Cricket: England are being overcooked and then burnt


Alastair Cook's facial expression says it all (photo: The Mirror)

Alastair Cook‘s facial expression says it all (photo: The Mirror)

After a 95 run drubbing at the hands of India, and having not won any of their last 10 Tests, England are searching for answers that should have come six months ago.

Unfortunately, the management of the situation at the time, the Kevin Pietersen drama included, did not allow for the fresh overhaul that the England Cricket Board and on-field team needed.

Having a look at the current England side, and it is undoubtedly clear that captain Alastair Cook needs a break from cricket, the captaincy, or both.  The defensive mindset is killing England’s game, with both bat and ball.

Incredibly, England has revealed that some players found their five-star hotel haunted.  Yes, haunted.  Seems like an excuse, but according to Stuart Broad, it was no myth for the team.

“One night I woke up in the middle of the night, around 1.30am and I was convinced there was a presence in the room.  “It was the weirdest feeling. All of a sudden the taps in the bathroom came on for no reason. I turned the lights on and the taps turned themselves off.”

Now that sounds like a last-resort excuse, but it does not excuse the fact the form slumps and negative attitude on-field existed before India dominated the second test of the series at Lord’s.

The mounting problems have put England on the back foot and they cannot move.  Adding to that is Matt Prior’s decision to withdraw from the rest of the test series because of fitness issues.  It is an argument surrounded by two edges; one is that this call may end Prior’s test career, and the other is Cook playing on (for now) with inconsistent scores and no wins.

Nick Hoult, from The Telegraph, picked up that Prior would have been picked for the third test, if fit; but it will be Jos Buttler who dons the gloves in the third test.  However, it still leaves Cook in the firing line.

Dean Wilson from The Mirror bluntly pointed out that Cook and the ECB were in on this together, and the state of denial could not be ignored.

“Alastair Cook is facing his darkest days as an England player following a defeat that shoved him ever closer to the trapdoor.

“The fact he remains in charge, and is set to do so until the series is either lost or completed, is because both he and his bosses are in denial over what everyone else can see with their own eyes.”

Where to with Cook?  The journalists, pundits and commentators seem to have come to the consensus that he needs time off to refresh.  And not just one test, or two; a full six months is what’s being touted for the captain to have off.

It is not without merit; eight years without a break is going to take its toll.  Nevertheless, once Cook is on the sidelines, and an interim skipper is brought in, what of those sitting behind the desk at England Cricket HQ?

They can start with Peter Moores, the current coach.  Attitude and culture form the backbone of a team even before they step onto the field, and if Moores can’t hold something together, a new change needs to happen.

One potential dilemma is the form that everyone is in; there is so much talent in the side in Joe Root, Prior, Cook, Moeen Ali and co, but everyone seems to be following in the footsteps of the skipper.

Eoin Morgan has been touted as a potential captain if Cook takes time out to recharge.  Cook, post the Lord’s test on Monday, said he won’t give up the leadership until someone asks him.

Until that bloke taps me on the shoulder and says, ‘we don’t want you to captain’, I’m desperate to try to turn this around for England.”

To do so, changing the on-field dynamic by being more attacking could elicit a much higher, and more successful, win-loss ratio, and get some runs on the board.

Six months ago, when England catastrophically fell to Australian in the 2013-2014 Ashes series, the ECB hurriedly dumped Kevin Pietersen and did very little to appease the fans.  Going back to the drawing board seems to be an alien concept.

It is not a matter of training in the nets; every cricket team does that day-in-day-out to prepare themselves and get their eye in.  The propaganda and clichés being delivered to the media and commentators is detrimental to trying to stop this derailing train from sliding any further.

The evidence is damning and obvious, and management is on a slippery dip that will not stop.  They could toss the captaincy to someone else, send Cook to the sidelines, bring in a new coach or head selector, as long as someone brings innovation and aggression to the table.

A waiting game that could be painful.

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