September 6, 2012
Stormy waters lie ahead for this England cricket team. A new captain takes charge of a team that is not only playing poor cricket, but there are issues in the camp, highlighted by the farcical Kevin Pietersen situation. A trip to India lies in wait where they will play on surfaces which will test England’s fragile ability to play high class spin bowling. Dhoni has requested four dust bowls, and what Dhoni wants he will get, especially after losing to England 4-0 on hard green tops 12 months ago in England.
In the next 15 months England also have back-to back Ashes campaigns, which will be tough because after humiliating Australia last time around, England will start as favourites. Losing an Ashes series when going in as favourites does not reflect well on the man in charge and through history the survival of this man is minimal.
England need leadership more now than they have at any stage since Nasser Hussain took charge of the team. I would encourage Alastair Cook to get Pietersen back in the reckoning because quite simply he’s too good to be playing for Surrey. However, Pietersen needs guidelines and rules and he must abide by these. Alastair Cook must be the man to set these along with Andy Flower and be tough enough to crush Pietersen if he crosses the line.
A worry for England is of course their ability to score big runs on the sub-continent, but also maybe even more worryingly is the lack of venom in England’s bowling this summer. James Anderson and Graeme Swann have been pivotal in England’s rise to number 1, but in more recent times have looked ineffective with the ball and grumpy in between. Cook must gain the respect of his senior bowlers quickly and he must also try and help them unlock their world beating form again. If he does this England could get back to winning ways. If he doesn’t he has a big problem.
I think ideally Strauss and Flower would be the men to put England back to where they want to be, but to say Cook can’t do this is wrong. Cook has spent most of his career listening to people tell him he can’t do things, and yet so he has leapt over every hurdle put in front of him. Let’s hope he can do it again but this time he can’t rely on the bat to help him over.
Time for Carberry
With the departure of Strauss it leaves a big gap at the top of the order where Strauss and Cook had formed a formidable partnership. Who are the candidates to take over? Looking at the statistics in County Championship, I am not all that encouraged with what I see. There are only three batsmen that have passed 1,000 runs in division 1 of the County Championship and one of these players is Chris Rogers the Australian. Nick Compton and Varun Chopra are the other two. Compton had a flying start to the season but has since been injured. Chopra has been a steady opener for Warwickshire who will be County Champions, but neither jump out at me for this tour.
The man I would like to see given a go is Michael Carberry. Despite only playing one Test and missing large parts of the last two seasons with injury, he is an experienced cricketer and has an impressive average of 43 in first class cricket. For years he has been the next cab off the rank and in my view nothing has changed. We saw him play a stunning innings in the CB40 semi-final at Hove last Saturday which proves his injuries have not hampered his skill level. He also brings experience at a time where it looks England might need it. Who knows whether KP will have kissed and made up with the ECB by the time England head to India. If not, then Bairstow and James Taylor are likely to feature again. With this and putting in a Joe Root type player, it has the feeling of a Lions team, and I think England could get eaten up in those conditions with this make up.
Congratulations to Warwickshire who are about to be crowned Division 1 Champions. They came close in 2011 and winning with a match to spare has proven they are the best team in the country. Head coach Ashley Giles has turned things around at Edgbaston and you would have to think he is the man next in line to take over from Andy Flower when the time comes.
Chris Murtagh 06/09/12