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Ashes 2013-14: England on the brink of self-destruction mode?

Kevin Pietersen (left) is one of the senior players who has come under scrutiny for poor performances in the Ashes series against Australia © Getty Images
Kevin Pietersen (left) is one of the senior players who has come under scrutiny for poor performances in the ongoing Ashes series against Australia © Getty Images

With Graeme Swann announcing his retirement, and a host of senior players under pressure, England selectors are on the brink of taking some harsh decisions which might not necessarily be needed. Abhijit Banare explains…

 


When Alec Stewart wrote a column for the BBC to caution against taking rash decisions in the wake of an Ashes series loss to Australia, he wouldn’t have imagined that the rash decisions weren’t necessarily going to come only from the selectors and coach. As Graeme Swann retired on Sunday, England are short of one more experienced player in their dressing room. Yet, looking at the furore over the series loss, some surprises seem to be still in store with questions lingering over the future of a few players.

 

Some of the players have been justifiably under scanner for poor form, but it doesn’t make any sense to cleanse the disappointments by bringing in a complete set of new players. A team that won you the urn four months ago suddenly can’t be so lacklustre that it warrants seniors to be phased out. Matt Prior and Kevin Pietersen are high on the radar with Alastair Cook and pacer James Anderson being the others. Although the ‘experienced’ players failed to rise up to the occasion, England’s best chance for now is allowing the same set of seniors to take responsibility and resurrect the team. As for Pietersen, with 8,000 runs behind him, there’s not much to be told about the task ahead. Cook and Pietersen together, with 200 Tests between them, there can be certainly more expected out of them than burdening them with the pressure of being dropped.

 

Swann was certainly not in the best of form in the Ashes series Down Under and was on the verge of being dropped from the Perth Test, and the decision seemed a certainty for the Boxing Day encounter. However, some of the players and the team management expressed their surprise over his decision. This clearly indicates that Swann may have had a bad series, but he was still going to be the Mr Dependable for England in the spin department. At the same time, the team management needs to introspect, how they couldn’t sense such a decision from a senior player coming (considering Swann’s statement that Perth Test had sealed his decision to retire).

 

By bringing in new players, England’s woes in the near future maybe solved, but there’s a possibility that a few poor scores by the new set of players first-up might further end up putting the future in a mess. The same is the case with Andy Flower whose disciplined approach got the team to climb up the rankings and it doesn’t make much sense to do away with him for the team’s poor run in just one series.

 

Lessons to learn from Australia

 

While England are on the brink of making ‘wholesale’ changes, they could take some tips from the arch-rivals who were in no different situation after a 4-0 loss in India, followed by the Ashes defeat in England. If Cricket Australia (CA) and the selectors had replaced Michael Clarke with some other captain, a struggling Shane Watson (struggling since a long time) and David Warner were to be axed, Australia would not have been the same team that looked confident to turn the tables in the series against England at home.

 

The way in which this team has been turned around by Darren Lehmann should be an example for the overall England set-up as well. To show faith in players and working around the unit to bring together everyone to make it a well knit unit is the toughest task after a series defeat and Lehmann along with his support staff have done it. It’s quite natural that cracks begin to grow within the team when the results aren’t good enough. The solution is to heal the cracks, but not to bring in new players and create a new team atmosphere.

 

At the end of the day, doing away with a few senior players on the back of a series defeat is going to be England’s own loss. They are not just altering the structure too soon, but forcing themselves into an uncalled transitional phase. And we all know that the side effect of ‘transition phase’ involves the possibility of losing more than one series, before it begins to click. England’s next Test assignments is in June against Sri Lanka followed by India. So, there is sometime on hand to let things calm down rather than take hasty decisions now.

 

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)

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