in ODI cricket would be Eoin Morgan. The only issue with appointing Morgan as ODI skipper would be England cricket would have two if not three different captains. Broad is the captain of the T20 side but it is clear on performances that he is not really an inspirational figure. Ian Bell could also do the job, it is more likely he will get the role if Cook decides to step down in test cricket also. He would provide continuity by being the captain of both tests and ODI cricket.

From being considered one of the best run sides in international cricket, England now look to be one of the worst run. The future looks uncertain for many senior players, with the kids needing time to settle in.

Who is the real England T20 captain?


The captain of a T20 side really is not as important as a captain of the longer formats, but the man given the responsibility is likely to become the long term vice captain in ODI and test cricket. The current man in charge is Stuart Broad.

 
He has been in charge for a year and a half now, unluckily for him though England play very little T20 cricket so he has had little time develop his skills. There is no doubt that Broad is England’s most important bowler in limited overs cricket and given his age he will be the leader of the bowling unit for years to come, but there is slight doubts over his captaincy credentials.
 
What Broad has going in his favour is that he is young, which will mean he can be the captain for a long time to come. He is a player who is always in the side in all forms of the game and he has ample experience for a player of his age.
 
However I believe there is also a downside to his leadership. He seems to be an angry man. His press conference before the this summers T20 series sums him up for me. He refused to answer a good question from the press in regards to resting of the squad, branding the question as stupid. Call me old fashioned but this is not how I expect an England captain to react to a simple question. Not sure how the other players would react to this.
 
He has also shown many times on the field that he is a hot head. On many occasions we have seen him angrily throw a ball at a batsman or swearing his head off after he has bowled a bad ball. This over aggressive nature then rubs off on the rest of the team. One key player for England in the shorter formats is Jade Dernbach, he is a naturally aggressive person, it would be hard for someone like Broad to reign him in when he himself is over aggressive.
 
The third and final issue I have with Broad as captain is that he does not play within the spirit of the game. Again I could be accused of living in the dark ages but I feel the majority of international captains currently are very fair. Look at Jayawardine, McCullum, Dhoni and Clark they all have shown examples of honesty and fairness over their cricket careers. One such example being Dhoni calling Bell back when Bell stupidly got himself out. 
 
The other man up for the job is Eoin Morgan, he has captained in both ODI and T20 games when the captains are absent. For me what I have seen of him as captain is very impressive. His latest outing as skipper is the ODI series against Australia this late summer. 
 
The only downside to have Morgan as captain is the fact that he does not get into the test side. So Broad may be favoured as he could be a long term leader of all the sides. There are plenty of positives for Morgan to become skipper, he in my opinion is unlucky not to have cemented his position in the test side. He is a better batsman than Bairstow in my opinion so a recall to the side could be on. 
 
His batting is often said to be second only to M.S Dhoni in a run chase. This is because Dhoni is a thinker, he understands situations in cricket matches and has the calmness, confidence in his own ability. Albeit Morgan is a lesser version of Dhoni, Morgan still posses these same qualities. He is a calm man when on the field or whilst batting. He has the ability to lead the team from the front and he thinks about inventive field positions. Add his brilliant fielding to this he is for me a better choice as captain.
 
I would also put Joe Root in the same category as Morgan and honestly believe he will one day lead England but he needs to cement his place in the side before he is even considered. It is clear to see that England have backed Broad to lead in the future but I feel that Morgan is the man England should be looking at.