Is that an aerial protest on the flight path over Lord’s? The Wrong One – No to Ashley Giles! After what must be the worst job application in the history of cricket, perhaps there is no need to ape the anti-David Moyes lobby at Manchester United with a pop at Giles before the interviews to appoint a new head coach.
Wasn’t this supposed to be the post-KP age, the end of bad attitude, England reformed into a fighting unit forged by common purpose and desire? There was nil sign of a new dawn in Chittagong. KP’s sacking is looking more like a reprieve after the defeat to the Netherlands, a team propped up by jobbing Australians who only qualified courtesy of a mother from Dutch New Guinea.
Maybe that’s where England have been going wrong, plundering the wrong colony. South Africa was never the option after all. In fairness, any side is entitled to a bad game. And it was a dead rubber. England have lost to the Dutch before, but not like this.
And, after a sequence in which the team fell apart in all forms of the game during an appalling winter in Australia, this wretched defeat points to a greater failing at the top of the administration. In the space of six months, England have disintegrated from Ashes winners to a rudderless rabble, before the head coach stepped down without answering for the mess over which he had presided.
The team’s best batsman is exiled; the pre-eminent spinner, Graeme Swann, quit mid-Ashes; the pivotal No 3 batsman, Jonathan Trott, returned home with a debilitating mental condition that turned out to be nothing more pernicious than poor form; and the “world’s best” wicketkeeper, Matt Prior, fell apart at the crease. And now this.
Today, the domestic season opens with a series of gentle warm-up fixtures between counties and the universities. On Sunday, the County Championship begins, ordinarily triggering a sense of renewal. Instead, it feels like English cricket is in the grip of a terrible blight, compounded by a ring of silence on the subject imposed from above.
Test captain Alastair Cook is one of many England players scheduled to speak today ahead of the new county season but a discussion about the state of the national team will form no part of the conversation. The ban extends to all England players. And it’s not an April Fool’s jape. The ECB has turned into Putin’s Russia without the territorial gains.
What could they say that would make matters worse? It barely seems possible that England came into the World Twenty20 tournament having won the thing in 2010. That success proved a rare blip in an otherwise lamentable England record in limited-overs cricket. The country that gave the shortened form of the game to the world more than 40 years ago has shown itself yet again to be way behind the prevailing orthodoxy, with no obvious plan of how to attack a score or defend one. That is a coaching failure as much as anything else. And to think the Dutch lost the toss.