Ashes 2013-14: Five things for England to urgently look at before the Fourth Test in Melbourne
The series is over in terms of the urn - but there is much to be learned from the final two Tests
Doing nothing is not an option
Wholesale changes, whatever they are, never work but England pride themselves on having systems in place which are supposed to ensure an eternally smooth progress through life. In a way, it is a relief that all the systems ever invented are powerless when you come up against a better team. It is the nature of sport.
But there is obviously something amiss with a side that has lost three successive matches by huge margins. It is simply wrong to keep insisting they are the best around if they keep losing. If the systems are that perfect – and we keep being told they are – there ought to be ready-made replacements. Of course, there aren’t but the concept should be worth testing.
Examine the whole approach to batting
The repeated mantra of anybody being interviewed on behalf of the England team is that there is a lot of talent in that dressing room. Nobody doubts their belief but it is becoming harder to swallow.
England have made above 400 in the first innings in only one of their last 14 matches. But the signs of decline have been there since the heavy loss to Pakistan in the UAE early last year. In the 14 matches before that tour England made 400 in the first innings nine times, frequently above 500. A review of the order, especially Alastair Cook’s place in it if he is to stay as captain, as well as the approach is urgently needed.
Look at the next wicketkeeper
It is wholly correct that Matt Prior has been given an extended period in which to try to rediscover his form, he has been a magnificent player for the cause. But for 10 Test matches he has been short of the necessary stuff and his poor batting form has started to affect his wicketkeeping.
Somebody else probably deserves a bash but England have made the mistake on this tour of not picking the second best wicketkeeper batsman. It is probable that Jonny Bairstow should be seriously considered for the fourth Test in Melbourne but the selectors do not view him as the long-term successor, something they should have thought about.
What to do about the gun bowlers?
There is no easy answer to this. But Jimmy Anderson and Graeme Swann have had dreadful series. Swann, who took 26 wickets in the home Ashes last summer has seven in this and has regularly been despatched. Anderson, too, has got seven wickets and both have looked shadows of their former selves.
Anderson is 31, Swann is 34 but this hardly makes them ancient for swing and spin bowlers. They should play the rest of this series but after that England have to start looking elsewhere. The planning for the 2015 Ashes cannot start a moment too soon.
Think about the next captain just in case
If the future is planned it would be fascinating to know who is designated as the next captain, just in case it does not work out for Cook.
While Cook is entitled to one bad series, it cannot be in his or the side’s best interests if England lose this series 5-0 and his form fails to improve. There are other options but Prior is the vice-captain and Stuart Broad probably next in line as Twenty20 captain. It is hard to see Broad taking over. Jimmy Whittaker, the new chairman of selectors, has much to ponder.
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