Ed Smith Ties Himself In Knots: The TMS Interview

Apologies for not writing about days 2 & 3 of the test match. It’s a dead rubber, so it’s not particularly compelling unless you’re caught up in the Alastair Cook storyline, and I’ve been otherwise engaged with family and other sports. In fact, news is just reaching me that Cook has indeed completed his ton. Well done him. The fact it was so predictable says everything we need to know about him as a player. You just knew he’d do it.

However, today I want to focus on the future. And that means analysing the fascinating interview Ed Smith gave to Aggers on TMS yesterday. As I’ve been quite vocal in my criticism of Smith in the past, I thought I’d better give it a listen. My conclusion? Just as Smith felt ‘not confident but certain’ that Jos Buttler would be a success this summer, I now feel ‘not confident but certain’ that our chairman of selectors is overcomplicating what is essentially a very basic job: to pick the best England team.

First of all let me provide – and I bet Ed would love the idea of a writer articulating the prism through which he’s viewing a particular subject – a bit of background. It’s all to do with my Weltanschauung (worldview or way of looking at things) which became established during my brief stint as an academic. I did a PhD in modern American history, taught a few classes at the Uni of Southampton, and ended up writing a book on the concept of US imperialism. This period taught be something basic but important.

I eventually came to the conclusion that most concepts (or ideas) were pretty simple. The difference between some academics / essayists and most ‘normal people’ (for want of a better expression) is how they express their ideas. A normal person will just say what they think in basic language and get to the point. Many academics, on the other hand, like to explore the fringes of their ideas too, and often decorate their thoughts in unnecessarily complex language. Therefore they have a habit of making all their ideas sound incredibly impressive – even when their basic premise is flawed (as it often is). I used to feel a bit intimidated at academic conferences until I realised that half the people there weren’t quite as smart as I initially thought they were.

Listening to Ed Smith on TMS was a classic case of a very intelligent person expressing flawed views in a highly articulate manner. And in trying to justify some of the decisions he’s made this summer, he ended up contradicting himself a few times too. Smith basically spent half an hour making two troubling arguments: (a) that a selector should pick the best 11 or 12 ‘cricketers’ in the country, and then (b) let the coach and captain get on with it. He therefore happily took the credit for Jos Buttler’s recall (and what a good decision that has proved to be) whilst washing his hands of the moving feast which is England’s batting order. We were left to assume that was all Root and Bayliss’s fault – even though it’s clearly the job of the selectors to give the management the tools they require.

First of all let’s deal with flawed premise (a), an idea that would have Sir Alf Ramsey turning in his grave. It’s a long discredited view (across all sports) that a team should simply consist of the XI best individuals without any thought as to how they might gel as a team. This is the kind of deluded logic whereby Paul Scholes ends up playing left midfield, and Gerrard and Lampard end up playing together several times even though they’re incompatible and it never works.

Smith kept saying it was his philosophy to get the best XI (all-round) cricketers in the country on the field. And if he managed that then he’d done his job. He therefore basically claimed that picking a plethora of all-rounders was a deliberate ploy, and it didn’t particularly bother him if this meant several players had to bat one or two places too high in the order to accommodate them all.

When pressed on this issue, Smith tossed the concerns aside. For example, when asked about who might bat No.3 in the future Ed actually seemed a little critical of the question. “People say to me that I’ve got to get the No.3 position sorted … my answer is no … you’ve got to get the best XI cricketers onto the field first”. I found this rather baffling to say the least. It’s a bit like Gareth Southpage picking his favourite players without considering who might play left-back.

At one point the emphasis on choosing the best ‘cricketers’ led to a discussion of Adil Rashid. Smith seemed more concerned with Adil’s batting, and his handful of first class centuries, than his bowling. It was all about Adil Rashid ‘the package’. And there was me thinking Rashid has been controversially recalled because leg spin is a specialist art and it’s rather useful at mopping up the tail.

What concerns me is that I don’t think Smith mentioned the word ‘specialist’ once in the whole interview. ODIs and T20s are the formats that require all-round abilities. Test matches have always been a domain where specialists are required. Geoff Boycott often makes this point in very basic language. Smith argues the opposite in a highly articulate manner. But who is right? In this instance I’ll wager it’s the guy with a smaller vocabulary.

Moving on to assertion (b), the idea that the chief selector simply picks the players, and doesn’t pick the batting order, I have a couple of observations. For starters, it seems very strange to me that a selector would not consider how specific players might be utilised at the point they’re selected. It’s also unbelievable (literally). After all, Trevor Bayliss is now a selector, so he consults with Ed Smith when the team is picked.

The argument that Smith and the selectors decided to drop Dawid Malan (who was batting 4), and replace him with Ollie Pope, without considering where Pope might have to bat, doesn’t add up. This is especially true as at the very start of the interview Smith stresses how it’s always vital to consider who will come into the side (and presumably how they will fit in) whenever someone is dropped. There’s a clear contradiction here.

My overriding impression, therefore, is that Smith was being disingenuous when he claims the batting order has little to do with him. The idea there’s a disconnect between Smith and what XI takes the field is implausible. And if it’s actually true – and Bayliss and Smith aren’t discussing the needs of the team at selection meetings – then it’s quite bizarre and very worrying indeed. Perhaps that’s why, two minutes later, he backtracked / contradicted himself somewhat and conceded that ‘selection and the batting order’ are indeed linked after all.

Overall, I found that Smith’s interview clouded a number of issues rather than providing clarity. At one point he oddly claimed that England’s top order batting doesn’t matter, because this particular England team has been deliberately designed to compile totals via late order runs. In fact, he seemed a little upset that this aspect of his strategy had been overlooked by many people. And yet, in the very same interview, he claimed that the bowlers were picked because they’re the best pure bowlers available; and therefore the fact they batted well was a ‘bonus’ or happy coincidence. So which one is it, Ed? A cunning plan or one you stumbled upon?

The other thing that worried me is Smith’s views on statistics. He tried to argue that statistics can be misleading and that one must always look at the broader context of when runs were scored or when wickets were taken. He also warned against the dangers of reading too much into small sample sizes. All this makes perfect sense. You’ll get no complaint from me here. However, what worried me was Smith’ subsequent application of this theory in practice. And this revealed itself in his analysis of Keaton Jennings’s performances this summer.

Smith argued that Jennings could be excused his poor form – and all but confirmed he will go to Sri Lanka – because all openers have struggled this summer. It’s therefore harsh to judge the Lancs opener over this small sample size. What Smith is ignoring, of course, is that Jennings has played test cricket before; therefore the sample size isn’t as small as he claims. What’s more, he’s ignoring other factors that broaden the context i.e. the repetitive ways Jennings has been getting out.

Overall I sensed that Smith is only taking note of the evidence he wants to. And what of Mark Stoneman? He had to face a fired up Australian pace attack this winter and often looked better than Alastair Cook. Does the context of his failures not matter? Despite everything Ed argued, I reached the conclusion that subjectivity (not evidence) is what currently rules the roost. And it’s a little weird that Ed portrays his methods as somewhat scientific or forensic when they appear, at least to me, to be anything but.

No doubt many other people heard yesterday’s interview with Smith and found themselves nodding in agreement throughout. After all, he does sound very amenable, articulate, and intelligent. No doubt some might even feel relieved that after years of incoherence there’s finally a sensible and thoughtful chap with a good head on his shoulders in charge.

However, it’s my contention that if Smith applied his own analytical mind to his own interview, and examined it objectively, the essayist would soon find plenty of material to write critically about.

In my opinion, the fledgling Smith era has changed one thing: style and presentation. But look behind the beautifully annunciated concepts and the thinking remains flawed. Indeed, one could argue that his whole philosophy – this getting the best individuals on the field at all costs – breaks one of the most fundamental rules of team building. And there’s nothing remotely clever about that.

James Morgan


2018-09-10T16:19:15+00:00September 10th, 2018|Talking Points|62 Comments


  1. James September 10, 2018 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    Left field suggestion (so hopefully Ed isn’t reading this): Chris Woakes to open in Sri Lanka. Returning to the no 3 position, given the current squad, it makes sense for Moeen to bat there (if only to allow the rest of the middle order to bat where they want), though I don’t think he’s good enough. No 3 is a specialist position, and is different to no 4 (think Dravid and Tendulkar). Not sure who should bat there, but they aren’t in the current squad.

    • James Morgan September 10, 2018 at 12:41 pm - Reply

      There are worse ideas than Moeen batting 3 this winter. But I’d rather try to bed someone in now who can bat there in the Ashes next year. I think the Aussies would eat Mo for breakfast.

      • AndyB September 10, 2018 at 1:12 pm - Reply

        I would bring Bell back as a short term, one tour, measure to bat at 3. Why? Not because of his form, good though it is, but also because with Cook gone Root lacks a senior pro to help keep the awful clique in line. Root needs experienced help, whether it is Bell or another option. And with a need for new faces at 1-3 there is plenty of room to use one slot for such a wise head.

    • Glenn September 10, 2018 at 7:41 pm - Reply

      Woakes could be the new Manoj Prabhakar.

      • marek September 14, 2018 at 7:11 pm - Reply

        Nah…he’s too honest!

    • Cricketcricketcricket September 10, 2018 at 8:22 pm - Reply

      Oh good god.

      Why o why do people keep putting people that can’t bat up the order !!!!!

      You’ve just watched someone, a proper test top 3 batsmen retire from th game and you’re going to replace him with.. wafty stroke playing white ball players..

      Beggers belief

  2. Groltiger September 10, 2018 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    Smith is a poseur. He likes to be funky, and to be thought original (even if it takes a bit of plagiarism to achieve it). The distinguishing feature of his philosophy, as described, is that it is large, and contains multitudes (Whitman’s justification for contradicting himself). None of it has to make any sense. So, of course, as an apostle of sabre-metrics, it behoves him to go on picking Jennings in the face of the evidence. And so on. I share the despair, and the fury with being taken for an intellectual ride.

  3. AndyB September 10, 2018 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    Whilst I agree with almost everything said by James, I do take issue on one point; the phrase “listening to Ed Smith …….was a classic case of a very intelligent person expressing flawed views in a highly articulate manner”. No it wasn’t. It was more like listening to Rambling Sid Rumpo suddenly deciding to switch his focus to cricket. And, as with Rambling Sid’s usual topics, the nonsense remained but, unfortunately, the entertainment was lost. Please James, do not give Ed any more credit than he deserves.

  4. Jackie Litherland September 10, 2018 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    I think you are right about Smith. He thinks and argues like an academic and defends like one too. He’s not about to reconsider his selection, he’s there to justify it. Most selectors would be worried about Jennings’ lack of success. He is concerned with finding reasons and excuses. The fact remains however that he is failing to make a judgment. As Dobell argues Test batsmen will be tested by good bowling. You might fail at first but clearly you have to respond and improve to stay in the side. If you cannot do that then eventually you will run out of chances. Flower is director of cricket, Lions head coach and head of the Academy so his opinion will be given in the mix even though not an official selector. He tends to favour batsmen in the mould of Trott. Smith mentioned that his panel likes Jennings’ calmness at the crease. Calmness without much else unfortunately. This justification is even more bizarre than the context of good bowling. Flower claimed that he preferred substance over style. Dogma is the problem here. Batsmen should be judged on their merits not whether they fit a certain criteria. Essex, South African, stalwart, to name three?There are no rules. We’re told Burns has a strange technique. So does Steve Smith. Burns should have played instead of Jennings whose time is surely up. You may argue how you like. Jennings had one decent season for Durham and quit the team to stay in the first division after the appalling deduction of points sent Durham down instead of Hampshire. He hasn’t batted that well for Lancashire this season so the question should be why was he recalled at all and why is he being persisted with?

    • Cricketcricketcricket September 10, 2018 at 8:25 pm - Reply

      Using smith as the example won’t work for a top order bat. You’ve seen smith vs the moving ball right?? He’s awful and a walking wicket..

      Jesus, people really don’t think

      • THA September 10, 2018 at 11:11 pm - Reply


        A better example might be Gooch or Trescothic, both of whom used their feet for balance rather than position, and would reach for the ball, which should be suicide for an opener.

        Neither of them fit the mould of an opener on paper.

  5. maggie September 10, 2018 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    Quite agree James. His strategy of picking the ‘best XI cricketers’ is either deeply flawed or he’s explaining it very badly. What happens when the best XI are all all-rounders, as is quite possible in the future, given that most want to play in the IPL if they can and good all-rounders are the ones in great demand? Of course it won’t be his fault that coach and captain can’t find one or two of those given them who can see off the new ball, or even bowl decently with it. Maybe this is a very cunning plan to make sure he can say it’s not his fault when it all goes pear-shaped.

  6. Matt September 10, 2018 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    Ed Smith did an interview with Mike Atherton this morning for Sky. I only caught the last couple of minutes but I think Athers pressed him on idea that the selectors only pick the squad and had no say in the final eleven/batting order. Might be worth a look if you can find the interview.

  7. Ken in London September 10, 2018 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    James – please change to Sir Alf Ramsey from Ramsay

    • James Morgan September 10, 2018 at 2:05 pm - Reply

      I was referring to the great Alf Ramsay, a scholar, gentleman, and world luging champion from the 1930. I have no idea who this Alf Ramsey fella is?

      Done 🙂 Thanks.

  8. StephenFH September 10, 2018 at 2:00 pm - Reply

    It did sound a bit like the tutor speaking with Aggers and every one listening cast in the role of the students and I agree about the emptiness of a lot managerial language. Overall, he struck me as being about as candid as anyone is likely to be doing that job, and he did suggest, reasonably, that the stats on batting averages are just another way of getting to what has been done in the past. Credit where it is due with the selection of Jos Buttler..at the beginning of the summer there was a lot about the game dividing in to white and red ball players; but he was on what sounded like a mental detour when it got to who will open the batting this winter.

  9. lionel joseph September 10, 2018 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    Given all the Taleb and Kahneman Smith recycles and his talk of small sample sizes, he has a demonstrably shitty understanding of these ideas.

    No better is this summed up by the Jennings situation. Firstly if the sample size is too too small to draw a conclusion about a performance, it is too small to justify certainty in a pattern (namely you openers have struggled). As such, as James said, if you want to get any signal from the noise, you have to examine the performances and expectations (indian openers are likely to struggle more here than english ones, weather conditions, ball movement, batsmen error or good bowling)

    Much more comically though, this blatant narrative fallacy has been completely shot to shit by Cook in this test match. And jesus, was a big score from an opener a black swan, an unknown unknown…..

  10. AndyB September 10, 2018 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    Off topic James but I cannot resist. I think you are being a bit all encompassing in your stereotyping of academics. I did my first degree and masters in a similar area to you (IR with US focus) and I suspect we are familiar with some of the same people. I never would have accused the likes of Martin Edmonds or Paul Smoker of avoiding basic language. However, there are too many who fit your description.

    • James Morgan September 10, 2018 at 4:15 pm - Reply

      Hi Andy. I could call myself an academic myself so I’m not trying to stereotype! There are some bloody clever people working in universities, not least my mentor Prof Kendrick Oliver, who’s an absolute star. I was referring to a particular type of academic. The one who sounds smart but really isn’t. I used to think they were all smarter than me, and I would never be capable of writing an academic text myself, until I started to probe the real fundamentals of their arguments. Some of the best known texts on the origins of the Cold War, for example, rely on a central premise that’s either flawed or self-defeating.

      It’s interesting because before and after my PhD I worked in marketing as a copywriter (it’s what I do now). A big part of that is digesting a lot of info, cutting through the noise, and identifying the main thing that really matters to people i.e. the single most important thing that underpins a pitch. The idea is then to articulate this as economically (and compellingly) as one can in a clear and unambiguous way. It seems to be that this is the very opposite of the academic world! So when I listen to Ed Smith etc, I always try to pick up on the central thing that underpins his methodology rather than getting preoccupied with all the nuances. I hope that makes sense.

      • AndyB September 10, 2018 at 6:31 pm - Reply

        Thanks James. I get what you say and agree about the frequency of flawed foundations. Like you I started in marketing but was made into an underwriting director when they discovered I could do hard sums without taking my socks off. I think it may indicate a slightly nit-picking bent in my thinking 🙂

        • James Morgan September 10, 2018 at 6:32 pm - Reply

          We all find our niche!

  11. James September 10, 2018 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    Put out the bunting! England have scored 400 in a test innings. Admittedly with India one bowler (Ishant) short.

  12. Simon H September 10, 2018 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    Couldn’t bear to listen to Smith. Some people think he’ll get hung out to dry when it all goes pear-shaped. I’m not so sure – I think he might be one of the protected ones.

    Off topic, the scores from the CC look like it’s the Wild West when it comes to pitch preparation. Was it ever formally announced that ECB pitch inspections had been abolished?

  13. Comte September 10, 2018 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    Being a blunt Yorkshireman by birth, I prefer to avoid the multi-syllable language of academia and simply say that Smith talks bollocks. It seems to be a particular trait of those in senior positions at the ECB.

    • AndyB September 10, 2018 at 6:32 pm - Reply

      Best comment was one on a thread in one of the papers. They claim he is now known as Mr Ed behind his back, in memory of the talking horse.

  14. Jamie September 10, 2018 at 6:26 pm - Reply

    Educate me. Why is Smith disliked so here?

    Seems to have done a good job since he’s come in. Good calls outweigh the bad ones.

    Are we being entirely objective?

    • James Morgan September 10, 2018 at 6:48 pm - Reply

      Not sure that’s right. Buttler was a great call but struggling to think of much else positive. Sam Curran has done well but not sure he’s one of the best four seamers in the country. It’s a bit like the Bess pick. Has impressed more with the willow. Let’s see how effective his bowling is abroad. Many others have done well in this country but struggled elsewhere.

      The main problems for me are the way he ignores the championship e.g. ignoring Rory Burns (whilst continuing to select Jennings). I also believed the selection of Rashid was an insult and I stick by it. I actually think Rashid has been ok, but he’s only played a peripheral role and has been out-bowled by Moeen, who was initially left out. Was all the fuss and his undermining of the championship therefore necessary?

      The batting order is also a complete mess, and as my article above points out, Smith has played a major (if not the most major) role in this. For example, the decision to call up Ollie Pope (knowing full well he’d bat at 4 because it was reported at the time of his selection) was a terrible decision and I really hope it doesn’t set young Ollie back. The faith shown in Jennings was also a bad pick.

      The main problems for me, however, stem from his overall philosophy – much of which he confirmed in the TMS article. The insistence on picking all rounders, rather than specialists, is misplaced imho. He’s basically taken an old discredited theory (picking the best all-round individuals and then trying to shoehorn them into a side rather than picking the best ‘team’) and tried to repackage this approach as something new and clever. It’s not.

      Other than that, I guess we can look back into the past a bit. Smith is establishment through and through, and was approached to apply for the job. This backs up Darren Gough (amongst others’) contention that his appointment was good old fashioned “jobs for the boys”.

      What’s more, Smith has always been a pro-establishment journalist. My suspicions were entrenched when he appeared on TMS to talk to Jarrod Kimber and Sam Collins about Death of a Gentleman. Rather than praising the films premise, he tried to undermine it (always the contrarian) and ended up defending the big 3 stitch up at the ICC. It made him seem like Giles Clarke’s best mate.

      Obviously I’m not surprised, however, that Smith’s successes have been emphasised and the problems all but ignored because, as a former journo, he’s mates with a lot of them. He therefore has lots of friends happy to write nice things. However, I think people are beginning to see through his logic. There was even a short lived section on Sky’s The Debate show questioning this ‘pick the best XI individuals’ was a bit, well, controversial – code for a load of old bollocks.

      • Cricketcricketcricket September 10, 2018 at 8:28 pm - Reply

        Buttler a great call?!?! He’s been crap and now has had one good series.. let’s not declare buttler a success just yet until he’s faced Australia (and scored 40+ avg) and faced Sa (although tbh, they haven’t been much cop for years now)

      • david thomas September 11, 2018 at 10:46 am - Reply

        What happen if your “best XI individuals” doesn’t include as wicket-keeper?

      • Jamie September 11, 2018 at 12:54 pm - Reply

        I am very much looking at his recent performance as selector; I don’t know enough to comment about his character or reputation before that (although I am not sure we are always entirely objective on those things!).

        Simplistically, I would see it as follows:

        Good selection calls: Buttler (bold call and so far looks like he nailed it), Curran (his bowling has been good too – check his numbers), Ali (returned well; outside chance he could still establish himself as number three)

        Uncertain: Rashid (a lot depends on whether he tours the winter; if he does and does well could yet turn out to be a masterstroke; if not then the disruption probably wasn’t worth the effort.

        Bad calls: Jennings. Should be apparent now and if he is selected for the tour I would agree. Probably not the worst call at the beginning of the series. Also Pope – one test was a mistake. Should have been given either extended run or not brought in at all. Without the benefit of hindsight bias I can see why this probably made sense at the time.

        Couldn’t disagree more on all-rounders – they were the reason we won the series! The biggest single failing during this series (and generally) was the specialist top order batsmen. All of the all-rounders (Bairstow excepted) contributed significantly. I genuinely can’t understand the objection here, this should be apparent to everybody.

        He needs to sort out openers and sounds like Burns is inked in; needs at least one (preferably two) other options so will be interested to see who he picks. Who are the other obvious calls on this? Are there any, in your view?

        Re “establishment” etc. I am not sure I care to comment on that regardless of whether it’s true / fair or not; my focus is on whether he does the job. So far, as far as I can see, he appears to have done well.

        • Jonathan Evans September 11, 2018 at 3:23 pm - Reply

          For me, the issue is less about the specific selections, but the overall plan, and the wildly contradictory justifications.

          Is Smith a selector who drops an opener who had a creditable Ashes tour after one test, or one who views 6 tests of demonstrating a complete inability to play the straight ball as too small a sample size?

          Is Rashid a spinner picked in an emergency because nobody else was fit, or a guy who barely bowls kept in the team for his batting at no 9 even when Leach was back to fitness and form?

          Is Curran being picked because his left arm variety forms part of the best bowling attack, or is he the one who makes way for a 4th RFM who’s barely fit to bowl?

          Plus, as well as Buttler’s done, he’s been playing (mostly) as a specialist 7, in a team where all-rounders such as Bairstow and Moeen who excel at 7 have been forced to bat in the top 5, where a young player who’d never batted above 6 for Surrey had to debut at 4, and the captain had to play most of the summer out of position. All because Smith’s first act as selector was to drop the no3 who’d scored 78 in his last test and has 3 div 1 100s this season and replace him with a luxury lower-middle-order player.

          I don’t think Vince is the answer, but at least with Vince it was the right question being asked.

          • Jamie September 11, 2018 at 3:36 pm - Reply

            Fair response. I also think James makes fair points although I disagree with some of them.

            However I’m not hearing a lot of proposed solutions (maybe slightly riskier to put one’s head on the line?). Seems to me that it’s a harder job than some give credit for, and let’s face is it – we love to moan. We’re England fans. I do think we complain more than any other set of fans.

            It could be illuminating to go back and check past predictions on these pages to see who would have made right or wrong calls to prove a point (not a great use of my time though!).

            For me the fundamental and most pressing need is to sort positions 1 to 3 to have the biggest impact on results. What are his options? Who should he select?

            • Cricketcricketcricket September 11, 2018 at 7:32 pm - Reply

              It’s a hard job because counties and the game is not producing test match quality in essentially positions 1,2,3,5!!

              It’s not hard because you need to be some highly skilled or qualified at anything.. it’s simply that the players aren’t there to pick, the game isn’t even looking at producing them either

              Let’s please stop pretending Jennings, moeen, Bairstow, Stokes, buttler are anything but not good enough or number 6/7’s.. until people are honest and then the game changes to produce the type of player you require the skills gap will grow until a point where you have to dumb the game down some more to accommodate

    • willie mohan September 11, 2018 at 8:02 pm - Reply

      He is disliked as he is perceived to be one of those imaginary toffs that people on here are convinced run English cricket, whilst lodging in Chateaus behind the lines drinking port and sending glum heroes up the line to death. In other words they think he is an establishment figure, although not one of them seems to have met, or spoken to him.

      • James Morgan September 12, 2018 at 9:12 am - Reply

        Ed Smith not establishment? Naturally it depends how one wants to define ‘establishment’ but he ticks many of the boxes. He went to Tonbridge, played for Middlesex, is extremely well connected in media circles, knows Andrew Strauss personally, and leapt to the ECB’s defence when they were criticised for their role in the shameful Big 3 ICC stitch up … which last time I heard is / was being investigated in parliament.

        Have you seen Death of A Gentleman? If not I suggest you do. Ed Smith criticised the film, which certainly reveals where his loyalties lie. Smith was also asked to apply for the job of national selector even though it wasn’t previously on his radar. I don’t know Ed Smith personally. But cricket fans do (or should) know enough about him to make characterisations. These characterisations may well be unfair, but that’s life.

        Can one not make judgements about Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johsnon, or Frank Field unless they know them personally? We have to go on what we know.

        • Willie mohan September 12, 2018 at 11:54 am - Reply

          So then, who do you think should be in charge of selection.

          • James Morgan September 12, 2018 at 2:02 pm - Reply

            Anyone who has a good cricket brain, good experience of county and international cricket, really wants to do the job, and who doesn’t have a conflict of interest.

            Journalists are not allowed to be selectors (which is why Ed Smith had to stand down from TMS to do the job) but my ideal candidate would be someone like Mike Atherton. A well respected figure who commands respect, not a quirky writer with quirky ideas who likes to overcomplicate things and defend the indefensible at the ICC. Alec Stewart would also fit the bill. These people would have to leave their current jobs, but then so did Ed Smith. They also have far greater experience of test cricket, and what life is like for a test cricketer on tour.

            • willie mohan September 12, 2018 at 5:29 pm - Reply

              But seeing as Smith has barely had his feet under the table and has picked a side that just had a series win against the No 1 rated side in the world, then I think you are being a tad harsh on him. . One would have thought that the ECB would have sounded out all and sundry before asking Smith to take the job. Maybe even Atherton and Stewart.

  15. Doug M September 10, 2018 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    Well I don’t have a Phd or University Degree and I’m not an academic. I don’t even really understand much of the drivel coming from Smith’s mouth either. However I have a Sports Diploma and a large proportion of my working life has been working in sport both professionaly and voluntarily, albeit not a lot in cricket. I tend to look at things more simply and use a largely forgotten term called “common sense”. Remember that? Well not many people in modern society do , and not meaning to cause offence, most supposed academics don’t process it, but blind you with a lot of incoherent rubbish to make themselves feel superior, little life experience and even less life skills in many cases. Smith fits this criteria exactly. A below average county cricketer, not particularly popular, trying to look intelligent.
    As already pointed out above you have to pick the best players for the job and position they need to fill. Certainly not 6 players, none of which should bat above 5 i.e. Stokes, Woakes, Moen, Bairstow, Curran and Butler. None of these fill the 1,2,3 slots. With, up to today at, least an out of form Root, no 4 looks a bit shaky to.
    I’m a bit tired of college boys in expensive suits and ex bankers and marketing consultants with little knowledge of the game running crickets supposed governing body, which to me seems to be trying to destroy the very game it is supposed to represent. Change needed top down, get some people with track suits and common sense in, if you can find any.

  16. jennyah46 September 10, 2018 at 8:29 pm - Reply

    I have now listened to the interview and I agree with every word you have written, including your replies to the contributors. Smith at the selection helm does not bode well for English cricket and we need all the help we can get. He was a pain in the arse on TMS and he’s doing as badly with this. I hope that we get shot of him soon but fear that is unlikely to happen.

  17. James Wilson September 10, 2018 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    Good points but remember that England have had blunt speaking selectors / managers in the past who’ve said utter nonsense. Illingworth complaining about “Malcom Devon” or Keith Fletcher telling us Gower was not considered on grounds of age make Ed Smith sound like a philosopher king.

    But l agree with much of your analysis. Test cricket has almost never been won by a team of all rounders, it is won far more often by specialists. Lloyd’s West Indians and Waugh’s Australia used to have only four specialist bowlers and no all rounders (Though Gilchrist was one of the best batsmen in the world – name another keeper who turned as many matches with the bat). And no bit part player ever stood a chance batting no 3 against Australia, it just won’t happen.

  18. Marc Evans September 10, 2018 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    You can’t use soccer analogies about team selection in cricket James. Positions in a football team are far more specialist than cricket, even today, where players have to be flexible to fit into different formations and tactical changes during a game. Soccer’s ultimate example being Paul Madeley for Leeds, who played in every outfield position without distinguishing himself at any, being picked as a utility player for his country. Yes Sir Alf would turn in his grave, looking at Smith’s approach, but under his tenure a great player like Greaves had no place. He would rather play Roger Hunt, who was not fit to tie Greavsies boot straps.
    Cricket is a different animal, a team game played by individuals, where Smith is merely continuing a trend, albeit a depressingly familiar one, of picking bits and pieces players (the whole package syndrome). This has been going on for decades, messing about with the batting order in order to incorporate your ‘best’ players, though it has become a real art form of crap under his tenure. This philosophy negates the idea of a specialist position for anyone except opening bats, though the repositioning of Root at 4 seems inconsistent with this. The old cliche of ‘jack of all trades’ comes to mind, which is totally consistent with white ball thinking and is encroaching on the red ball game. I fear the comparative success of Butler will be used as justification for saying any decent player should be able to bat where needed in order to incorporate the best players. Moin has been the sacrificial lamb in this match, where he is clearly uncomfortable and you are not going to get the best out of him there, but he has made an impact, albeit fortuitous. It is the fundamental flaw in this thinking that Batsmen are increasiningly seen by selectors as homogenous, as pretty much wherever they bat their approach seems similar. They all seem to have the same technical flaws and none of them seem comfortable concentrating for long periods. However, it is clear that even today most batsmen still have a favoured position and taken out of their comfort zone have trouble adapting.
    Smith has decided on a philosophy and fits all existing circumstances around that. In that sense he and Sir Alf have a lot in common. Do you balance your team or become a ‘team’ of individuals in the hope that somewhere along the line at least one player will bale you out. This is clear white ball thinking and has been successful in this series against what is a decent Indian side.

  19. Mick James September 10, 2018 at 10:21 pm - Reply

    Not sure if this is flawed logic on Smith’s part so much as him not wanting to say that no matter how hard he looks there don’t seem to be any replacements for Cook or (and let’s be frank about this) Andrew Strauss.

    Even if there were how would you spot them against county bowling—and how they would they haveacquired the necessary skills in the first place?

    A team composed of all-rounders and wicket keepers and Root seems a perfectly reasonable reponse to the demise of the opening batsman as a species. Whether England can survive long term as a Test nation that can’t produce opening batsmen or fast bowlers is another question

    • Marc Evans September 11, 2018 at 12:56 am - Reply

      The problem with Smith is that he only thinks in one dimension. I totally agree about there being no obvious successors to the likes of Cook and Anderson, but he has it in his power to initiate moves to encourage more technically proficient batting and bowling, particularly for the up and comings, who have yet to acquire white ball habits. He has shown no sign of being interested in promoting specialization, which is the first step to producing this, because it doesn’t fit his philosophy. This is the arrogance of the man and the reason the game at test level here will not move forward under him and England will continue to struggle abroad in alien conditions.
      Quick 50’s from talented but technically deficient batsmen and mediocre seamers unable to take wickets on flat tracks, are not going to win test series. We have yet to address these issues under him. People talk about Butler’s batting, but it’s Anderson’s bowling that’s given us the edge, even Kohli can’t cope with him. Now there is a specialist talent. Warwickshire have a real fast bowling prospect in Ollie Stone but he doesn’t bat and that is a major flaw for Ed Smith to get his head round. He’d rather go for Curran, a bowler who takes very few wickets, but makes useful runs. This means as a package he is a better prospect for Smith. You decide which you feel is the more constructive approach for long term success.
      We’ve been lucky in this series where their seamers have bowled better than ours without any luck. All our batsmen have struggled, playing and missing more than in any other series I can remember.

      • Willie mohan September 15, 2018 at 12:32 am - Reply

        The problem with Smith is that he knows more about the game than you.

  20. SaxophoneAlex September 11, 2018 at 12:59 am - Reply

    I always found Ed Smith rather irritating when he was a commentator on TMS for several years. Over analysing everything and making everything too complicated. I disliked the way he sneered once about Jack Leach, when someone else suggested Leach would be a good choice for England….”naaahhh” sneered our Ed. Something tells me he will be the sort to reject Rory Burns too, the established view being that Burns has a funny technique. I don’t get to see any cricket but reading about Burns and seeing his scores in the paper or online, he is clearly doing pretty well and surely deserves more of a chance than Jennings, who just looks like a walking wicket. South Africa were happy to let Jennings go, presumably they realised he didn’t have the technique for the highest level.
    Smith has a certain snobbery about him when he speaks, and he tried to impress by using complicated words or quoting philosophers etc. “Bullshit baffles brains…” as someone wiser than I once said, alas I cannot remember who it was. England have won this series and may even end up with a 4-1 win. And yet it has not been that convincing, with the usual batting frailties. Young Curran has been a positive and you feel he could have a very fine career ahead of him. Root struggles with the captaincy but I was pleased that he had least got a century today. Buttler has done pretty well, even if I was one of those not so sure of that particular selection. Moeen at number 3 doesn’t seem fair on him. The fact is that when India have been able to exert some pressure on England, we have rather crumbled. It could end up 4-1 but I feel we haven’t learned anything apart from the fact that Curran is talented and deserves a good run in the side. It wasn’t fair to put Ollie Pope up to number 4.
    I am going to hazard a possible team for the first Test match of this winter, based only on what I read or hear rather than seeing anyone actually play (funds do not allow me to have SKY or to attend live games).

    1. Rory Burns
    2. A right handed opener…suggestions please !
    3. James Vince…deserves one more go and didn’t do too badly in Australia
    4.Joe Root – still captain for now
    5. Ben Stokes
    6. Jos Buttler
    7. J Bairstow (wk)
    8. Moeen Ali
    9. Sam Curran
    10. Bess or Leach
    11. Woakes/Anderson/Broad – depending on fitness. Jimmy may want a winter off before one last tilt at the Aussies in 2019

    This would give three seamers and two spin options, plus Root too if needed. Something isn’t right about this line up to be sure but I would love to see what others on here would come up with, given that you all see the cricket, whereas I can only listen and read articles in the papers or online. I am assuming the pitches in Sri Lanka will spin as usual. Are there any good right-handed openers out there at the moment ? It is always good to have a right-hand and left-hand opening combination if possible.

    • Glemm September 11, 2018 at 8:57 am - Reply

      They will probably have Moeen as a batsman and have three spinners.

      Is this the first England test tour of Sri Lanka since 2011? Seems a long time.

    • James Morgan September 11, 2018 at 9:14 am - Reply

      Is that true re: Leach? If so he’s basically screwed. Smith gave all that BS about Leach’s lack of cricket, and that Rashid was only called up due to exceptional circumstances. Yet when Leach was fully fit, in rhythm, and taking lots of wickets, he was still ignored.

  21. Antony September 11, 2018 at 7:17 am - Reply

    So your message to all of those academics trying to find a cure for cancer, multiple sclerosis, etc is that if they made their language simpler than they would find that elusive cure?

    • James Morgan September 11, 2018 at 9:17 am - Reply

      What a strange comment. My brother in law is a scientist at Imperial. Of course I’m not saying that. I’m referring to a certain type of academic / philosopher. The Ed Smith type.

  22. Antony September 11, 2018 at 9:37 am - Reply

    It doesn’t read that way:

    “Many academics, on the other hand, like to explore the fringes of their ideas too, and often decorate their thoughts in unnecessarily complex language.”

    “most concepts (or ideas) were pretty simple.”

    There is some truth to what you are saying. Ed Smith is trying to make out that what he is doing is very clever – when really it is not. My interpretation of what you are saying is that this is because he is an academic. He is not academic. Overselling a concept does exist in academia but it exists in a lot (more) in other fields too – politics, corporate business, trades, sales, etc.

    • James Morgan September 11, 2018 at 10:22 am - Reply

      Hi Anthony. Sorry if you read it that way. I did say “many academics” not all academics. Perhaps “self-styled intellectuals” would have been a better expression.

      • Marc Evans September 11, 2018 at 11:10 am - Reply

        For self styled intellectual read ‘bullshitter’ as he has no new ideas, merely failed old ones, ‘The Pringle Syndrome’ if you like, yet no one seems able to pin him down to justify his, for want of a better word, ‘philosophy’. He was lucky with Butler, who played and missed as much as anyone.
        The key here is that he was asked to apply for the job in the first place by a white ball obsessed establishment who see no commercial viability in what we would call ‘traditional’ test cricket. Let’s not beat about the bush here, it’s all about money and nothing to do with standards. It’s lowest common denominator entertainment at the expense of real quality. An epitaph for ‘entertainment’ generally.

  23. Michael Hall September 11, 2018 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    It is encouraging that Ed Smith did this interview which I personally found interesting. When looking at his selections I find it difficult to be critical as there appears to be limited alternatives to those selected. Josh Buttler is a success and Chris Woakes and Sam Curran have both made contributions to winning Test matches this summer.

    The areas of doubt are the top of the order and spinners. In both cases the selection policy is giving a reasonable try to alternatives I am sure others will get there chance. As he said in interview you cannot just order a “number 3 batsman from the menu”. Time will tell but I feel Ed Smith has had quite a good first summer.

    • James Morgan September 11, 2018 at 7:34 pm - Reply

      Thanks for offering a different perspective, Michael. I’m sure many agree with you – albeit perhaps not on this blog.

    • Marc Evans September 12, 2018 at 3:14 am - Reply

      As I keep saying, no one is arguing about the lack of obvious alternatives, it’s the lack of initiative in promoting efforts to create them, by investing time and money into improving coaching standards. Smith and his white ball cronies have never shown an interest in this as they aren’t interested in specialists. They want to promote multi-purpose jack of all trades types. This is what he means when he refers to ‘packages’. This is old and now discredited thinking wrapped up in specious diatribe. We had 2 ‘spinners’ operating on a day 5 wicket into significant footmarks who took just 3 wickets between them. This is an example of Smith’s package players.

      • James Morgan September 12, 2018 at 9:16 am - Reply

        Somerset fans will tell us it was just the kind of wicket that Jack Leach excels on. A specialist spinner. Get the ball in the rough regularly.

    • Willie mohan September 15, 2018 at 12:36 am - Reply

      Michael you have committed a heinous offence on this blog, you had the temirity to disagree with Mr Morgan, who believes he, and he alone, should be selecting the team

  24. Sanjib Kumar Das September 14, 2018 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    thanks my friend u are catching the different dimensions.but somerset lacks a definite spinner ,which can be solved by having murli ,warne or saqlain as its bowling coach .but somerset also lacks a proper batting alrounder.

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