Sunday, 3 August 2008

Turning around the supertanker 'England Fail'

A few years ago, England had a good Test side. This culminated in the 2005 home win against Australia. Since then the side has been in decline. England’s loss against South Africa is the second home series loss from the three series and by any yardstick England’s Test side should be considered a failure. That probably sounds a bit harsh ‘failure’ but it is accurate. England can only beat weak Test sides and make that seem difficult. The latest loss was typical of England – a poor first innings, it looks like the opposing side are easily going to get a big lead before Flintoff performs some heroics, a second innings which includes a century by someone in ‘Last Chance Saloon’ and finally a successful run chase by the opposition who manage to win despite multiple attempts to lose.

The selectors have tried the ‘do absolutely nothing at all unless we really, really have too’ strategy. That is not a bad way to treat nuclear waste but has been hopeless for England’s Test side. Here are a few ideas:

Give Strauss the Captaincy
Michael Vaughan is a good captain but his form is terrible. On form alone Vaughan shouldn’t even be considered for the England side, let alone be a permanent fixture. Strauss does have his bad form runs but he did play well when captain and in reasonable form right now. However, Vaughan has the ability to be the best player in the England side. Anyone who doubts this should go back and see what he did before becoming captain. His run of scores was remarkable and took him to number one in the world. I think Vaughan is worth another series as a player. If he can capture that old form he will be brilliant.

Drop Collingwood and Bell
You don’t drop a bloke after making a century. I would - mainly because I wouldn’t have picked him in the first place. Collingwood and Bell both just do enough to be picked. Their averages are poor. With his recent century, Collingwood now has six centuries in seventy innings – that is about one century for every six Tests. Rubbish. Bell has eight centuries in seventy-five innings and whilst he may look good when batting he rarely produces the goods when it matters.

Commit to Ambrose, or not
Lots of people seem to dislike Tim Ambrose. I am not one of them. I want my wicket-keeper to catch the ball. Specifically, I want him to not drop the ball when it has been edged. The previous incumbents, Prior for example, were unable to catch the ball when edged. I would much rather a wicket-keeper have an average of 26 and catch Jayawardene when he has 15 than have an average of 40 and drop the Sri Lankan captain allowing him to make another 150. The key point here is to pick a wicket-keeper who is good behind the stumps and stick with him.

Cut central contracts to six-months
Giving out central contracts for a year makes no sense to me. The ‘logic’ is that it gives stability to players who then know where they stand. I don’t agree, if a player is good enough it will make no difference to them. If they are not good enough it is better to cut them free after six months. As it stands the ECB will have to commit another twelve months to Vaughan in a month or so. That seems madness given his current form. Hoggard and Harmison, both centrally contracted players, have not played for England since the start of March. The money they have been paid would be much better spent if it went to Ambrose and Broad. My point is: award contracts at the start and end of the season(ish).

None of this will happen of course...

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