England need fresh ideas, not more PR spin

Blog Opinion

Fresh ideas are needed, not glib platitudes thrown about in an attempt to justify failure, writes <b>Peter Miller</b>.

At the close of play of the fourth day at Lord's, England's assistant coach. Paul Farbrace, was being interviewed by Ian Ward. He was asked if the form of the senior players was a concern. Farbrace said it was not an issue.

As Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Matt Prior and James Anderson all struggled to make an impact on the match, it seemed a strange statement. It was even more remarkable when you consider that all of these men have been involved in the longest sustained period of failure that England have experienced in a generation.

At that day's press conference Farbrace told the assembled media that the senior players had contributed brilliantly around the dressing room. This was as England were in the process of going 10 matches without a victory.

As England lost to a team that had not won away from home in three years, their captain, Alastair Cook, said that Matt Prior was the best wicket-keeper batsman in the country. This was after a match where he had dropped easy chances, conceded 36 byes and scored just 35 runs with the bat.

One poor match is not a reason to drop someone, but Prior has been struggling for far longer than that, so much so that he was dropped for the last two Tests of the away Ashes.

As the dust settled on the second Test defeat of the summer, Prior announced he was stepping aside for fitness reasons. That the England medical staff did not pick up on the fact that the guy was struggling when it was obvious from a seat in the grandstand is a worry. Or maybe they did but decided that Prior was too important to the dressing room to leave out. We may never find out the truth.

This is the problem with this England side. They are better at spinning the story than they are at spinning cricket balls, or hitting them, or bowling them. All too often we are told a half truth or a rose-tinted variation of it. We are children that need to be patronised.

As England were humiliated this winter the ECB Chairman, Giles Clarke, assured us we were 'not at some sort of massive low ebb.' He then told us we should back Cook as captain because he had the right sort of family.

The only qualification needed for playing for your country should be your talent, not some preconceived idea of what an England cricketer should look like or the background that he came from. Before a review of the winter's events had even taken place the ECB were telling us that Cook was the future for England.

As England jettisoned Kevin Pietersen they assured us it was the best thing for the team. There was no explanation as to why. We were just told it was for the best and we were expected to believe them. He had to go, despite him having a better record than Captain Cook over the last few years. It was yet another example of them trying desperately to manage the facts while losing control of the story.

The problem England have is that they have put all of their eggs in the Alastair Cook basket. To admit that he isn't the right man to lead England is to acknowledge that they made a mistake in making him the chosen one. This would obviously be the most sensible solution as Cook's batting form and leadership credentials slump even further with each match. It would appear to be a move they are loathed to take.

Cook is a decent man, of that there is no doubt. He is also a determined one. He has reiterated than he has no plans to step aside voluntarily. We will found out whether or not ECB management will take the choice out of his hands in the coming days, but it seems unlikely.

Then there is Peter Moores. The England coach has been in charge for just three months, but there is already signs that things this time will be no different than in his last spell as England coach.

Back then Moores' reign was one of young players doing well, but the side struggling to win the big sessions consistently. There was a reason that he was given his marching orders that time. While success at Lancashire was great, followed by failure which is rarely mentioned, it is not compelling evidence that he could do any better with England this time around.

For all the talk of new eras, this is really just the old era dressed up in a new frock. There is the same backwards mentality. There is the same tired cliches used to cover up failure. There is the same insistence on sticking with struggling players because they fit in to the team ethic, whatever the hell that means.

There is little to make you think that things are going to change anytime soon. As Cook defended the woeful Prior in the post match interviews it made you wonder what the old guard have to do to get dropped.

Prior's decision to take a break appears to have come from him rather than the management. The Sussex man has been a fantastic servant for England who has contributed massively to the success this team achieved.

Picking him unfit, out of form and past his best was unfair on everyone, not least the man himself. It is important to remember him at his best. With time that is what England fans will do.

Fresh ideas are needed, not glib platitudes thrown about in an attempt to justify failure. There are excellent players in England, and just about the best infrastructure in the world. This level of incompetence from the national team is completely unacceptable.

There is much talk of England cricket fans becoming disconnected from this team. While they continue like this that will not change. Some may say that an England fan should support the team regardless, but surely those that care for English cricket cannot be happy with this. Can they?

<b>Peter Miller</b>