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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before