Dear oh dear; Peter Moores, the beleaguered England cricket coach, still does not get it after a distinctly disappointing series between England and the West Indies.
Moores said after England deservedly lost the final test in Barbados that “we are improving?” I’m not sure where this “improvement” is coming from. If you take out of the equation Anderson and Root, who were England`s best players by a country mile, there’s not a lot to celebrate.
The West Indies deserve a lot of credit for winning the Barbados Test and rubbishing Colin Grave`s ill-timed comments labeling Phil Simmons’s side as “mediocre” before a ball had been bowled.
However, with all due respect to the West Indies, this was a series that England should have won if they harbor serious ambitions of toppling the Aussies this British summer. Based on another insipid and lethargic effort by England, Michael Clarke and Darren Lehman must be kicking back before boarding their flights to England via the West Indies.
Selection approach has to change
Peter Moores has copped a lot of stick in recent months and frankly it is very hard to have much sympathy.
The selection policy was bizarre in the Caribbean. If ever there was an opportunity for England to pick a promising opener in Adam Lyth and Adil Rashid with his leggies, to see how they would fare before the Aussies come to town, it would have been against the West Indies. Instead we saw a great servant to English cricket in Jonathan Trott disintegrate against a bowling attack a good few kph slower than the two Mitchells, Messrs Johnson and Starc. Promoted to opener, it has been a terminal disaster for Trott and his international career.
Bringing back Moeen Khan from injury without a ball bowled in anger for six months, and expecting him to turn it sideways on placid pitches, also beggared belief. Rashid is unorthodox and offers something on placid wickets, which other England spinners can`t. Add in the lazy displays of Ian Bell, who after a majestic century in Antigua proceeded to look like a novice.
Let Root find the England edge
England can blame lifeless pitches all day long but they looked lazy at times and are not proactive. They must find some kind of edge to their game if they are to stand a chance against Clarke`s men.
Ultimately the blame lies at the door of Peter Moores and Alistair Cook. That said, it was great to see Cook back in the runs again and for that he deserves enormous credit. The time is surely right to let him carry that momentum on without the pressures of captaincy.
Joe Root is the kind of player and captain England desperately need. He may have played one shot too many in the Barbados Test but he has that ability to put bowlers under pressure. Compare Australia in this department to England and there is no contest. Warner, Smith, Watson and Haddin are masters at being aggressive and being confident enough to hit over the top.
So, where to now for England?
I want to be very un-English and be positive for once. There are some shoots of promise, if – and it is a colossal if – most of these players can perform at their best.
It is easy to point the finger at Cook, Anderson and Broad as the go-to men but I think the battle between Jos Buttler and Brad Haddin, and Ben Stokes versus Mitchell Johnson, are perhaps the game changers. They are all x-factor players who can change a game in a session. Granted, we only saw a glimpse of greatness from Stokes at the 2013 Ashes Test in Perth, and Buttler is still very young in Test cricket terms; however, with a bit of confidence and a proactive captain, these guys could light up the contest against the Aussies.
Try the unconventional
In an ideal world of Moores and Cook having a drastic makeover, I would love to see Alex Hales given a chance to open beside Alistair Cook. Hales will be the closest we have to a David Warner. Lets throw some caution to the wind and try and fight fire with fire, otherwise we might as well hand the urn over now and get it over and done with.
You can be sure that Lehman and Clarke will be saying to the chief chirpers in the team (Warner, Haddin and Johnson come to mind) not to let up at England on the psychological stakes. Not many like their approach but it is not going to change for the Ashes.
So, if you can`t beat them join them. That means having feisty characters like Stokes giving it back to the Aussies.
I also think Root is the right kind of captain to take England into a new era. He is young with infectious enthusiasm who hates losing and he is also batting extremely well.
We will have to hope that Moeen Khan can get his spinning mojo back and that either Chris Jordan or Liam Plunkett can be reliable back-ups to Anderson and Broad.
I fear reality kicks in here though. Moores and Cook will be in charge whatever happens with New Zealand. This means attrition will win over the unorthodox. That will more than likely rule out Rashid, Hales and dare I say it, Kevin Pietersen. We will still be hearing that England are improving and the data from Moores’s computer will prove it.
England need to get real. And even though Geoff Boycott thinks that his mum can bat better than Cook with a stick of rhubarb, he does have a point – Peter Moores and Alistair Cook cannot continue in partnership. England will lose heavily against New Zealand let alone Australia if something does not change in the selection process.
Maybe English cricket needs a sobering summer of 90`s style Ashes hammering to see the light. It’s not an easy thing to say but I can only see one result, and that is the Ashes staying firmly in Australian hands this summer.
IMAGE: England’s Alastair Cook (L) alongside Stuart Broad, Ian Bell, James Anderson and Jonathan Trott after West Indies won the match by five wickets during day three of the 3rd Test in Bridgetown, Barbados. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)