England camp is a joyless and soulless place to be in?
England lost the Ashes 2013-14 to Australia by 0-5 © Getty Images
Pace bowling coach Ian Pont looks at what went wrong for England as they suffered a whitewash in Australia. Pont analyses the squad selection, team selection, the tactics employed by the England think tank and also suggests what the fallout from such a thrashing could be.
They say that two things smell stale after a few weeks: Fish, and friends who overstayed their welcome.
There is something a little stale about the England team at the moment that suggests a few may have passed their allotted time at the top. This staleness comes off the back of a complete 5-0 mauling by a rejuvenated and refreshed Australian side on their home turf.
It was a depressing sight to witness as batsman after batsman failed to show the same determination to occupy the crease as they had talked about to the media. It was seemingly just a whistle for Mitchell Johnson that had the English batsmen starting to crumble. Completely undone by pace, the Englishmen succumbed to a combination of aggression, perseverance and control they themselves could only dream about. Even the usually tame spin of Nathan Lyon created issues for the mentally shot England batting line up.
The bowlers didn’t fare much better either. The giant Steven Finn never got a match, instead becoming the world’s largest drinks carrier alongside Chris Tremlett, who we may never see again playing for, such was his poor bowling. Boyd Rankin could scarcely have been more of a shadow of himself if he had tried. The bowling unit England had so brazenly flagged as an attack to tame the Aussies on their own bouncy pitches, failed to turn up. James Anderson lost his swing, Stuart Broad lost much of his fire, Tim Bresnan, who for me shouldn’t have even been on the tour, just plodded away with little effect. Graeme Swann called it a day halfway through and left his team mates to it. Monty Panesar was not backed by Alastair Cook who would rather turn to Joe Root for spin. Scott Borthwick bowled like he had wandered out on to the wrong pitch from a local grade match up the road.
Matt Prior forgot how to bat and keep wickets. Jonny Bairstow, not even close to being the best wicketkeeper in county cricket, showed why he isn’t an international cricketer at Test level.
The initial squad that omitted Graham Onions and Nick Compton was wrong. The match selections were wrong. Batting line-ups became disjointed. Bowling plans (aiming at fifth stump instead at off stump) were wrong. The atmosphere in the camp appeared to be one of a team bereft of thinking for themselves, and instead was playing to team orders.
And so, by the end of the Ashes, what we saw was just really the ashes of a team that had been described by some in 2013 as one of the greatest in English history. They were about to leave a legacy, but little did we know quite how poor that legacy would be. Only Ben Stokes and Gary Ballance came out of the trip with a sign that they might have what it takes to succeed at this level regularly.
Cook’s captaincy was poor — sadly. When he doesn’t score runs he seems to suffer as a captain. England needs Cook to score runs — heavily. Kevin Pietersen disappeared into his shell as he is now trying desperately to conform to team ethics and standards. Jonathan Trott’s loss was huge and untimely. This must have been well known to the management, though so questions will be raised about this at review. The Michael Carberry experiment must surely be over. Root was the best option and ended up in the position Carberry should have occupied in the middle-order.
After such a debacle, it would be usual for those in charge — Andy Flower, Cook, Graham Gooch, David Saker and Richard Halsall to collectively expect a battering from the media. Whether any choose to fall on their own sword is a personal issue, but clearly there is much wrong with how England has gone about their cricket.
Many observers say the England camp is a joyless and soulless place to be. That’s a shame if true because cricket needs both joy and soul to have passion. When a job is just a job and ceases to be a pleasure, then it’s often time to change. That change might be the way things are done or who does them. But it certainly involves a huge top down review so no one kids themselves again that they are doing a great job when they are not.
We all have a shelf life. We all have a sell by date. And just like fish, we can start to stink the place out. Only time will tell if the stench of staleness can be truly eradicated.
(Ian Pont is a former English player who played for Norttinghamshire and Essex. Early on in his coaching career he chose to specialise in pace bowling and it is his work of coaching speed into bowlers whilst improving accuracy that is hailed a breakthrough for developing long-term bowling attacks. His first book The Fast Bowler’s Bible is used by coaches and players at all levels all over the world as a blueprint. His second book Coaching Youth Cricket is recommended reading by the English & Wales Cricket Board. His latest publication, Ultimate Pace Secrets, reveals how speed is generated. Pont was Bangladesh’s bowling coach from September 2010 till the 2011 World Cup. The above article has been sourced with permission from PakPassion.Net)