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
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

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent