First the good news: unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 24 hours you’ll have heard that Alastair Cook has resigned as test captain. It’s the right decision. England need a more aggressive captain who shares the positive outlook of Trevor Bayliss and the team’s attacking young players.
However, there is some bad news: Andrew Strauss has started one of his famous ‘processes’ to find a new skipper. Cue endless management speak, cliches, and nauseating cheesy language that pretends the England cricket team is a corporation rather than a collection of guys playing sport.
Here’s what Strauss said yesterday about naming Cook successor:
There is a process to go through … now’s the chance for myself and selectors, and the coach, to have conversations amongst ourselves and some players in the England environment, to get an understanding of who the right person is, what their philosophy is, and how they intent to take the team forward, so that when we come to announce the new captain, we are sure he’s the right man.
How many ‘oh shut up’ moments did you spot in there? By my reckoning it’s four: “process”, “England environment” (one assumes cricketers are like white rhino who require a specific type of Namibian grass and 300 days of sunshine per year to enjoy a fulfilling life cycle), “philosophy” and “take the team forward”.
Strauss really comes across like a plonker at times. It’s like he’s trying to find the next CEO of Goldman Sachs rather than a cricketer. Everyone has to go through an interview. One can only imagine Ben Stokes’ response when asked about his specific cricketing philosophy: “Erm, I think we should try to, you know, not lose four nil boss”.
Although I’m being somewhat facetious here, there is a more serious point I’d like to make. Surely the fact that we need a ‘process’ reveals the lack of any proper succession planning? It’s almost like England have been caught unawares by Alastair’s decision and are only thinking about the future now.
Cook’s position has been in doubt for some time, so I find it absolutely extraordinary that there haven’t already been talks with management and senior players. Why should the world stop turning while Cook makes up his mind? England should have a captain ready and waiting. Other countries seem to manage it, so why can’t we?
The truth is that Strauss should already know what the chemistry is like in the dressing room. He should be in constant communication with Bayliss and Farbrace and know precisely where England should turn. The fact that England need a ‘process’ indicates to me that he’s out of touch … unless, of course, he just wants to go through a process for the sake of one because a good old process gets him excited.
I wonder what Joe Root makes of this ‘process’. He’s the official vice captain after all. Surely he’s the next cab off the rank … or should that be the next curriculum vitae to be vetted, analysed, assessed and measured? It’s hardly a vote of confidence in his abilities. And let’s not forget what happened to Ian Bell (who was test vice captain as recently as 2014) when someone else leapfrogged him in the captaincy pecking order.
There is another explanation for all this of course: everyone knows damn well that Root is taking over and this ‘process’ is just a sham. In which case why have one? A cynic might suggest this delay is just to give the English cricketing world time to pay homage to Alastair Cook … a luxury that obviously hasn’t been afforded to any other (more successful) England captains I can think of.
Anyway, for the time being let’s just assume that there really is a process. Oh to be a fly on the wall during each painstaking stage. I bet Strauss has invented some kind of system whereby data has been gathered on each candidate and then put through a computer algorithm. The formula will probably end up ranking Root, Bairstow, Broad and Co according to their cricketing IQ, looks, education, speaking voice, and general ability to brown-nose the authorities and make middle-class women and sponsors swoon.
Obviously I have a much better idea. Just get the team and management together one evening, have a chat, have a couple of beers, and then make a bloody decision. Or is that just too simple and straightforward for the corporate juggernaut that English cricket has become?
Oh how I pine for the days of David Gower and his ‘I’m in charge’ T-shirt. At least it was fun when we were crap.