A very thought-provoking article by Simon Hughes in today’s Daily Telegraph. He argues that England’s forensic coaching techniques and vigorous attention to detail are propelling our side to the top of the world rankings.
As he points out, our test record since February 2009 is P20 W10 D8 L2. But six of those wins were against weak Bangladeshi and West Indian opposition. The mere two defeats is perhaps a more telling statistic.
Hughes flags up two interesting talking points. First, are we en route to the test world championship? Our side feels potent, professional and energetic – but still somehow lacking substance. Compare the fragility of our batting with the solidity of India and South Africa’s. We can make a stronger case for the bowling. In home conditions our attack are as least as good as any other nation’s.
Secondly, does the best coached side become the best performing side? The romantic in us hopes not. More fun, surely, to see a match decided by flair and genius, rather than Excel spreadsheets and beep tests. This tension within cricket is best exemplified by the tortuous relationship between ex-Australian coach John Buchanan, and Shane Warne, who once called the former “a goose with verbal diarrhoea”.
At the risk of stating the bleeding, you need great players to form a great side. But right now you probably don’t need to be all that great a team to top the world rankings. There are currently five ‘good’ test sides, all within range of each other: England, Sri Lanka, Australia, South Africa and India. In such close contests, minor technical superiorities achieved through meticulous preparation could actually make the difference between winning and losing.