Spin and the Downton Downturn


Sometimes clever people make things far more complicated than they need to be. Here’s what Paul Downton, a highly intelligent and articulate man, should have said about Alastair Cook and the England cricket team on Monday:

“I can understand the fans’ concerns. It’s not going to plan at the moment. Alastair hasn’t scored runs for an awful long time, the team is an awful slump, and we’re not improving enough … if at all”

“We’ll be having a frank discussion about what we can do, at this late stage, to give us a better chance at the World Cup – but giving the captaincy to someone else, and removing Alastair from the team, isn’t automatically going to make us world beaters”.

“All options are on the table, and of course we’ll discuss them thoroughly, but there is still a case for keeping Alastair. Our vice captain, Eoin Morgan is also going through a bad patch, it’s risky to burden Joe Root with the captaincy at this stage of his career, and Stuart Broad is under an injury cloud”.

“Alex Hales, the alternative opener, is also in poor form. Alastair isn’t the only one struggling for runs, and before we make a decision as dramatic as dropping the captain at the eleventh hour we need to be confident that there’s a competent replacement lined up”.

“I must repeat that we understand the fans’ frustrations. We’re fans ourselves, and we desperately want England to win. But putting all the focus on one individual isn’t helping. Results are more likely to improve in the short term if everyone gets behind the captain rather than criticising him.”

“Unfortunately there is no proven captain like Brearley or prolific opener like Gooch waiting in the wings, so we have to make the best of what we’ve got. And in the opinion of those closest to the dressing room – the people in the best position to judge – Alastair is still the best leader available”.

“I’d also like to say that we stick by our decision to sack Kevin Pietersen. I know a lot of fans love Kevin, and we should have handled things more openly in hindsight, but the problem is there was no smoking gun: there was no single thing that Kevin did or said that sealed his fate … and because of that it was always going to be difficult to explain our decision clearly”.

“I think the best way of explaining it is this: when times are good and the team is winning, Kevin is a good teammate. However, when things are going wrong – and after the Ashes we suspected there would be plenty more tough times as we bedded in new players – then Kevin becomes something of a vocal dissident.”

“Kevin has always been a very strong and opinionated character, and he has very firm ideas about the way things should be done. Sometimes this can boil over into disaffection and petulance, and we didn’t want this kind of character undermining the captain and new coach”.

“In years gone by, Kevin was always surrounded by other vocal senior players: Vaughan, Swann, Collingwood and Flintoff for example. These were all strong personalities and they all acted as a kind of bulwark. In the post-Ashes dressing room, when these strong characters were replaced my impressionable youngsters feeling their way, we didn’t think a personality as strong as Kevin’s could be contained.”

“Basically, we think keeping Kevin would have been a recipe for disaster. If results had gone against us, we could not trust Kevin to support the captain and coaches 100% without shooting his mouth off and being disruptive.”

“I understand the fans’ frustration in all this, as Kevin was a brilliant player and really enjoyable to watch, but we just felt that (considering this diminishing form and age) that he wouldn’t be worth the hassle anymore.”

Had Downton given a clear, honest, interview like this, I might have had some sympathy for him. He might have even convinced fans like me (supporters who are ambivalent about both Cook and Pietersen) that the ECB are making decisions based on logic rather than prejudice.

Unfortunately however, we never get straight, forthright interviews from the suits at Lord’s. We get half-truths, innuendo, shameless spin, blustering pomposity and irritating evasions.

When talking about England’s series defeat to Sri Lanka, Downton enthused about how competitive Cook’s team had been: “We pushed Sri Lanka hard and it’s taken world class innings from Sangakkara to beat us”.

Really? We got hammered 2-5 and the only two games we won were a shortened match (which levels out the teams) and a match in which the weather saved us from having to bat under lights.

When discussing the so-called positives from the tour, Downton suggested our batsmen had improved markedly against slow bowling: “They way we’ve played spin has been revelationary”.

I couldn’t believe my ears. Everyone knows that (a) England are still awful at playing spin, and (b) there’s no such word as ‘revelationary’.

Then we came to the media’s favourite fallacy: apparently “the young players are thriving” under Cook and Moores’ stewardship.

Again this is codswallop. The truth is that some of the young players are thriving (Ballance, Moeen, Buttler, Woakes) but others clearly are not – just like any other England team environment in the recent past.

To pretend that Moores and Cook have created a magical environment in which young players are miraculously blossoming like flowers in an arid unforgiving land is a fairytale. If you think Stokes, Hales, Finn, Robson and Jordan have improved then I politely suggest you think again.

It was exactly a year ago that Ben Stokes scored 120 at Perth. He was the jewel in England’s crown: a world-class all-rounder in the making. Since then he’s gone backwards faster than a malfunctioning Segway.

Hales has also been extremely disappointing. Not long ago, Hales was the world’s best T20 player and England’s David Warner in waiting. Fat chance. Cook (who doesn’t play T20s remember) and Moores have mucked him around and transformed the strutting Outlaw into a stuttering outsider.

I won’t talk too much about Finn as it’s all so sad: he still hasn’t found the two yards of pace he lost eighteen months ago. His action looks mechanical and unnatural. One wonders what the coaches are doing.

And then there’s Jordan, who is rapidly becoming the new Chris Lewis. Did you know he has bowled more than twice as many ODI wides (70) than any other bowler in international cricket this year. Morne Morkel is second with 29. Talent is no good unless it produces consistently.

I know I’m sounding like Victor Meldrew on a bad day now, but even some of the success stories come with caveats. Despite being absolutely brilliant this summer, Ballance isn’t even in England’s ODI squad. I’d like to know why?

Meanwhile, Moeen’s bowling has been more consistent than his batting – and this was thanks to advice from Ian Bell rather than Cook (who initially didn’t trust him to bowl more than the single obligatory over before lunch). And is Buttler really fulfilling his potential? Since his amazing century at Lord’s against Sri Lanka, he’s been relatively quiet in ODIs despite his outrageous talent.

And then, inevitably, we come to the Pietersen debacle. I’ll take a deep breath. Surely Downton had something significant to say? It was, after all, his first appearance since KP’s book.

“We’ve explained the reasons for Kevin’s sacking to fans as much as one ever can”. That’s all he said.

If Downton has explained the Pietersen decision as much as he can, then he must be either painfully shy or the world’s most unlikely mute.

As we all know, all Downton has said is stuff about KP being disengaged, made somewhat oblique references to team ‘culture’, and leaked a dodgy dossier that made the ECB look petty. You really think that’s enough, Paul?

As I’ve said plenty of times on this blog, I was not a massive KP fan. I disliked his showboating (when it cost him his wicket) and I’m someone who gravitates towards understated characters like Atherton more than flamboyant guys like Botham.

However, due to the lack of clarity from the ECB, and the testimony from the likes of Swann (initially), Stokes, Root, Bairstow, Morgan, Root, Carberry, Monty and Tremlett (who have supported Pietersen and praised his approach in Australia) I simply do not believe Downton’s line. Maybe if he had explained himself more clearly …

Finally we come to the burning issue: the future of Alastair Cook. Downton insists the ECB’s darling is the man to captain England because his track record suggests he’ll score runs again one day.

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but these runs were all in the past. Yet Downton doesn’t want to talk about Pietersen because … it’s all in the past. The mind boggles.

What’s more, Cook hasn’t scored a century for England in any form of the game for 59 innings. This can’t be swept under the carpet. As far as I’m aware, no other player in the history of cricket has endured such a lean run without being dropped.

Mark Taylor, the former Australia captain, resigned after just 13 innings without a ton. The innings immediately before that run was 334* against Pakistan. And let’s nor forget that Tubby was an excellent captain. Cook is not.

Taylor resigned in part because his poor form was becoming a distraction. Cook doesn’t seem to care how much his presence is becoming a distraction – or how much it forces Hales and Taylor to bat out of position, or in Bopara’s case forced out of the side altogether.

As for why this run of abysmal form is tolerated, Downton claimed: “It would take more risk to change” captains now. If the risk is England losing matches Paul, then we’re already there. How could things get any worse?

Downton’s position was made even more absurd by his claim that “there are a lot of potential leaders in the current side” because Root and Taylor have captained the Lions. And there was me thinking that Cook was captain because there was no alternative.

Rather than pretending that the England side is full of leaders, and Cook is the ‘natural leader’ of this burgeoning crop of field generals – as if this elevates him to super-leader status, and thus reinforces the wisdom of retaining him – why not just be honest?

The bottom line is that nobody buys this nonsense. We’ve all read ex-players in the media saying that Cook is quiet and unassuming, and that Prior used to do his team-talks, so why pretend that Cook is the alpha male he so clearly isn’t.

And why use phrases like “the dressing room is finally his” when he’s been in the job for three years and the likes of Pietersen and Swann disappeared eleven months ago?

My advice to Paul Downton is therefore this: we are not stupid. We can see through your disingenuous platitudes. Just be honest with the fans. Don’t pretend that things are rosier than they are – and stop pretending that Alastair Cook is the Messiah and Kevin Pietersen is Beelzebub.

So next time you’re tempted to call Peter Moores “the outstanding coach of his generation” pause for thought. Stop trying to make your decisions look better than they really are. If Moores is so good, how come he’s never won a single limited overs trophy in county cricket?

What I’m trying to say is that England cricket fans are smart cookies. We aren’t wet-behind-the-ears interns on our first day in a City office. We’ve seen the likes of you before – and we’ll still be here long after you’ve crawled back to the business world.

You had a chance to make meaningful changes after the Ashes whitewash and you blew it: you promoted a coach whose methods were stale, placed your faith in a declining batsmen with no discernible captaincy skills, reappointed a coach who had already failed in the job, and miscalculated by sacking the team’s most entertaining batsman (at a time when attendances were falling) without explaining yourself properly.

All things considered, you’ve made a pretty dreadful start Mr Downton. And interviews like the one you gave on Monday aren’t helping.

James Morgan



  • Nicely-written, James. Downton is truly depressing to hear speak, an embodiment of those management-types evading any sense of responsibility, or the ability to speak clearly. We all know the type; it’s just so depressing to see it at the head of English Cricket. Back in 2009 it really looked like the national team was getting it’s act together long-term. It’s the hope that kills you…

  • I read somewhere that Jordan has a flaw in his action – three fingers and across the seam I think grip the ball, making it much harder to control. You don’t want to reconstruct a bowler’s action or technique at that stage – after all that was what got him to the stage he’s at in the first place. But, when there are consistent issues, revolving around control, you would expect him to get some help.
    England are rudderless fro the top down. Downtown is weak, Whittaker is weak and forget this tosh about Cook being a strong guy, he’s weak too. Was never a fan of the set up – after Moores took over I felt we needed a true fresh start. But we are in danger of ruining a lot of the talent we have available to us. We are stifling what could be top of the range cricketers for the sake of personal pride and appearance. I don’t see a way out of this any time soon.

  • The problem is there are not enough Essex players either past or present in the current set up to support Cook.

  • This is a brilliant article James. Well done. Regrettably Paul Downton is a disgraceful man – full of arrogance and devoid of honesty and integrity – and he will not heed your advice.

  • Powerful, damning, accurate.

    Whilst mentioning power, it is always important when dealing with organisations to ask the question: ‘where’s the power?’ Follow the power map back to its source.

    The power remains in the hands of … not Cook, not Whitaker, not Downton, not Moores … probably not even G Clarke … it’s Flower.

    Every dumb decision originates from the decision to keep Flower and his management philosophy/culture – this is so business based that it wins Clarke’s total support. And Clarke’s position derives from the cash he has generated, especially for the Counties.

    No-one other than Moores would a) have been acceptable to Flower and b) have accepted the limited scope of the coaching job on offer. England chose a local lad when someone of world class was essential.

    Flower and Moores have to have Cook until Root is thought ready. Ditto Morgan. So having inked those three batsmen into certain positions others have to be batted out of position, and others excluded from the side. It is the price of having a compliant Captain (see Clive Woodward piece on the paramountcy of the Coach).

    This rickety edifice is bolstered by carefully distributed access to information that produces a compliant (client status) mainstream media. Though Mann did a better job than most with his opportunity.

    Carefully distributed access to cricketing development opportunities from 15 years of age onwards, and the isolation of the England development programmes from counties creates, client-like and compliant cricketing talent to the exclusion of those who do not pass the Flower Entrance Exams and regular Performance Reviews. No one is picked or deemed selectable who has not come through this factory.

    It’s Fordism is a Post-Ford cricketing world. It is anathema to Generation Y cricketers which is why so many of our Generation Y cricketers are not able to express their full potential in this regime,

    This is the business strategy dictating the cricket strategy that dictates the development strategy that dictates the selection strategy, that dictates the communications strategy that so frustrates everyone and which James demolishes above.

    The system is not far from the right one, and it has a lot of cash at its disposal, but under the control of Flower it is wholly malignant..

    If Downton and Whitaker have anything about them, they need to use the limited amount of power they have to insist on the removal of Flower and the replacement of Moores immediately after the WC and to create their own distinctive cricketing culture that Generation Y cricketers can thrive in.

    Sorry a bit long.

  • Good commentary.

    Just one point – when the ECB and their lackeys and embedded journos would like us to believe that “considering KP’s diminishing form and age, he wouldn’t be worth the hassle anymore”, they forget that Tilakaratne Dilshan, the Man of the Series in Sri Lanka, is a 38 year old. Mahela Jayewardane and Kumar Sangakarra (legends of the game, both) are 37 years old. Jacques Kallis hit a purple patch after 36 years of age. of course Tendulkar went on to play till 40, with some exhilarating innings in his late 30s. Yet KP is 34 years old, with arguably 3-4 good years as a top-class destructive batsman left in him.

    Bottomline – England do not know how to manage mavericks and non-conformists. And KP being a late entrant into qualifying to play for England coupled with a brash attitude well aware of his own capabilities never did sit well with the ECB suits, and their lackeys in the corridors of power and the newsrooms.

  • This is a wonderful piece of writing James, together with a vivid and perceptive analysis of Downton and the current situation. The thing is, leaving the lies and obfuscation aside, where do we go from here? If Cook were to be stood down the alternative openers are not so clear cut. A ‘stuttering’ Hales together with a risk taking Ali are unlikely to be the best thing. It might be somewhat reactionary but we could bring back Bell to open with Ali. If Hales should suddenly come good and I hope he does, he and Ali will always be an inconsistent and risky pair. I’m sure inothing could be much worse than what we have now, but does anyone out there have any good ideas, or is it not worth the bother till we are certain of Cook’s position?

    PS. Liked the artwork on the header also!

    • A change of captain, with a more relaxed and instinctive approach to the game, should see a return to form of a few of these players. I’m convinced the setup has as much to do with form as anything else.

    • Personally I would make Broad captain if he can prove his fitness, and let Bell open with Moeen if Hales doesn’t show improvement in the warm-up matches. Bell is a better player than Cook (in all forms of the game imho, with a better technique and a better range of stokes), so in Trott’s absence he can play the anchor role if needs be; plus he’s right handed so more of a foil for Ali. I realise Bell has underachieved a bit in recent ODIs but I can’t think of a better option considering there’s no time to blood anybody else.

      • Agree. I wonder how some of the others are thinking. Hales and Ali were a given before the form suffered. Even if Hales begins to come good I still see them as heavily calculated risk. Is that what we want? What we really, really want? :)

      • Agree with you re Bell – he’s deemed a bit of a ODI failure after 150 odd caps, but he’s been shunted up and down the order like a yo-yo, reflecting England’s muddled thinking in ODI cricket (which stretches back about 20 years).

        I’ve always thought that opener was his best slot and his record at the top of the order is actually pretty good (averages c40 at a decent strike rate there).

    • It is very noticeable, that potentially great and (currently) talented players, once they get into the “England set up” quickly become shadows of their potential selves? Uncertain, unsure, nervous? Maybe it’s because they are all commanded to play around Cook and protect his position? Who knows? It just seems to me that their minds become fuddled with the management restraints on their talents? None of the young Turks were brought into the side through some kind of development route, they were all drafted in through retirements, injuries, and suspension of the incumbents!
      The whole set up is swimming in a sea of bullshit…Morgan made the point exactly when he was Captain for a day…”No frills, no bullshit”…I muse as to what exactly he was trying to tell us??????
      “IronBalls” McGinty…getting fed up of having to sign in every time I write a comment!

  • “I won’t talk too much about Finn as it’s all so sad: he still hasn’t found the two yards of pace he lost eighteen months ago”.

    Speed-gun readings (available on Cricinfo under the Hawk-eye section with the scorecards) show that Finn didn’t bowl a single delivery over 90 mph in the series. Only Woakes in the 6th ODI managed to break 90 mph.

    I’m not of course arguing that selection should be based on speed-gun readings. However if you are going to base your bowling strategy on half-trackers than it might help if the bowlers had some pace. Is Saker capable of any bowling strategy other than “bowl more short stuff – they don’t like it up ’em!”. How he is still in a job mystifies me. On second thoughts, having seen his bosses, it doesn’t.

  • Thanks for all your kind comments.

    I think the bowling short tactic comes from Moores (the genius). Ex-players’ autobiographies reveal how he was always keen on aggressive posturing. If only we had Mitchell Johnson to execute the strategy rather than a group of medium-fast seamers. Look at what they tried to get Plunkett to do earlier this summer. Good bowler bowling to ridiculous plans. Bouncers are best used as a shock tactics imho, unless you’ve got Sylvester Clarke and Joel Garner in your XI ;-)

    I think Moores needs to rethink. You’d think the best coach of his generation would be flexible, right?!

    • Short bowling on dead pitches, like many of these pitches are, is a waste by any bowler. We have shown where our strengths lie in the Test series we won in the summer. Moores and Flower coach by a computer screen – they aren’t instinctive coaches. Great article though!

    • Australia would play Hales. Simple. But then they want to score fast. Hit sixes. And win. They’d probably tell him. “No worries mate, you’re in and and that’s where you’ll stay. Do your stuff. Work those levers.”

      There really is nothing to lose by playing the young bloods and sticking to them. Cricket is about opportunity cost. The costs of sticking with light weights are the lost opportunities to bring on the mighty ones. England’s horizons are so narrow.

      ODI cricket is already about hitting home runs.

    • Moores is a good *fitness coach*. Period. Pietersen knew that first time round. And he wasn’t wrong. He’ll save the odd one or two in the outfield with that. But he’ll never win cricket matches.

    • Hi James,
      Thanks as always for taking the time and trouble to reply. The thoughfulness and politeness of yours and Maxie’s replies are much appreciated. They also stand in stark contrast to the replies one gets BTL from so-called mainstream journos.

      I wasn’t trying to excuse Moores by blaming Saker – there is more than enough to go round! I’m sure you’re a regular listener of Switch Hit on Cricinfo and I recommend what George Dobell has to say about Saker in this week’s edition. It was what I was trying to say only put a heck of a lot better!

      • Thanks Simon. I agree with you that Saker is a bit of a relic from the previous regime and his record is mixed. I didn’t mean to let him off the hook entirely :-)

        • Thanks Arron – I’m not on Twitter so wouldn’t have seen that otherwise. Doesn’t quite beat “impertinent” but it’ll do!

          Maxie and James – if you see this, please do a piece on the international schedules and venues up to 2019 because what is going on there is a fucking disgrace. (That’s just from what I understand – it’s probably worse than that). I’ve had a rant at the end of this week’s The Spin but the relevant article doesn’t have any comments so people are only going to blunder on to it by chance.

            • SimonH and myself have explained our position here:


              I would love to elaborate on the stand-alone ODI issue, because it genuinely pissed me off more than anything (apart from the Big Three stitch-up, of which it was a harbinger) since the dropping of Gower and recall of Gatting in 1992. To see it being repeated in 2018, without the reasoning offered previously, is an enormous kick in the teeth.

              • Thanks for this. Yes, Simon, I will try and put a piece together on this tomorrow. It’s my understanding though – correct me if wrong – that the tours had been arranged some time ago. What’s new today is the announcement of which venues will get games – and which ones.

                The ECB press release – link is at bottom of new post (Picking Through The Bones) refers to a new ECB-county financial arrangement – without saying what it actually involves.

  • I am very much in the KP camp because when I spend £80 on a ticket he was the one player I loved to watch. Did also enjoy watching Bell and Prior as well. ( And I was there day 3 of last year’s oval ashes test when Eng scored 220 runs in 98 overs)

    However, on to the point about the environment. I think it has been said certain faces didn’t fit when they came in ( Compton for one) therefore it can’t be easy for them. The current young players, like most, are inconsistent though the form of Stokes is worrying. Is this the same player I saw smash 150 in a semi final.

    James, you are absolutely spot on about Mooen not been given a chance, and what about Buttler ( not ready for test cricket) and James Taylor (been knocking on the door all year) These 3 year have been set up to fail and have succeeded DESPITE the whole set up. And it is no wonder a talent like Hales is not flourishing when he keeps getting mucked about.

    But finally the whole Cook saga throws up an important issue. We are mucking about / destroying people’s careers. He has seen off 4 openers ( Compton, Root, Carberry and Robson_ none of whom have performed worse than him. Perhaps if he was batting fluently it would make life easier for them. Now the one day batting line up is being mucked around and yesterday it was taylor who was moved to 5 and bopara axed. ALl very strange.

    Sad thing is I care very much about English cricket and want us to succeed. I hope we have a great world cup but it is so sad that the majority of the guys are being treated so poorly whilst Cook is having a damaging effect on the whole team. My respect for him has gone.

    • Maxie and I have long complained about the preferential treatment Cook has received throughout his career. In fact, one of the first articles we wrote back in 2009 or 2010 was why Cook endures such horrible dips in form yet still gets selected. It really is unprecedented. He’s been the chosen one since he captained England U19s ten years ago, and I’ve never quite understood why. After all, his Test record is almost identical to that of Bell and Trott (and slightly worse than KP) yet all these players have been considered expendable at various stages.

      I think the problem is that the ECB chooses the England captain rather than the coach. Or at the very least they rubber stamp it. This seems bizarre in modern sport. Can you imagine the RFU or FA appointing the captain rather than Sir Clive Woodward or Alf Ramsay? Situations like this often lead to the erosion of an ostensible meritocracy. The ECB are old fashioned and rather elitist in outlook, and sometimes their preference of captain reflects that. This is probably a discussion for another article, but sometimes I think the Aussie way ie pick your best XI and then choose a captain from that, is better.

      • The Australian system of appointment – at least in terms of procedure – is essentially identical; the selectors can suggest/nominate a captain, but then the board has to approve/appoint him.

        It was discussed yesterday regarding Steve Smith.

        • Thanks Tristan. I suppose the difference is whether the ECB representative sits in on selection meetings (as Downton is doing) to make sure the selectors make the right choice ;-)

          I think the problem is that ECB are deciding who the captain should be (irrespective of whether he’s one of the best XI players) and therefore preventing the best XI from taking the field, rather than rubber stamping someone who is already in the best XI and deserves to be there. Is that fair comment?

          • Yeah, I recognize the point you’re making – which was why I specified the procedure – but the Australians have been quoted a few times on these pages recently along the lines of ‘The Australians would never do this etc’, so I thought I would clarify. There’s a lot of mythology about the way Australian cricket is run.

            I don’t actually think it’s that odd for the board to have a role in who the captain is. It’s a big part of the sport and there are certain considerations which go beyond mere selection.

            However, I entirely agree that what Downton is doing is outrageous. By taking the position he is – declaring Cook will be captain in advance – it means the selectors aren’t just making a decision, they are making a decision with the knowledge that to deselect Cook is to take a stand against the wishes of their boss. Moores and Whitaker have basically done the same; declared the outcome of a meeting before they’ve had the meeting. Newell and Fraser are in an impossible position.

  • In the same way Downton could have made a speech along the lines James suggested, Cook also could have made things better for himself. He could have taken the advice of many of his supporters and friends and resigned the ODI captaincy. The likes of Agnew, Selvey, and Swann all urged him to give it away. Many have remarked about his problems leaving the ball outside off stump, and how his ODI game has effected his test form. He could then have taken the moral high ground by saying he was doing it for the benefit of England.

    He could instead have taken the winter off and spent it with his family,and prepared for the treadmill of Test cricket his bosses have arranged over the next 18 months. But he chose not to do so. I suspect in part seduced by the endless drivel written by fleet streets finest. They compared England’s come back in the test series against India as akin to Dunkirk. Also, he knows England can lose all their group matches in the World Cup to the big sides, and still go through to the quater finals. Cook could luck his way to a semi final place.

    If he resigns now, he will have wasted all of England’s preparations. So he will probably carry on. What has now been revealed is an ECB that is not fit for purpose. In some ways getting rid of a Cook will be meaningless because he will be replaced with another captain who will be another clone. It is quite clear they don’t want to give it to Morgan. I suspect because he may play IPL in the future, and that could be very embarrassing seeing all the KP business. Cook has to stay until the next yes man can be found.

  • “And then there’s Jordan, who is rapidly becoming the new Chris Lewis. Did you know he has bowled more than twice as many ODI wides (70) than any other bowler in international cricket this year. Morne Morkel is second with 29.”

    Very interesting statistics. Interesting.

  • “Cook hasn’t scored a century for England in any form of the game for 59 innings. This can’t be swept under the carpet. As far as I’m aware, no other player in the history of cricket has endured such a lean run without being dropped”.

    Cook should resign or be sacked as ODI captain, dropped as an ODI player and quite possibly given a spell out of the Test team. I’m not writing this to suggest otherwise. However there have been examples of class players having quite extended declines in form. Graeme Smith is one – he went over two years from 2005 to 2007 without a Test century (averaging 29.4 in 16 Tests). Shivnarine Chanderpaul twice has had periods over two years without a Test century (1998-2002 and 2005-07). I’m not sure if Chanderpaul was dropped but I’d be confident that Smith wasn’t. Both kept up their ODI form though – Smith scored three ODI centuries during his Test drought.

    All left-handers with unorthodox techniques – coincidence? (Yes, probably). I wonder if Smith is the player closest to Cook in some ways. Cook seems very reluctant to talk to people outside the England set-up so I doubt he’d ever consult him which seems a shame.

    • Smith is a good comparison in terms of pure batting. THA has mentioned this to me before. I agree to a large extent. Although we should also mention that Smith is a much better captain than Cook.

    • SimonH – I think here is where the treatment of other players – and yes that includes KP – raises itself as an issue. There is absolutely a value to loyalty in selection – we have the saying “form is temporary, class is permanent” – but when you jettison players for non-performance (KP in Tests, Bell and others in ODIs) who are performing better than “the golden boy” you start to have a problem…


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