Friday 23 March 2018

In which I once again blame Jonathan Agnew unfairly

I refer to my previous post on the failures of the England cricket set up.

England's latest embarrassment has that sinking feeling of predictability about it. The only consistent thing about England's batting is its magnificent inconsistency. I would not bet against them scoring either 50 or 500 in their second innings, if the weather lets the game get that far.

I have given up being frustrated by England's performances. I remain frustrated, however, by the level of analysis of what goes wrong when it goes wrong. I have named Jonathan Agnew, which is unfair to him, excellent commentator that he is. He is merely an example of the direction of analysis of England's failure in the first innings against New Zealand. I agree that the preparation provided for visiting teams is unfair, but to blame that for what happened yesterday is to mistake a symptom for a cause. A test cricketer should be able to come out of six months in the freezer and keep their wicket. Much of the other commentary I have seen (not an exhaustive trawl) focuses on individual technical failures, listing the individual mistakes in detail, some with a sense of schadenfreude. There is a larger, and I would argue, more important issue, which is how do we get to the point where nine experienced, talented, skilled, highly coached, competitive individuals all make such school child errors at the same time. Why was there not one single batter (until Craig Overton) who, seeing what the others were up to, went in determined to sell his wicket as dearly as possible? The answer, I believe, lies in the culture of the England set up, management and teams, and can only be dealt with by reform that starts from the top and reaches very widely.

Trevor Bayliss skirted round the edge of what's going on. "When one person sneezes it seems that we all catch a cold. It’s not good enough."  I relied on Cricket Badger for this quote, so it may not be entirely accurate. If it is, then Bayliss has put his finger on, or at least somewhere near, a major issue for the England set up that nobody otherwise seems to be talking about. As I noted in my previous blog, there is a major question about the system and the culture that produces so many collective failures. Dealing with the batting failures at an individual level will never solve that problem.

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