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England’s Future: Breaking Up Is Never Easy

Got over the events of Monday morning yet? Me neither. The post mortem is very much in full swing and it hasn’t been pretty. You could say it’s been Nathan Lyon handsome.

Sorry. Things are so bad that not even cheap gags at the opposition spinner’s expense are cheering me up today – especially since news broke that he’s currently dating this stunning blonde. What a sad state of ‘affairs’.

Anyway I digress. I’m not here to talk about sportsmen’s love lives. I’m here to talk about our first true love: the England cricket team. And what a cruel and unfaithful wench she is. The Aussies literally had their way with her.

With this in mind, it’s about time we talked about upgrading our team for a younger model. But which players should stay and which ones should take a trip to Dumpsville? Don’t pretend you haven’t all made your minds up already.

England’s predicament is particularly tricky because we don’t have a queue of talented youngsters ready to take the elder statesmen’s places. Twelve years of ECB mismanagement have put paid to that. So where do we start? Let’s sidestep the players for now and start with the head coach.

Although I supported Bayliss’s appointment – I thought his greater international experience gave him the edge over Jason Gillespie – it looks like Lord Brockett and I got this one wrong. Bayliss’s record is poor, very poor. He’s lost over 40% of his test matches in charge (twice as much as both Peter Moores and Andy Flower) and it’s pretty evident after his interview the other day that he hasn’t got a clue how to fix things.

Before said interview I was ready to defend Bayliss. After all, there’s not a lot he can do if he doesn’t have the players (which he clearly doesn’t). However, I’ve changed my mind because it seems pretty obvious that he’s still out of touch with county cricket.

When Bayliss was appointed, I originally hoped that he’d immerse himself in our domestic game (when time permitted) and identify young players with potential like Duncan Fletcher used to do. Perhaps there were some diamonds in the rough like Marcus Trescothick to unearth?

Instead it looks like Bayliss is simply happy to shrug his shoulders and admit “I don’t have the answers”. On the one hand I applaud his honesty. On the other I think “well what are we paying you for then”?

I’ve heard it suggested that Bayliss should be sacked as test coach but retained as our white ball specialist. And why not? He’s actually done pretty well with the fancy Dans. The problem, of course, is that Bayliss is a heavyweight coach who probably won’t take a demotion too well. Why should he suffer such ignominy when he can simply walk away and find gainful employment elsewhere – somewhere warmer where players don’t piss on the outfield or pour drinks over their heads?

As a result, I think it’s probably time to part ways with Trev. I won’t be too upset if he stays, but given the choice I’d probably prefer to start anew. As long as his successor isn’t Mick Newell or Ashley Giles. And I’d be amazed if the latter isn’t high up the Brockett list.

Next we move on to the top of the batting order. Yes, it’s time we talked about Alastair. Now many people might be surprised by Cook’s failures in the Ashes series. After all, isn’t Chef the greatest England batsman of all time? The problem, however, is that he isn’t. He isn’t even close. And he never has been.

Cook has always been a technically flawed opener with incredible resilience and powers of concentration. This means that he’s brilliant against Mediocre Bowling (or good bowling on featherbeds) because his technique isn’t tested and he’ll grind the opposition into the dust.

However, when he’s presented with a real test – like he has in the series – he usually fails. He might get the odd score, just like any test No.1 to No7 would, but you simply can’t rely on him to produce in tough conditions.

If you don’t believe me, go back and look at every one of Cook’s test centuries on his cricinfo profile page. You’ll find that the overwhelming majority of his 31 test centuries were either (a) scored against weak attacks, (b) scored against Hilfenhaus and Siddle on the 2010/11 Ashes, (c) scored in India in 2012 (when he was superb albeit on dry decks with no seam movement), or (d) scored over a decade ago.

Consequently I’m not surprised in the least that Cook has flopped terribly on this tour. There’s a reason why he averages considerably less against Australia (36) and South Africa (35) than anyone else. However, having said that, I’m not ready to throw a player with 31 test hundreds into the dustbin quite yet.

The fact remains that Cook is still a serviceable test opener. And he’ll probably continue to make huge scores against mediocre bowling – which, let’s be honest, isn’t a bad skill to have. Therefore, unless Haseeb Hameed starts the season like a train, I’m happy for Cook to carry on playing for England. That’s if he actually wants to.

Next on the list is Moeen Ali – I’ll reserve judgement on James Vince until the end of the series. The problem with Mo is that he’s not a good enough batsman to bat in the top six (especially on Australian pitches), and he’s not good enough to be England’s frontline spinner. He’s good at home but useless away.

What Moeen is, however, is a very handy all-rounder. He’s an ideal No.2 spinner and a delicious lower-order stroke maker. And with Ben Stokes likely to return at some point, England’s plethora of all-rounders means we can afford a luxury player like Mo. We just shouldn’t expect him to pull up trees against high class pacemen on pitches tailor-made to expose his flaws.

Finally, I’d like to talk about the two lynchpins of our bowling attack: Anderson and Broad. Let’s begin with Jimmy.

Personally I think Jimmy is just as good now, at the age of 35, as he’s ever been. He’s still accurate, very skilful, and effective on most surfaces: his 12 wickets at 26 thus far in the Ashes is a creditable return (even though he screwed the pooch in the first innings at Adelaide).

As a result, I’d like Anderson to continue in England colours. He can play a vital role in nurturing the next generation. What’s more, we’re going to need his experience if I get my way: that’s right folks, I’m just about done with Stuart Broad.

At his best Broady is a brilliant seamer. When his pecker’s up, his legs are pumping, and his pace is over 85 mph, he’s a fine bowler in most conditions. The problem, however, is that we don’t see these miracle spells very often these days. He’s too often medium paced, ineffective, and semi-injured.

I said at the beginning of this piece that it’s hard to replace senior players unless there’s someone ready to take their place. In Broad’s case there is. And his name is Craig Overton. Our attack only needs one tall right-arm fast-medium seamer, so we might as well invest in the 23 year old who might improve rather than the 31 year old who’s slowing down.

So that’s my tuppence for now. I could go on but my Mrs – who has just reminded me that she’s actually my first true love – wants me to make the kids some cheese sandwiches for tea.

Hmmm. I might just make them Marmite sarnies instead. The English cricket team might be crap but we’ve still got the best cuisine in the world. Better than that Vegemite crap.

James Morgan

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England’s Future: Breaking Up Is Never Easy


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