Over in Australia, England’s batsmen are suffering a loss of form and confidence which bodes ill for the World cup.
But that’s far from the only worrying decline in performance levels within the English game.
As evidence of the mounting crisis, we need look no further than Dominic Cork’s shock departure this weekend from Dancing On Ice.
The Hampshire all-rounder became the second contestant to be evicted from the ITV show on Sunday, after losing out to Jeff Brazier in a head-to-head vote-off.
It followed a dismal skating performance by Cork earlier in the programme, which elicited this damning verdict from judge Jason Gardiner: “The thing I like about your performance is when it’s over. It’s not improving, it’s not moving on.”
And to think that English cricketers once ruled the roost when it came to televised pro-celebrity dancing. For years, we set the standard. But in an eerie parallel of the Australian test team’s recent history, our once great empire now lies in smouldering ruins.
When Darren Gough and Mark Ramprakash secured back-to-back Strictly Come Dancing victories in 2005-06, we dared to dream. There lay before us the prospect of an entire generation of success for ageing county pros, both in the ballroom and on the rink. But this priceless opportunity has been tragically wasted.
Alarm bells began to ring as early as 2009, when Phil Tufnell finished a disappointing eighth in Strictly. And now this: the indignity of a professional cricketer finishing eleventh in a fully-accredited dancing contest.
Is sheer complacency to blame? During the glory years of the Gough-Ramps axis, just like the West Indies in the 1990s, we assumed that our winning ways were simply the natural order of things. Cricketing dance champions grew on trees. We were so busy congratulating ourselves, we didn’t notice that our rivals had begun to overtake us.
Or is there a skills gap? Are today’s generation of former England players in their late thirties simply lacking the basic technique required to dance on primetime television? Perhaps the Professional Cricketers Association could step in here, and provide training to help ease the transition from test arena to dancefloor. If cricketers approach retirement with at least an elementary grasp of the tango, quick-step and triple-salchow, and feel at home in a sequinned leotard – that would be a start.
But the problem may lie purely at the selectors’ door. Dominic Cork may be a once-mercurial England tyro turned wily old pro – but by which logic is he the best ice dancer currently operating on the county circuit? It’s surely time to bring fresh faces into the fold. With his ample leg range and lithe frame, Andy Caddick’s time may now have finally arrived. Andy Moles would bring a touch of elegance and sex appeal, while Derbyshire supporters have long backed the claims of Kim Barnett.
Either way, the ECB have some awkward questions to answer. It’s been five long years of hurt since an England-qualified player last lifted a major dance trophy. Painful as Sunday’s debacle was, it may yet prove the first step on the long road to recovery.
It’s down to complacency. Since mastering The Sprinkler, the ECB has not done enough to encourage the addition of new moves to the current squad’s repertoire. Because of this, the players’ Plan B now consists of Andrew Strauss’ dad-dancing.
And that isn’t the future.
Time to re-tune the Sky Box.