Opinion: Time for a major England overhaul

Blog Opinion

That was an embarrassing a loss for England as it could have been. They've not won in 10 Test matches and lost seven of them. But this one was the worst of the lot, even worse than the Ashes capitulation.

That was an embarrassing a loss for England as it could have been. They've not won in 10 Test matches and lost seven of them. But this one was the worst of the lot, even worse than the Ashes capitulation. At least that was abroad, on bouncy pitches and against a Mitchell Johnson.

England were given everything in their favour at Lord's – the greenest of green pitches, nice bowling friendly overhead conditions and they won the toss. They couldn't have had it any more their way. They messed it up. Monumentally and royally cocked it up.

They wasted the first new ball, then the second new ball. Then again in the second innings. Letting the Indian batsmen off the hook by bowling either too short or too wide or both.

Alastair Cook simply cannot stay on as captain. It's all too much now. The wheels are off and trying to battle through – admirable as though that might be – won't help him or the team.

In fact, even if he did get a big score now, it wouldn't solve the other problems. England would still collapse, they'd still bowl utterly the wrong lengths, they'd still have bad tactics on the pitch.

He has to stand down or Paul Downton, who says he's not afraid of taking big decisions (a la KP), has to tell him it's time to go. Nothing from that England performance was redeeming, England were out bowled, out batted, out thought and out fought.

England's success in recent times was a lot down to sticking by players, believing in them even through bad runs of form and no one wants to return to a revolving door of selection. But It's time for change. And big change.

He says he's determined to carry on but Cook must be the first to go, for the good of the team and for his own good. He'll go slowly nuts if this continues, and the rest of us will go slowly nuts watching him to get some runs and make a serious of baffling captaincy decisions.

But he's been let down very, very badly by his senior players this summer. In this time of 'rebuilding' it was when Cook most needed Ian Bell, Matt Prior, James Anderson and Stuart Broad to support him – and by that I don't mean saying privately and publicly that he has their support. I mean actively supporting him. By performing much much better than they have.

In this Test match, England were handed everything – a green seaming pitch, a captain who won the toss and bowled first; it was all there for them to exploit. They did nothing of the sort.

Anderson and Broad squandered the new ball in both innings, letting their pride get in the way of assessing the situation. After lunch on day four, Anderson bowled over half of his deliveries short.

Anderson is the leader of the attack, the pitch was there for him, the overhead conditions were there for him – he's the master of swing – and he refused to bowl the right length. His desire to take out his anger against the Indian team has over-ridden common sense and he's made things a whole heap worse for his captain.

Throughout the summer, when things have been going badly on the field, Bell has been nowhere to be seen, Broad – who doesn't look 100% fit – has been frustrating and Anderson has been grumping around.

There was a good spell from Broad on the third day, but just the one. He was just as guilty of bowling too short, letting arrogance get in the way of clear thinking and of giving his wicket away. Broad has scored a high class Test century and now seems incapable of playing proper shots.

Prior is done. His goose is cooked. He's been a magnificent servant to English cricket both with gloves and bat. He's played a number of match winning and match saving innings at number seven, his innings in Sydney in the 10/11 Ashes to name but one.

The stock that he had in the bank was what got him reselected at the beginning of the summer, despite having been dropped in Australia and then injured at the beginning of the English summer, but that stock has run out.

He's no longer the best keeper/batsman in the country. He's not getting anywhere near some balls behind the stumps and he's been bounced out four times this summer. Anderson, Broad, Bell and Prior have all been culpable in England's humiliation.

Of course, enormous credit must be given to India who thoroughly outplayed England in conditions that couldn't have been more English.

I wonder if Giles Clarke still believes England aren't at a 'low ebb', because it certainly feels as though this is lower than it's been – even lower than the Ashes Whitewash.
Reactionary changes to losses is never usually a sensible idea but in this case, it's the only way, before the rot sets in and it takes even longer to reverse.

As for what next, England have the unexpected of luxury of a Test match-free winter, which buys them some time. Bell, who admittedly needs to get some runs, could be interim skipper for the next three matches (with Eoin Morgan taking over as one-day Captain). He would be infinitely better than Cook in terms of on-pitch tactics and the off-pitch leadership stuff would require Peter Moores to step up and take that on more.

There are options to replace Cook as opener – there's Nick Compton, Alex Hales, Alex Lees, Adam Lyth. It's simply not true to say there aren't the players out there in the county game. There are.

We've seen throughout this summer that the scars of the winter are hanging over those players who were there. The young new players are not carrying any baggage and have, on the whole, performed very admirably.

It's time to bring in Jos Buttler for Prior. He might not be completely ready but he'll be just fine. Only in England would we watch a young batsman play one of the best one-day innings ever played by an Englishman (his 100 at Lord's against Sri Lanka) and immediately come out and say 'oh but he's not ready for Test cricket'. Buttler is a special talent, his glovework is improving and the time is right to bring him in.

If England name the same squad of 14 for the Southampton Test, there may will be a march on Lord's. They are heading down the well-defined madness route doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.

It would be so damn English to do exactly that though.

<b>Lizzy Ammon</b>

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