England have announced their squad for the 3rd Test (starting on Sunday 27th July), and with the obvious exception of Matt Prior, it is pretty much as you were.
Alastair Cook is being backed to carry on, and the players that got England into this mess have the chance to get them out of it. Is it the last chance for this squad in it’s current guise though? And is it the last chance for Alastair Cook’s captaincy?
Cook basically said he would go on as captain until the end of this series unless told otherwise in the post match interviews after the 2nd Test at Lord’s. And the selector’s squad selection for the 3rd Test confirms that he still has their backing – for the time being.
As much as things clearly aren’t working for Cook and England at the moment, I’m not going to indulge in a session of Cook bashing here. I really do feel for the guy, he is giving it his best, and it is just not working for him.
I genuinely feel that England’s woes aren’t just down to Cook though. He has been badly let down by his senior players, only really Jimmy Anderson has performed anywhere near to his potential, and even he could do a lot better at times. And Cook has also had to cope without Graeme Swann, who it is plainly obvious to see now, papered over many a crack in the England set up.
That said, Cook also hasn’t helped himself. Not bowling Moeen Ali in the spell after lunch on Day 4 against India when Jadeja and Kumar cut loose looked pretty gutless to me. It was crying out for a spinner, and Cook only turned to Ali when it was all but too late, almost a final throw of the dice.
And I don’t really need to go into the ridiculous decision – under Cook’s captaincy – to sack Kevin Pietersen when we had just lost senior players like Trott and Swann, and still hadn’t replaced Andrew Strauss.
The selectors haven’t helped either. As I have eluded too, they haven’t replaced Struass and they were too quick and trigger happy to dump Nick Compton and Eoin Morgan, and now England find themselves stuck with a team of youngsters and out of form senior players.
As a result of this, they now can’t drop the out of form senior players and further expose the youngsters at such a volatile time for the team, if Compton or Morgan had been stuck with, that might have lessened the need to go for too many inexperienced players at once.
For these reasons, can England really drop Cook and place another new youngster alongside Sam Robson? Who – despite a hundred against Sri Lanka – looks far from convincing himself.
One change I would have made – but has been enforced on England – is leaving Matt Prior out for Jos Buttler (I would also drop Stokes for a specialist spinner).
Could Jos Buttler possibly be the catalyst that Cook needs to turn his fortunes around? Could Buttler provide that spark to get England ticking and finally give Cook that boost and bit of luck he needs? Only time will tell.
I hope the selectors would have made the call anyway, I think Prior needed putting out of his misery. In fairness to Prior though, he has been a top class player for England over the last few years, and I hope this isn’t the end for him.
I really hope he can go back to Sussex and that he can regain the form and fitness that turned him into a world class performer. Brad Haddin had a spell out of the Australian team, and look at him now, so who knows.
Onto the specialist spinner situation, and I really can’t fathom out England’s selectors and management at the moment. Are they really telling us that there isn’t a specialist spinner anywhere in county cricket that can’t come in and do a job for the team? Not be another Graeme Swann, just do a job for the team!
Someone isn’t doing their job. There has to be someone, the cupboard isn’t that bare. I’m just not buying that.
Finally back to Cook again. And I am not calling for him to be sacked, but he is looking like a broken man, and if things go bad again at Southampton next week, I think he could well need saving from himself.
I don’t think he will quit, and admirable as that is, it could be that he needs the decision making for him. England need him back to his best and scoring plenty of runs, they don’t want him mentally broken, and that looks like where he is heading at the moment.
If both Cook and England fail again, the decision needs taking out of Alastair’s hands, for the good of the bloke himself on a personal level, never mind from a cricket perspective.