For my first musings of 2014 I write not of plumbing but of my main passion in life, (other than my wife) cricket. Those who know me well, know that if it wasn’t for work getting in the way I would probably play cricket or watch cricket 7 days a week but until I win the lottery that won’t be possible. For English cricket fans the last six weeks have been somewhat traumatic. Back on November 21st it all looked so good, we had just beaten the old enemy for the third successive Ashes series and had them reeling at 132 for 6 in the first innings at Melbourne and it looked like things would continue along familiar lines. Then,suddenly, it all changed. Mitchell Johnson and Brad Haddin put on a partnership of 114 for the seventh wicket and Australia escaped with a reasonable looking total of 295. Perhaps encouraged by his batting, Johnson regained his bowling form which seemed to have deserted him for a couple of seasons and ripped out England for a paltry 136 and from there it went from bad to worse. Jonathan Trott, for so long the anchor of England’s batting, returned home with ‘a stress related illness’ and the rest of our batsmen appear to have forgotten how to occupy the crease, getting themselves out to a succession of poor shots, making Johnson and Nathan Lyon look like world beaters, which they are clearly not. The next three tests followed on in the same vein, Graham Swann, the greatest spin bowler in his era of test cricket, gave up the ghost and we now find ourselves 4-0 down and staring a whitewash in the face.
So where did it all go wrong? Credit must go to Darren Lehman who has turned this Australian side around from a disjointed outfit into a unified team who fight for each other and refuse to give in, much as Andy Flower did for England, but some of the England players need to take a good look at themselves and ask if they still have the desire to do what it takes to be successful.
In sport, everything goes in cycles, great teams come and go. Who can forget the once mighty West Indies side who terrorised everyone they played against with a battery of fast bowlers we have never seen the like of again? The Australians with McGrath, Warne and the Waughs who also looked invincible or the once mighty West Germany who conquered all before them? The great Welsh rugby team of the seventies?
One of the problems of being the top dogs at any sport is that it is hard to make changes to a winning team and quite often a team’s fall from grace is quite sudden as several players pass their peak at the same time.
So where do we go from here? Some of the media are calling for the heads of the coach and captain, and wholesale changes within the team. Personally I don’t think this knee jerk reaction is the way to go. Yes there are some players that need a rest, some of whom may come back revitalised whilst others may have played their last test for England, but it is important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Younger players need to be brought in and given their chance, with some senior players alongside to guide them as we look to rebuild.
While a 5-0 whitewash may look like the end of the world right now, think back to 2006 when the same thing happened, we then went on to win three Ashes series on the run. All is not lost. I am an eternal optimist so I will still be getting up at the crack of dawn to watch the play from Sydney, hoping for a better result, but if we do lose again, the world will keep turning and the England faithful will still look forward to the summer of 2015 when the Aussies are next over here.
Happy New Year. Keep the faith.