“Don’t worry boys, I’ve got a plan. We’re going to do exactly the same things that didn’t work in the UAE”
Only a few things in life are certain: death, taxes and England’s management making the same mistakes again and again.
When Alastair Cook was made captain, and Andrew Strauss (noble servant that he was) took his conservative behind to the retirement home, I really hoped things would be different. No longer would we have to endure this wrongheaded strategy of ‘sitting in the game’, supposedly building pressure, and relying on the same old boys to get the job done. How wrong I was.
I suppose I should have seen the signs; after all why was Stuart Broad made vice captain? It surely wasn’t his form with either bat or ball. Maybe it was reward for turning himself into an innocuous medium pacer: ‘why bowl with any aggression or try anything different when I can get a big pat on the back from Andy Flower for bowling three feet outside off stump all day’?
Lack of initiative cost England the series against South Africa a few months ago. Even though a three seamer combo of Anderson, Broad and Bresnan had failed to trouble Darren Sammy and Tino Best earlier in the summer, they were given the responsibility of bowling out Kallis and Co. Why? Because those were the guys who won the Ashes against the weakest Australian team in living memory. Therefore in the management’s eyes they could do no wrong.
Those of us who predicted the reverse against the Cricketboks – I warned repeatedly that we’d be outgunned by South Africa’s five man attack – are therefore gutted, and a little bit mystified, why the same old stooges have been selected again. This is, after all, the the driest, least responsive surface a seamer could encounter anywhere in the world.
Over the last twelve months, Flower has forgotten that it’s genuine pace and quality spin that wins test matches – and that truism rings even truer on surfaces like this one in Ahmedabad.
Rather than picking three typical English seamers, an attack of Swann, Panesar, Kerrigan and Tredwell would have been more effective. Ok, this is being facetious, but you get my point.
If Monty isn’t going to play on pitches like this one, when exactly is he going to play? How can someone with Flower’s vast experience make such a fundamental, and to be honest quite embarrassing, error of judgement?
It’s all very well putting your faith in ‘reverse swing’, but Tim Bresnan is hardly Waqar Younis. Swing isn’t going to trouble quality players if the bowler’s operating at a pedestrian 77mph.
The management’s failings don’t end with team selection. England’s approach in the final session today was exactly the same as in the first test against Pakistan earlier this year. When faced with the spinning ball, our batsmen react in such a predictable way: we block it ad nauseum, stay rooted to the crease, and eventually bat-pad it to short leg.
Flower and Gooch have had twelve months to come up with something different – that’s twelve months of watching video footage of guys like Michael Clarke moving their feet and skipping down the wicket – yet our batsmen produce the same old tripe.
We even selected what must be one of the stodgiest top threes in the history of test cricket. No wonder MS Dhoni opened with a spinner. Even with half his fielders surrounding the bat, he knew England’s batsmen wouldn’t take the opportunity to score.
As you can probably tell, the jam from my doughnut was well and truly missing this morning. I’ve got the hump and I’ve got it bad. The pitch really started to break up in the final hour (and began turning dramatically) so this game is as good as lost already. Therefore, I’ll end my rant on a typically depressing and critical note (literally).
Dear Andy Flower,
When the next test comes around, please take note how India – the team that knows these conditions inside out – approach the game.
Please take note of the team they select i.e. two seamers and two specialist spinners.
You’d also do well to note that they don’t pick guys like Yusuf Pathan i.e. blokes that bowl a bit and bat a bit (at least not until the ODIs anyway).
Although I fully expect you to pick exactly the same side again next time – well, you wouldn’t want to look weak – please ditch the dogma and the fallacies.
Sort it out. Now. You Wally.