The Ashes 2021/22 – The death of English Test Match cricket?

The death of English Test Match cricket?

 

Now that the dust has cleared and we can see daylight ahead my thought has turned to the just completed Ashes Series.

 

Never in my life of watching, listening, writing and hearing cricket have I seen such a pitiful display by a visiting team. Even teams such as India (1946-47) and the West Indies (1951-52) put up a fight even though they were clearly just starting to move into the ‘big time’ and out of their depth.

 

The English press have been so critical of this team and their performance that they are digging even deeper into the whole sorry affair looking for more answers and to find words to describe it.

 

Already booze drinking, fitness, players consulting, team selection are all rearing their ugly heads as media look for the ‘reasons why’?  It is a very sorry situation indeed for professional sporting people to be so clearly scrutinised for their performances. Even the layman (cricket aficionados) writing to me are using such words as ‘pitiful’, ‘disgrace’, ‘putrid’ and ‘humiliating’ to name a few in their personal attacks.  The love of the game clearly shows in ‘their write from the heart’.

 

So, what are the excuses that the team can come up with to justify their performances?   In a close contest for a position

 

Obviously COVID19 and living in hub bubbles are regarded as major factors but remember there was lengthy consultation with players, officials and government before players agreed to travelling conditions.   Families also came in to consideration but why should that be a factor?  What profession you are in allows for whole families to be part of the conditions.  Surely players are here, in their profession, to play no matter how long the tour is. They don’t take their families, nannies et al to the IPL for example.  Why on an Ashes Tour?

 

I remember going to a CA function in Cardiff the night before The Ashes series of 2015 commenced at Sophia Gardens and thinking what is going on here. There where wives, girlfriends and kids everywhere and I thought to myself this is no way to prepare for a Test series commencing the next day. We consequently lost that Test. Have families there for some of the tour but not all. After all players are “working” it is not a holiday. What other type of employment has the whole family hanging around?

 

Many opponents of the English team believe that the change in hierarchical selection structure was the main problem. I don’t know in any other team sport that one person is in charge of selection. England went that way with Chris Silverwood after the successful tenure of Australian Chris Bayliss. It gobsmacked me.  How can one person pick between player ‘y’ and ‘z’ in a close selection. Inevitably favouritism would come into it.  Selection was made even worse when proven stars Anderson and Broad were ‘rested’ out of games when pitches favoured their respective techniques.

 

Not that it would have been all Silverwood’s fault.  I am sure Captain Root must have had some influence as well. I have had a theory for some time watching English teams play that Broad and Anderson seemed to captain their own ship during Test matches. Their non-appearance in some of the Tests, as mentioned, was a puzzle to all as well as also perhaps an influence that Silverwood tried to curtail. The continual selection of Hameed also defied the odds. He couldn’t make runs and was really a liability in the field. Dan Lawrence and Dom Bess were in the touring party but didn’t get a game. Surely when a team is going so bad give them all a go instead of resurrecting failures.

 

One could go on and on about the current team but they did have some triers. Root, Bairstow, Wood, Anderson & Broad gave their all and Crawley showed that he could be something. Six out of fifteen is not good though. I think that all of England expected Ben Stokes to ‘carry the can’ but he was not a shadow of the player he was in 2019.

 

Red ball cricket, or lack thereof was also heralded as a major defect in the team’s preparation. Well, whose fault is that? One guess – the English and Wales Cricket Board that’s who! With their obsession with white ball games and money the ECB have lost the plot completely and their endorsement of the one selector policy is just one area of concern.  Perhaps we could also throw the players in here as well as certainly the lure of the IPL and the big money is very enticing. Players nowadays seem to be preparing themselves for white ball in lieu of red.  You only have to see some of the shots they played in the Tests to realise this. When you look at the cricket fixtures in England you can see an extraordinary number of limited over competitions. The Hundred, T20, Limited 50 overs competitions as well as ICC short competitions as well all take up players commitments and of course the money that flows from that.

 

Speaking of money, the amount of money players can earn in the ‘hit and giggle’ must surely play a part on their psyche as well. Why commit to red ball when you can earn so much playing with the white ball? What commitment do you have to your country as against personal wealth?

 

I have not seen the Mission Statements of countries connected to the ICC but I wonder again what commitment do they have to the long game even though it is the game the majority of players say they want to achieve their ambitions.

 

Both Silverwood and Root blame the truncated season and lack of emphasis on the long game.  How can players ‘dig in’ for long periods with the bat or try new experiments with the ball when they only get 4 or 10 overs a game. One only has to look at the shots executed during this series to realise how much the short game influences batters shot making and they got out in some appalling ways.

 

Australia seems to have the right balance at the moment with their Test players but we will see what transpires in the sub-continent Tests before we make further comment. On a personal note, I do believe that there are far too many boffins controlling teams.

 

Test cricket is the real test of a cricketer’s prowess at the game. The death of Test cricket has been pronounced for years but it still continues to enjoy the support of a hard core of aficionados. Long may it continue.

 

 

To read more from ‘Citrus’ Bob Utber click HERE.

 

 

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About Bob Utber

At 80 years of age Citrus Bob is doing what he wanted to do as a 14 year-old living on the farm at Lang Lang. Talking, writing, watching sport. Now into his third book on sports history he lives in Mildura with his very considerate wife (Jenny ) and a groodle named "Chloe On Flinders". How good is that.

Comments

  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Indeed Bob, the Poms will need to do a lot of soul searching when analysing their performances in the Ashes series. Certainly they missed Jofra Archer but made bewildering selection decisions. When they finally rectified those decisions the series was lost and the team was demoralised. It will be interesting to see where the team goes from here.

  2. Thanks Bob. The lack of application by some of the lower order batsmen in the last test surprised me. Obviously at 7 down with 130 to get they couldn’t win but at least prolong the agony, fight for every run, put a premium on your wicket, make the opposition stay in the field longer, make it a test.

  3. BOMBER – certainly will be interesting to see where England goes from here! Take out “the oldies” Anderson, Broad, and Root and who is left. Stokes? Archer, unfortunately, is a day-by-day proposition and they can’t bank on him. Forgot Jonny Bairstow who is all G & D.
    NOELMC – their lack of application to put it mildly was disgusting. Appropriate words “make it a test” seem to be lost with this side except for the above.

  4. Liam Hauser says

    I know it’s pointless to compare Test cricket with ODIs, but England’s 2019 World Cup win seems a long time ago.
    When Australia collapsed in its second innings in Hobart and then England’s openers made a strong start, I thought “we’re in for a great Test this series at last”. But alas, a shameful capitulation ensued. Considering England did not have a bad team on paper, I was perplexed at how one-sided the series turned out to be. When a team is thrashed in any sporting contest (or series), it is a well-worn cliché to say “one team was never in the hunt”. But that literally was the case in this series. In fact, England was never in it, even before the first ball was bowled in the series. Just to repeat: leaving out Broad and Anderson for the first Test, and then choosing to bat first in the wrong conditions for batting, were all a recipe for disaster. And then of course, losing a wicket first ball. England simply never recovered. Even when they got a sniff, the comebacks were short-lived. But I’m sure the next series in England will be different. Let’s not forget Australia hasn’t won an Ashes series outright on England soil since 2001.

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