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The Year That Was, And The Year(s) Ahead

Progress. I guess that’s the word people will use to describe 2018. Our ODI team continues to blossom, and our test team has finally shown signs of life too. The year started badly with a 0-4 drubbing in Australia, and an unsatisfying 1-1 draw at home to Pakistan. However, things improved thereafter with an enthralling 4-1 win over India (although the series was closer than the score suggests), and a somewhat surreal but surely significant 3-0 win in Sri Lanka.

There’s just one problem: off the field English cricket continues to be run by an aloof governing body that’s completely out of touch with supporters and continues to undermine first class cricket. Consequently I find it pretty hard to be positive about the future, even if the England teams have made modest progress in the last six months.

If the ECB continues to marginalise the championship in order to facilitate a completely unnecessary new white ball format – a vanity project that’s all about ego and money – then any progress the test team makes in the short-term is basically irrelevant. In the long-run our test team is doomed unless we can improve the quality of our domestic red ball cricket. And that’s never going to happen if the championship continues to be an after thought – almost a scheduling inconvenience – to those in charge.

The next two years are therefore going to be crucial. If England win the World Cup and the Hundred proves successful (heaven knows how but I guess there’s a chance it might gain some traction if they throw enough money at it), then the perception will be that English cricket is in rude health. Graves and Harrison will therefore be able to give their critics the finger. The fact that domestic 50 over cricket will only play a very minor role in the schedule moving forward (an irony which will immediately handicap our newly crowned world champions) will be forgotten and successfully brushed under the carpet.

England might also win the Ashes next year too – which I assume will be achieved on a series of green tops specially prepared for Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad – which will entrench the perception that the lunatics currently running the asylum are not completely insane after all. Instead it will be blogs like this one which appear unhinged. At least, that is, until the long term consequences of recent decisions become apparent.

The alternative scenario which might play out over the next two years is too painful to contemplate. Firstly England reach the semis or final of the World Cup but have one of their famous ‘off-days’ at the worst time possible time. We saw this in the Champions Trophy and I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if it happens again. Eoin Morgan’s team are brilliantly entertaining but I’m not yet convinced we can win ugly. We play high risk cricket and it looks brilliant most of the time. The problem is that we’re too keen to shrug off bad days at the office.

The pattern we’ve seen in recent times is that England often put together 3 or 4 spectacular wins followed by a terrible implosion. This doesn’t matter on regular tours when we can register series victories 3-1 or 4-1. However, to win a World Cup you need to win many games in succession. And you need to win in a manner of ways: in low scoring games and high scoring ones on all sorts of surfaces.

Can England do this? I’m not completely sure. Our best bet might be to lose a group game, scrape through to the knockout phase, and then hit form at the right time. After all, I can’t see us going unbeaten in the whole tournament with our current approach. A high risk strategy which turns heads but tempts fate is very much our MO. And the management and players seem perfectly happy with this.

Unfortunately if England do come unstuck and fail to win the World Cup then the last 4 years would’ve been a complete waste of time. It might have been an entertaining ride but the bottom line will be that the sacrifices made by prioritising white ball cricket at the expense of our first class game would’ve been for nothing. And then The Hundred will begin with less momentum, less broader interest (as England won’t be ‘world champions’), and even less goodwill.

At this point the huge gamble the ECB have made re: their shiny new competition will become even more apparent. And there will be very little we can do about it. It’s all very well for us to stamp our feet and complain that ordinary cricket supporters have been ignored, but the truth is that English cricket can’t really afford for this competition to fail. Graves and Harrison have mortgaged the future of the game on their vanity project. The set up costs (which were eye-watering to begin with) have already doubled, so the game will be in huge trouble if the tournament bombs.

This leaves critics like us in a bit of a bind: if the Hundred succeeds we’ll look like idiots, and if it fails the game we love will be on its knees. It’s a dilemma Joseph Heller could write a book about.

But perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Rather than speculating about what might happen, perhaps we should analyse what did happen in 2018. After all, a lot has happened. Surrey deservedly won the county championship, Hampshire beat a spirited Kent side in the RLODC, and Worcestershire gorgeously upset the big boys to win their first T20 Blast title. It’s just a shame that the wind was subsequently taken out of the club’s sails by their relegation to division two of the championship, and Joe Clarke’s opportunistic move to Notts (who are making a habit of accumulating other counties’ emerging stars).

It’s a real shame that young players continue to leave the smaller counties in droves. Moeen Ali has proved that you don’t need to become a mercenary to win international recognition.

There were big changes off the field in the international arena too. England finally managed to get shot of the three amigos: Jim, Gus, and Mick, whose hapless performance as selectors made me all nostalgic for the days when Ted Dexter used to rave about ‘Malcolm Devon’ and ‘Martin McCaddick’. The fact Mick Newell was apparently a serious candidate for the Director job was mind-boggling. In their place we’ve now got Big Ed, who was appointed because he’s posh and mates with Andrew Strauss. At least that was the view of fan favourite Darren Gough. Well done Goughie for saying publicly what many of us were thinking privately.

Fortunately, however, the man who allegedly plagiarised an article in The Economist – which led to Cricinfo pulling the article in question and issuing the following statement – has proved a decent choice thus far, even if he can’t help post-rationalising his selections to imply there’s some kind of masterplan behind them all. Which there isn’t.

I’m referring, of course, to the pretence that putting the best 11 ‘cricketers’ on the park (by which he means simply picking all-rounders), is a progressive stroke of genius. Everyone knows (or should know) that it’s pure coincidence that England’s best bowlers just happen to be handy batsmen at the moment. It’s got nothing to do with Ed Smith coming up with a plan that nobody’s thought of before. What’s more, as Mark Butcher points out in this amusing chat with Andrew Miller on Cricinfo, it’s not even a sustainable ploy. England are hardly going to leave out a world class bowler (see Anderson, Jimmy) if he can’t bat.

Test cricket is and always has been a game in which specialists thrive. You pick your best batsmen and your best bowlers and hope you can come up with a balanced XI by including the odd all-rounder if he’s good enough. Packing the side with bits and pieces players has never worked and never will. England are just lucky that the all-rounders they currently possess just happen to be better batsmen than the so called specialists available.

Smith’s strategy (if it is indeed a ‘strategy’ as he claims) is therefore flawed. He’s just getting away with it at the moment. The Sam Curran and Dom Bess experiences sums it up. These young players were picked to make an impact with the ball but ended up making a better impression with the bat.  Had young Sam been picked as a number 6 or 7 batsman and a second or third change bowler then I’d be more inclined to give Smith credit for his inclusion. But he wasn’t, so I won’t.

The success of Ben Foakes and Jack Leach also shows that Smith is a somewhat lucky selector – a good attribute to have. He’s been praised to the rafters for including these two hugely promising cricketers, but the truth is that Foakes was actually left out of the original squad (which is incredible when you think about it) and only got his opportunity because Bairstow got injured playing bloody football. Talk about serendipity. Meanwhile, Smith has proved very reluctant to pick Leach and ignored him last summer even when he was fit. No doubt Adil Rashid was preferred because he’s a better batsman, even though Leach clearly emerged as England’s best all-round slow bowler this winter – the only one capable of providing both wickets and control.

Having said that, Smith has also made some very canny selections. He jettisoned Dawid Malan at the right time, recalled Jos Buttler, recalled Moeen Ali, and the inclusion of Olly Stone shows that he recognises the need for pace and aggression – something England badly lacked last winter in Australia. I wouldn’t have picked either Jos or Mo so kudos to Smith for making these brave calls. Buttler has clearly improved his defensive method massively and now looks like a proper test batsman. I still worry that he’ll be found out against the pace of Starc, Hazlewood, and Cummins, but thus far one can’t fault the impact he’s made.

The belated inclusion of Rory Burns, who has been the best opener in county cricket for some time, also shows that county form will eventually be rewarded – something we worried about when Adil Rashid was inexplicably plucked from the white ball wilderness after giving up championship cricket for Yorkshire. Although I really don’t understand what Big Ed sees in Keaton Jennings, I’m encouraged that he’s thus far resisted the temptation to pick more white ball specialists like Jason Roy.

Consequently, although I have some reservations, I think that Smith is definitely an upgrade on the hapless Jim, Gus and Mick. And that’s one of the big positives of 2018. My problem, however, is the process that led to Smith’s appointment. It just smacks of ECB jobs for the boys and their preference for people with a certain background and education. And this clearly isn’t a positive.

One of the reasons I didn’t like Smith as a journalist (along with his penchant for using overcomplicated language to dress up essentially simplistic arguments) was his obvious reluctance to criticise the authorities. He even appeared on TMS when Jonathan Agnew interviewed Jarrod Kimber and Sam Collins about Death of A Gentleman. Smith basically challenged the film’s thesis and defended the big 3 stitch up at the ECB. Consequently cynics saw his left-field appointment as chairman of selectors (a job he was approach to apply for) as a reward for his loyalty.

The appointment of Ashely Giles as Director of Cricket will also entrench the view that the ECB only employs people cut from a certain type of cloth. Giles has played the political game really well over the years. He never criticised the board as a pundit (which made him remarkably bland) because he probably realised that he’d never land a big job with England if he did so. Although he might have been tempted to make a fuss when he lost his job as ODI coach, Ashley wisely kept schtum hoping that another opportunity would arise down the road. And boy has staying loyal paid dividends.

In my opinion Giles was chosen to replace Strauss – another establishment man through and through let’s not forget – because he could be relied upon to toe the party line. The ECB would’ve seen him as the ultimate safe pair of hands: a team man who won’t say or do anything controversial or radical. Giles won’t challenge his superiors in the slightest. And that’s just the way the ECB like it. Therefore his appointment is an extremely comfy fit. Too comfy in my opinion. A shrewd man might be inclined to put a few quid on Alastair Cook eventually replacing Giles when the time is right.

Finally, the other big news of the year is that Trevor Bayliss is going to step down after next summer’s Ashes. This was hardly a surprise as (a) he’s had a somewhat turbulent tenure in test cricket, and (b) the Ashes represents the end of a cycle. The World Cup will also be over and one almost expects a foreign head coach to do an Eddie Jones and move on at this time.

Personally I wish Trev all the best. He’s a likeable bloke, he has taken us forward in white ball cricket like no English coach could’ve done, and I’ll miss his laid back and typically Australian view on things. Although the test team hasn’t performed particularly well on his watch, it’s not his fault that he’s had a flawed group of players to work with: an underperforming senior opener (Cook), a captain who doesn’t always make the big scores he’s capable of (Root), a bowling attack that lacks genuine pace, plus no spinner who could take wickets overseas until recently. At least we’ve usually done ok at home I guess.

I’ll be interested to hear your views on the year that was, and what you think might happen in the next 12 months. Obviously the journey begins in the West Indies, where England will be expected to win. It will be interesting to see how we cope with the conditions. The Lions got their behinds handed to them on a plate in the Caribbean not long ago, and it won’t be easy if we see the same dry pitches that spin sharply. We coped with the slow turn in Sri Lanka but the Windies might present a slightly different challenge.

Happy Christmas y’all.

James Morgan

2018-12-24T19:42:27+00:00December 24th, 2018|Talking Points|49 Comments

49 Comments

  1. Inland Sailor December 24, 2018 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    “Unfortunately if England do come unstuck and fail to win the World Cup then the last 4 years would’ve been a complete waste of time.”

    Yeah, not really. We’re a miles better ODI and T20I team than we’ve ever been before. I think that’s a good thing.

    • James Morgan December 24, 2018 at 8:04 pm - Reply

      And the damage to first class cricket? With no trophy in the bank? We’ve been No1 in ODIs before you know.

      ODIs are generally meaningless games tagged onto the end of test series. Few people remember the results. And fewer even care. For example, did it matter one iota that England won the ODI’s after the 0-4 Ashes humiliation last winter 5-0? I’d wager not. It will always be remembered as a horrible tour because we got thrashed in the Ashes. Winning the ODIs was scant consolation.

      Basically, I’d argue that ODIs mean very little, and nobody remembers them, unless the wins involve a trophy. England’s World Cup successes and tragedies linger in the memory but that’s about it. We still remember the Gatting reverse sweep back in 1987 but can anyone recall a bad dismissal in an ODI beyond tournament games that actually mattered? Maybe some do but I doubt the majority give a rat’s arse.

      If the current team capitulates in the semis I think that will be what they’re remembered for. And the pre-WC form will mean little. For example, South Africa will always be defined by their world cup chokes. Nobody remembers that they were a fine team between these chokes.

      • Inland Sailor December 27, 2018 at 11:08 am - Reply

        I don’t think any game of cricket is meaningless.

    • Willie Mohan December 29, 2018 at 9:03 pm - Reply

      Didn’t you know Sailr, James is the beating heart of English cricket. His knowledge is boundless, expect him to b e the next England coach.

  2. James December 25, 2018 at 12:08 am - Reply

    I can remember Adil Rashid’s dismissal of Kohli like it was last summer! James your point is well made but the Ashes are different. For England fans they are what really matters. I think we will probably win the Ashes next summer then lose in Australia.

    As a side issue why don’t New Zealand tour England? They’re a good team and would not have a problem with English conditions in May.

  3. Marc Evans December 25, 2018 at 12:29 am - Reply

    I don’t see a sea change in direction over the next 12 months as county cricket continues to be the forgotten man, pushed aside to make way for the white ball cash cow. It’s not as though the present selection committee seem to look exclusively to the county game for its test cricketers. With the likes of Butler and now apparently Roy we seem to be looking for natural talent above application so as to provide a more entertaining spectacle. Whether this is the right idea remains to be seen, as over the years few England players on central contracts have played much county cricket anyway.
    The one thing I will say is that I don’t see players generaly complaining about the direction the game is taking. Even with the Hundred, most of the interviews with players I’ve heard have been along the lines of ‘let’s give it a go’. If they enjoy the new initiatives and they attract more young players that should ensure the game’s future in the short term. I don’t see county cricket producing a wealth of young talent at the moment. Look at the average age of the present test team.
    What we have to ask is what attracts youngsters into a sport in the first place. Clearly playing rather low key long winded games, often in front of a paltry crowd, is not going to draw in the ‘life is loud’ generation.
    I should say in conclusion I love county cricket. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in sport. But we cannot expect a sporting song to remain the same in a world that defines change as progress.

    • Simon H December 25, 2018 at 11:00 am - Reply

      “The one thing I will say is that I don’t see players generaly complaining about the direction the game is taking”.

      Two points about this:
      1) The PCA statement in April actually was pretty critical (certainly by the usual standards of the PCA, the only trade union to the right of its employers). See an Ali Martin article from 23/4/18 which includes, for example, Chris Rushworth calling The Hundred “a load of bollocks”.
      2) Given the ECB’s decade-long track record of extreme vindictiveness and intolerance of dissent, it’s not exactly easy for players to poke their heads above the parapet (especially anyone who hopes for representative honours or any sort of career in coaching or the media).

    • Cricketcricketcricket December 25, 2018 at 12:44 pm - Reply

      Why would a player complain ?? Less demanded for the same or more pay!! What’s not to like.. they are professionals not amateurs so will keep their true feelings hidden.

      It’s like the IPL, players don’t go there for anything other than the money.. not that people are honest about it

      Cricket needs to offer all the formats to people and allow them to choose. Denying those who want to turn up and slog the chance or those who want to play draw cricket simply alienates sections. Cricket can I’ll afford to lose either fan base and both are vital for the game. Lose one and you will probably lose the other anyway so the only way forward is to offer both to everyone and let players choose

  4. Jackie Litherland December 25, 2018 at 7:55 am - Reply

    No game of cricket is meaningless. But your fears for England’s strategy in ODIs spot on. Happy Christmas James. While cricket lovers like you are still writing there’s hope for the game. Thanks.

    • Cricketcricketcricket December 25, 2018 at 4:19 pm - Reply

      A lot of cricket played in the world is meaningless and is essentially supposed to be simply for enjoyment. People just seem to want to add meaning to every game for no reason

      • Willie Mohan December 29, 2018 at 8:46 pm - Reply

        So if it meaningless why are you watching and commenting about it

    • Willie Mohan December 29, 2018 at 8:44 pm - Reply

      There is a saying, those who do, do. Those who can’t, write about it

      • Ian December 30, 2018 at 9:00 pm - Reply

        From your vast reserves of knowledge, Willie Mohan, do you have anything–just one little shred of something–positive or intelligent to say about any of the subjects discussed on here?

        Or do you just come on to be rude and negative about everything and everyone?

        • Willie Mohan January 1, 2019 at 1:24 pm - Reply

          What subjects, oh sorry, you mean the exercise you all engage in of showing who has the greater knowledge of the game or who can be the most cynical. I don’t claim to have a great knowledge, I just love sport and cricket in particular. Unlike you

          • Ian January 1, 2019 at 10:17 pm - Reply

            Well, if you think that literally everyone here is just being cynical and doesn’t like cricket (which seems hugely presumptuous to me: I see more a discussion, with people who love cricket backing up their opinions with arguments and sometimes statistics, which sometimes I agree with and sometimes I don’t)–then you might be the right person to ask this question to.

            I’ve been wondering why people with your approach come on sites that they appear to detest.

            I presume it’s not to persuade posters here that your views are better than theirs, since virtually all your posts are just abuse rather than argument.

            If you’re just coming here to abuse people….forgive me for asking, but do you, completely honestly, not have anything better to do with your life? Not even contribute to (or start!) a cricket website where the views are more palatable to you?

            Does it honestly make you feel better? It comes across as a little masochistic to me–that you’re coming back time and time again to visit a site where you seem to despise everyone (and everything that’s said), and which seems to irritate you so much.

            Does it bring you any sort of happiness? If it does, I’m interested to know what it is that makes you happy coming on here–because it’s difficult for me to see. If not, then why DO you come here?

            • Willie Mohan January 10, 2019 at 9:21 am - Reply

              Ian are you a tad upset my sweet.

  5. Simon H December 25, 2018 at 11:17 am - Reply

    Very good summary to whchi I’d only add:

    1) I fancy England to retain the Ashes – Australia’s batting is extremely brittle and the bowling not without problems (Starc seldom looks fully fit, lack of experience with the Duke ball etc). Australia haven’t won the Ashes in England since 2001.
    2) The dire format for the WC allows England (or anyone) to lose several qualifying games. Pakistan lost 3 in 1992 and still were the ultimate winners. There are going to be about 40 days of tedious qualifiers and then the crucial thing will be who can peak at the right moment for the knock-outs. The later games are likely to be played on tired pitches because of the way the schedule has been organised (repeated games at the same venue with the central square having to be used for TV). These are not the sort of surfaces that suit England’s preferred method.

    There are three Boxing Day Tests to look forward to, each of which has some potential to be a good game for the neutral. I’m guessing our “Home of cricket” will be promoting the BBL and ignoring the rest.

  6. Doug M December 25, 2018 at 11:36 am - Reply

    Mmmm. Ashes drawn because it doesn’t finish till mid September so the weather may come into it. World Cup, I go for India because the odds are that England will choke in a crucial game unless they change their game plan. County Championship? If they play like last season, Surrey I hope. The Blast. Not really interested. The 100 – what’s that?
    Happy Xmas folks!

  7. Cricketcricketcricket December 25, 2018 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Ashes – home – England simply ebcusse it’s a home series
    Ashes – away – Australia because England aren’t very good either and it’s an away series
    White ball.. meh., it’s high risk hitting so englsnd will most likely mess up and it’s just luck when it does or doesn’t happen. ECB will be hoping it’s a group game or maybe just before or after the WC.

    India.. very over rated side (batting wise) in all formats

    • Willie Mohan December 29, 2018 at 8:47 pm - Reply

      I take it you are next top coach, seeing as how you seem to know so much about the game.

      • Cricketcricketcricket January 4, 2019 at 7:20 am - Reply

        Aren’t you a nice fella.

        I think ‘ignore’ is the order of the day

        Good day to you

  8. Simon H December 25, 2018 at 4:43 pm - Reply

    The 2019 schedule deserves few words as well:

    England play their first day on May 3rd and last on Sept 16th. There are just ten days between the WC Final and the start of the Ireland Test. Then there are three tours next winter….

    I’m shocked that if you put the guy behind Costcutter in charge, you end up with a schedule like this. Still, they can juice up the pitches even more, get the Tests over in three days and their useful idiots can proclaim how exciting it all is.

    • Cricketcricketcricket December 26, 2018 at 5:10 pm - Reply

      As if englsnd will play anything like a full team vs Ireland.. Ireland are dire now.. their heyday has gone and there doesn’t appear to be anything coming through

  9. Simon H December 26, 2018 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    So, three Test matches and two see 14 wickets fall in the day and the other sees two.

    Is it asking too much that the occasional game provide something between those two extremes?

    • Cricketcricketcricket December 26, 2018 at 5:08 pm - Reply

      Nothing wrong with the SA or NZ wickets. The Aus one however is dire !!

      The first two simply needed a batsmen to show old fashion grit, determination and technique/mentality… what you’re seeing is that modern teams don’t posses these skills.. they just want to hit it after a few dots and take all the short balls on rather than just let it go through and bore/tire the bowler

      Your problem isn’t with wickets but modern test batsmen’s inability to bat on anything but feather beds and roads

  10. Simon H December 28, 2018 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    Deceptively easy looking win for SA – it could have been oh-so-different if Amla hadn’t been dropped off a sitter early on. The match was concluded within eight sessions and the pitch a disgrace offering both lateral movement and uneven bounce. SA are covering up their fragile batting by preparing extremely seamer friendly series and have been doing so for at least two years (basically since seeing what India could get away with on their last tour). The ICC can hardly throw the book at them given the big boys have been doing exactly the same (although never rule out the possibility of gross hypocrasy when the ICC are involved). Perhaps they can arrange T20s for the next two days when there should have been cricket on.

    One for the stattos – this was the first Test where both captains made pairs (twice before captains had made three ducks in a single Test but never all four).

    • Ian December 30, 2018 at 8:02 pm - Reply

      Was “hypocrasy” intentional? I’d be disappointed if it wasn’t. We don’t know if it’s hypocritical, crass or just both, so we’ll go for both…

      Or is it a collective noun for ECB executives?

  11. Simon H December 29, 2018 at 10:23 am - Reply

    “As it stands, Warner’s the only one maintaining a dignified silence. Yes, I’m as stunned as you”.

    From an excellent article in the SMH by Andrew Webster.

    If Warner had acted like Bancroft in the last few days Twitter would be in meltdown. Bancroft’s interview was bad enough. Adam Gilchrist’s failure to ask any of the necessary follow-up questions (“you’re seriously asking us to believe that a Test match cricketer didn’t know he was breaking the laws of the game?” etc) adds his name to the list of reputations torched by this saga.

    That ‘letter’ from the ‘old’ Bancroft to the ‘new’ Bancroft has to be seen to be believed.

  12. Simon H December 29, 2018 at 10:37 am - Reply

    Anything bad CA can do, the ECB can match….

    https://twitter.com/NHoultCricket/status/1076444741011673088

  13. Simon H December 29, 2018 at 11:16 am - Reply

    Any enduring affection for Nasser Hussain? Do not go and read his take on…. you know what.

  14. James December 29, 2018 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    Whatever your views on Andrew Strauss we will all offer our best wishes to him and his family. Sorry to report that his wife has passed away.

    • Willie Mohan December 29, 2018 at 8:54 pm - Reply

      Hell of a back handed form of condolence. But don’t worry, there will be a decent period and you can all get back to slagging him off.

  15. Simon H December 29, 2018 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    NZ barely needed ten minutes to polish off SL.

    A good (but certainly not great) side beat a very poor one. That’s all that need be said – nothing about inspirational messages from ex-captains. nothing about how the NZ Chairman of Selectors has a brain the size of a planet….

    • Willie Mohan December 29, 2018 at 10:32 pm - Reply

      Your point is

    • Willie Mohan December 29, 2018 at 10:38 pm - Reply

      Oh I get it, you don’t like Smith, or Cook, Strauss et al. So we can expect to see you giving your advice to England’s opening pair in the long room next summer.

    • Simon H December 30, 2018 at 11:17 am - Reply

      My point is that the focus is those who were on the playing field as it should be and that there’s some proper sense of proportion about the quality of opposition.

      I’ve never been in the long room in my life and never expect to be.

      To take one person you raise, Smith has done okay as CoS. Curran has been his best pick. I wouldn’t write anything about him if it wasn’t for the English media’s bizarre, fawning coverage of some pretty bog-standard decisions. For example, taking three spinners to SL was hardly a difficult choice – it was Bayliss-Root who played them. As for taking the right three spinners, Leach was an obvious pick on CC results once fit/modifiied and Rashid should have been picked years ago (and his selection this time had a bit of a “we’ve tried everyone else” feel about it).

      As for Cook, I’ve written again and again he’s a very good opener whose figures put him on a par with a Langer or a Kirsten. Nothing wrong with that. However nobody tried to construct a weird cult of personality around them.

      • Willie Mohan January 1, 2019 at 1:29 pm - Reply

        There has been no attempt to create a cult of personality around Cook, who gives the impression that he just plays s match and then home to the farm how can someone who doesn’t do social media, works on his farm and hasn’t once been a headline in the red tops be a cult figure. If you are looking for a complete and utter cult, look no further than KP

  16. Comte December 30, 2018 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    So even Hoult, who I think of as one of the Least-Likely-To-Upset-The- ECB can’t get an interview.
    Two forms of dealing with the public are increasingly fashionable:
    1) The T May model – repeat the same old crap repeatedly
    2) The ECB model – say nowt.

    Remember – the 100 is ‘not for us’ (G Hollins ECB COO)

  17. glenn December 31, 2018 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    Hope you can keep up the interesting commentary on the crazy world of cricket in the next year.

    I noticed there is a ten over a side tournament now. This would be good for a new ECB tournament on the BBC wouldn’t it as it would be something new?

  18. Colin January 2, 2019 at 10:36 am - Reply

    It should be a great year for cricket. Despite all the shennanigans that go on behind the scenes, there are still some great players out there who make the game a joy to watch.

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  20. Simon H January 6, 2019 at 9:59 am - Reply

    India and SA winning their series are the worst results for England becoming Mo.1 in the Test rankings. Even if England beat WI 3-0 and win the Ashes 5-0 it won’t be enough to overhaul India. If SA win the final Test against Pakistan and beat SL 2-0, England will need to win 3-0 and 4-0 to be No.2 in the rankings.

    India do host SA in a Test series in October 2019 so one of those team’s rankings is likely to suffer (most probably SA). Otherwise India only play WI, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in 2019.

    There’s no shame in being No.2 to India in the rankings. Given comparative size and wealth it’s probably about where England should be. A bit more perspective from some of the press stenographers (like Paul Newman writing England are “destined” to “swagger” to No.1) would be welcome.

    By the way, despite the introduction of the Test Championship, it appears that between Jan 2020 and Dec 2021 India play 14 Tests against fellow Big Three members and just 4 against anyone else (NZ). Beneath all that was written about the Test Championship and the granting of Test status to Ireland and Afghanistan that’s the short- and medium-term future of Test cricket right there.

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