Rehashing the Ashes
New correspondent Douglas Heath rakes over the Ashes
As your new cricket correspondent I would like to come up with something new on the debacle. The best I can do is to highlight two areas which have in my view attracted insufficient attention: captaincy and support.
Over the past 25 years there has been ample evidence of our best cricketers broken by the wheel of captaincy: Ian Botham ,Freddie Flintoff and now Alastair Cook. It’s not so much that they are poor tactically – messages can be conveyed onto the field – but the demands of media and leadership end up wrecking the technical prowess. The team then becomes ill-disciplined and rudderless, cliques take over in the dressing room. Some players can only captain themselves, Boycott and Pietersen for example, others have their clique like Flintoff, and others like Cook don’t seem to be able to skipper anyone. The great ones, like Mike Brearley and Michael Vaughan, captain the whole team. There are other reasons for the whitewash, notably the greater bowling, batting and fielding performances of the Aussies. I cannot recall another series in which only one English century was achieved.
I refer to a little known series in 1950 when South Africa went to Australia. The Aussies were so in their pomp that there were attempts to call off the series as a mismatch. The South Africans, captained superbly by Russell Endean, would not have it. They decided to major on their fielding. They ambushed the Aussies in the first test with some spectacular catching and drew the series. Unlike this contest, they were totally inferior in class but, due to excellent leadership and athletic fielding, they came with away with a satisfactory outcome.
The support for England outweighs any other test country except possibly India at home. Whereas tests are often played out before empty arenas, England fill theirs. It’s not just the Barmy Army, but legions of cricket lovers who save up all year for the trip of their lifetime. Travelling around the country, you bump into these knowledgeable and affable fans. They deserve a lot better than the pathetic performance they have witnessed and for which they have to endure Aussie banter. Yet I have heard precious little apology. That is because cricketers, like footballers, are now cocooned in their bubble. This side should be firmly reminded that they have not just let their country down, but its admirable supporters too.