England is famously known to be the inventors of Cricket. It was the English who brought cricket to India-the powerhouse of Cricket now-a-days. But it is very disappointing to state that England is struggling badly in the longest format of the sport. And the recent Ashes defeat is an epitome of the current situation of England in test cricket. Let’s inspect what might be the actual reason behind this downfall.
The Opening Pair Problem
People who have followed cricket during the last part of 2000s and early parts of 2010s will always say that England had two world class players as their openers. Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook started as openers in 2006. Eventually they turned out to be one of the best opening pairs of all time in test. In only three series both of them averaged less than 40. Otherwise they were responsible for giving a good foundation to English batting lineup and scoreboard. Strauss and Cook both struggled in 2006-2007 Ashes. Strauss had some bad patch against SA, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Cook too had some problems in some series. But overall they were excellent opening pair.
The problem started after Strauss had retired from cricket in 2012. Since then England had tried many openers but could not settle with one pair, for success didn’t come handy.
Here is a list of 12 players who had partnered Cook since the retirement of Strauss.
- Nick Compton
- Joe Root
- Michael Carberry
- Sam Robson
- Jonathan Trott
- Adam Lyth
- Moeen Ali
- Alex Hales
- Ben Duckett
- Haseeb Hameed
- Keaton Jennings
- Mark Stoneman
Among all of them only Root had an average more than 40. All of the other players had a below par average. The problem worsened when Cook bid goodbye to cricket in 2018. Recently we saw that the opening pair of Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed did well at Headingley against India.
Except that particular innings they too failed miserably. They were criticized and trolled by the cricket fans. But the problem is deep and need to be solved quickly for the betterment of English Cricket.
The Middle Order Problem
The standard of middle order batters has also dwindled down. The previous generation English middle order consisted of players like Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Joe Root. All of them had an average greater than 40. They were excellent batters who could contribute a great deal of runs to their team whenever needed. And for a long time they carried the English middle order on their shoulders.
But recently England is facing a middle order crisis too. Players like Pope, Malan, Crawley, Buttler, Bairstow may play some good innings in a long time. But they are not consistent. And most of the times when the team needs them, they fail to perform. That’s a crisis. As a result most of the time whole team is carried by Joe Root, who happens to be their best batter.
Reason behind the Problem
On 17 August, 2021 Kevin Pietersen made a tweet stating, “Check England’s batting & if you think the current county system is ok, I unfortunately completely disagree”. Pietersen is quite right in his own way.
Check England’s batting & if you think the current county system is ok, I unfortunately completely disagree!
— Kevin Pietersen🦏 (@KP24) August 17, 2021
After trashing defeat in 2015 World Cup England had clearly put their focus more on white ball formats. And as a result they became the finalists of 2016 t20 world cup and they bagged the 2019 World Cup. They became the pioneering team in that format. People may say that they did not focus on the red ball format. But that’s not right as Eoin Morgan had clearly said that test cricket has always been a priority of England board. That may be the case. But one cannot run away from the fact that England did not do well in the tests.
The overall quality of players produced by the County Cricket system has gone down a lot. Players are not that skillful to be competent in the highly standard international level. And exactly that’s what is happening.
Players now a days are more inclined towards the charisma of white ball cricket. Their skill are more adapted to these kind of situation. They may be unwilling to directly go to test cricket.
Test cricket is all about hard work and dedication. Of course a fair amount of gifted skill should be there in order to succeed. So players should be motivated to invest their talent in that particular format. Now the big question rises. Who will motivate them? They should do it themselves. But it’s more important for the authority to show these players the path for doing well in the test cricket. If the board is reluctant to do it, no one can save them from drowning in that format. Otherwise the people of England are very supportive when it comes to test cricket.
Now very few countries like India, New Zealand and Australia invest for test cricket. Others should follow the same path. Otherwise the longest format of the game will see a heavy degradation in quality in near future. After all test is the toughest and most beautiful format of the game. We should try to keep it exciting and competitive.