Structural weaknesses have brought English game to its knees
Monday 04 August 2008
In the wake of the last Ashes humiliation, a review into the state of the England team was announced. Its intention was to establish a system which would lead to enduring triumph.
As Michael Vaughan, a great captain of England, resigned yesterday, to be joined by the one-day captain, Paul Collingwood, the thought occurred that the Schofield Report – for that is what the review became – might not yet have achieved all its objectives. Or, put another way, that it had gone irrevocably wrong because it was ill-conceived, misguided and, in the way its recommendations were implemented, egregious.
A bit of history may be in order to understand why the present has become so bleak. That, incidentally, is a description that can be applied not only to the team but to a game whose administrators appear to be in thrall to money and glitter in a way that suggests they might have a future in compèring a revival of The Price is Right.
England lost the 2006-07 Ashes 5-0. It was largely down to Australia being a superior team on a redemptive mission, but partly because England had picked the wrong captain in their great talisman, Andrew Flintoff.
Not long after, Vaughan came back. From memory, he did not come riding into town on a white charger, but he might have done, so great was the official relief.
Who needed Schofield?
Vaughan's stock among the people who were, titularly, his employers at the England and Wales Cricket Board has never fallen. Indeed, only last week a very senior administrator mentioned what Michael had said on this, that and the other as if it should be inscribed on tablets of stone. But to anybody with a slight acquaintanceship with the team – ie, the spectators – it was clear that they were moderate. They have lost all three main series since Vaughan's return, against India, Sri Lanka and South Africa, all without winning a Test.
The team have somehow fooled themselves that wins against West Indies and New Zealand made them something more than patsies. The way in which they were at times pushed around by a fairly innocuous Kiwi side did not substantiate this sentiment.
However, the players have been aided and abetted by the selectors, who have in turn been buttressed by a system which has sometimes been alarming in concept and execution. The new four-man panel was chosen by Hugh Morris, who was appointed managing director of England cricket as part of the Schofield recommendations. Morris had previously been deputy chief executive of the ECB. Hardly a cleansing of the Augean stables.
The selectors whom he appointed were Geoff Miller, Ashley Giles – Ashes winner and now director of cricket at Warwickshire – the former Leicestershire captain James Whitaker, who had been out of the game for two years, and the England coach, Peter Moores. Miller had behaved totally honourably, because he had not applied for the new, daftly titled job of national selector in order to leave the field clear for the incumbent, David Graveney, under whose stewardship England had won six successive series, culminating in the 2005 Ashes.
Still, Miller got the job and he naturally accepted. The appointment of Giles seemed to compromise him and Whitaker had been long removed from the international circuit, having played one Test in 1986.
The selectors dropped two bowlers, Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard, in New Zealand in the spring, but kept faith with underperforming batsman. Their choice for this summer's Headingley Test of the seamer Darren Pattinson, who had emigrated to Australia as a boy and had played six games for Nottinghamshire, was a betrayal. It was illogical and it seemed to suggest they were determined to show they could act decisively. England had been unchanged for six games. "Hey, look at us, we're the selectors and we're selecting," they seemed to be saying. No, they were not.
Morris chose the selectors so he must share the culpability. Then there are those who chose him. Earlier in the summer, a helicopter landed on the Nursery Ground at Lord's. When a Texan billionaire emerged, those who greeted him almost kissed the ground he walked on.
It was clear that English cricket was in deep trouble. The England team, due to play a Twenty20 match for $20m in Antigua (or "twennytwenny for twenny" as Sir Allen Stanford put it), was for sale. Many things since – the establishment of the England Premier League, the losing tussle with India over the Champions League – have demonstrated that England know about cost but not value.
In the end, Vaughan and his players ran out of luck. Had Graeme Smith been given out caught on 85 on Saturday, England might have won. But it would have been a finger in the dyke. Vaughan realised it was time to go. Would that others were so aware.
View from the boundary: Fans react to the news
It's not over yet "I find it stupid how people seem think that because Vaughan has stepped down as captain, his career is over. I am a massive fan of Vaughan and what he has done for England but I feel the time is right for him to step down and regain his form. I still feel there is a place in the England team for Vaughan but he has to quickly forget about this blow and prove he is still a top player. Come on, Vaughan, prove us wrong!" TimeToDeliver on 606
KP's the man "Pietersen would certainly be an aggressive captain – no tame draws or anything –and it could make him bat more with the team in mind and not go for glory shots. KP seems an intelligent cricketer apart from the odd "red bull" moment. Making him captain could hasten his progress towards a mature cricketing great as he would definitely love the idea of being captain and leading "his" country to success after success. It could also end up being one big mistake, a bit like Freddy's captaincy." Hurray up harry, www.cricket247.org
Confused selectors Michael Vaughan is still the right guy for the job. I can't forget 2005 and the fact that the last Ashes debacle was when Vaughan wasn't playing. Moores and the selectors are going a little weird, with their selections in the second Test and now. They clearly are lost and confused." Goughy on www.cricketweb.net
*Look further for Key "I believe that the next England captain should be a player that's not in the current team. Robert Key would be my choice. A fresh player and a fresh voice to take England forward." manubenny on 606
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