The Light Roller: Forget recriminations, England need to look to the future after losing the Ashes

Diary of a cricket obsessive

Fourteen days that shook cricket's world order

Fourteen days of utterly one-sided cricket have transformed perceptions of where England - and Australia - stand in the world cricket order. It has felt like 1989 when the public and pundits assumed England would retain the Ashes, only to discover that Australia were playing a brand of the game that was streets ahead of their opponents.

What is clear now is that the stuttering manner of England's series victory in the summer was a dark portent of things to come. All batsmen have lean times, but to see collective failures across consecutive series suggests either that players are past their peak or that they have fallen victim to deep-seated malaise.

And there have been plenty of earlier signs too. Series defeats against Pakistan and South Africa were excused by the conditions, the quality of the opposition or off-field distractions. A barely-deserved drawn series in New Zealand last winter was perhaps more indicative of where the team stood.

So what now? Here's my 3-point plan...

 

1. Don't panic

Things look bleak but it's important that England don't do anything rash. Andy Flower needs to look closely at his methods because his team have not demonstrated the hunger or tactical nous we've seen in the past. But calls for him to stand aside should only heeded if he has lost the confidence of the players.

Similarly, there is no point in seeking Alistair Cook's head on a plate when there are no realistic alternatives for the captaincy. Kevin Pietersen should not be discarded lightly either, despite criticism of his shot selection: he is not the only guilty party in that regard.

What's most important is that England look to push forward the younger prospects who are on the fringes of the squad - the likes of Tymal Mills and Alex Lees - and stick by players such as Joe Root and Ben Stokes who should be key men during the coming years.

 

2. Sort out Prior

Since re-establishing himself in 2008/09 Matt Prior has been the heartbeat of the England team. He has chivvied in the field, scored vital runs in all manner of situations (including six centuries) and proved an expert reader of DRS. His inexplicable loss of form in the last seven months (one half-century in nineteen innings) has arguably been the most significant factor in England's difficulties.

There seems no obvious reason for his decline but it needs to be addressed because a lack of lower-middle order runs has a huge knock-on effect elsewhere in the line-up. Prior is popular and his record speaks for itself. But Jonny Bairstow is pushing hard at the door.

 

 3. Identify Graeme Swann's long-term successor

Of all the surprising ingredients of England's success since 2008, the triumphant return of Graeme Swann from the international wilderness is the most striking. He had been cast off as an apparent misfit and had a fairly moderate first-class record.

Yet he has taken wickets everywhere, against everyone. He has kept things tight when others could not. He conjured breakthroughs just when they were most needed.  And, like Prior, he has inspired teammates by his hunger, aggression and general cheery outlook.  Seven wickets at 80 in the last three matches may be a blip but he will be 35 in March and has hardly been injury-free in recent times.  All things being equal, Swann should play on for a couple more years and may well get back to his best.  But that cannot be taken for granted and England need to work out who will be their spinning mainstay come 2016 - or before if necessary.  Monty Panesar has not inspired a great deal of confidence lately and Simon Kerrigan needs to get over the disaster he experienced at the Oval.  Are Ollie Rayner or Scott Borthwick realistic contenders?

For a long time it has been assumed that England had reasonable strength in depth when it came to bowling resources.  The dismal performances of every bowler, bar Stuart Broad, on this tour suggest that belief needs to be recalibrated.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Rebel, rebel: Vivienne Westwood in her baroque-influenced early-Nineties designs
fashionWhy we mustn't take Dame Vivienne Westwood for granted
News
The police have been criticised in a raid on the luxury home of Sir Cliff Richard
people
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Sport
Dwight Gayle (left) celebrates making it 1-1 with Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak
premier leagueReds falter to humbling defeat
Sport
Harry Kane
premier leagueLive minute-by-minute coverage
Arts and Entertainment
Morgana Robinson
arts + entsIt is not easy interviewing Morgana Robinson. Here's why...
News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin