Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Always Look on the Bright Side

Is the glass half empty or half full? Depends who's buying ultimately, but following the understandable doom and gloom around at the moment, and well articulated by Tim and Nick on this blog, the time has come to look for the positives in English cricket.

Test Cricket
It's important that we don't mix up the One day debacle with the Test team and treat them as one and the same. Last summer, we comprehensively beat Pakistan. Over the past 3-4 years we have dominated teams on the test circuit and we should bear this in mind with the Ashes defeat.

We were beaten by a highly motivated Australian team who are comfortably the best in the world. We couldn't cope with injuries to key players, notably Marcus Trescothick, Michael Vaughan and Simon Jones. Some of the selection choices didn't help, but playing Monty Panesar and Chris Read from the start wouldn't have changed the result.

We have a settled test team, with competition for places throughout the team. It is also a young test team, which could be around for a long time. How we bounce back in the summer will be critical, but we shouldn't panic on this front.

We went into the tournament as the 8th best team in the world. We will finish 5th or 6th, depending on what happens against the equally poor West Indies. Isn't this therefore a good tournament for us ?

South Africa aside, we have looked competitive against the big teams in the tournament. We probably gave Australia their biggest test so far and should really have beaten Sri Lanka. Never mind that we've not looked convincing against the minnows, we have at least beaten them all- unlike South Africa, India and Pakistan.

On the playing side Kevin Pieterson, Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, James Anderson and Paul Nixon can all come out with reputations enhanced. Monty Panesar has shown that he can be a One day bowler. Andrew Strauss's innings yesterday was a welcome return to some sort of form

However, there are negatives. Michael Vaughan and Ed Joyce played safety first cricket at the start but didn't capitalise on their starts. Joyce in particular faces a fight to continue his international career with England while his Irish former team mates are looking forward to a new phase in theirs. Jamie Dalrymple has gone backwards with his batting and wasn't trusted with the ball. Saj Mahmood and Liam Plunkett let the opposition get off to flyers, despite Anderson at the other end. And then there is Freddy....

What do we do?
On the test side, we carry on with the players we've got and the coach we've got for the summer.
The team below is one that can look to close in on the Australians.

For One Day cricket, we need a new coach and captain. I'd go for Peter Moores as One Day coach, with Collingwood as captain. We need a new approach at the start of the innings and to identify players who have the appetite for the game and the willingness to take the risks required. This should then lead to a smooth transition for Moores to succeed Duncan Fletcher, maybe at the end of the summer.

At the last World Cup, we went out in the group stages and were amongst the worst test teams in the world. We have progressed, but we need to go further and faster.


Tim said...

I agree with your Test side (apart from Read) though I doubt we'll see it, for the simple reason that they are very worried about Flintoff's ability to bowl big spells. Personally, I'd be inclined to rest/drop him until he is ready to be one of four bowlers. Currently, he's certainly not worth his place at number six; and we need all the runs we can get, considering our weak lower order.

Nick Gammons said...

Despite England's Ashes drubbing I think they are still a very good Test team. Most of the XI is settled with only the keeper and captaincy being at issue. I would stick with Vaughan, as I believe he is the best Test captain in world cricket, and bring in Steven Davies, who looks a wonderful prospect.

It is with the one-day team that the problems lie and have done for many years, as Tim so rightly points out.

Chrispy said...

However, since Ashes 2005.

Lost to Pakistan 2-0
Drew with India 1-1
Drew with Sri Lanka 1-1
Beat Pakistan 3-0 (or was it 2-1!)
Lost to Australia 5-0

Not a great record. Windies are cannon fodder and victory will just gloss over the cracks. Need big chanes in approach. Like your idea on Peter Moores, but I would love to see Moody given both jobs. He's young, enthusiastic, a winner, has been there and done it as a player and now wants to taste success as a coach.

I wouldn't say Plunkett let opposition teams get off to fliers. He did get a wicket after all against NZL, more than most and took two up front aainst Canada in his only two games. 5 an over isn't great but it's better than 7 an over and no wickets ala Mahmood. And he contributed a run a ball 29* with bat against NZL to make us competitive at least (more than Fred in 4 inns vs Aus, Nzl, Srl and Saf!). He should have played more.