One More Chance For England’s Flops?

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.

Next England Captain Betting

After the Headingley debacle, it looks like Alastair Cook is safe in his role as England captain for the time being. He has had full backing from coach Peter Moores, and there have been no soundings coming out of Lord’s suggesting anything is going to change any time soon.

This still hasn’t stopped the bookmakers opening books on who the next England (Test) captain will be, with Warwickshire’s Ian Bell the current favourite.

I’m not sure I’d be getting stuck into a market like this at the moment. As I have already eluded too, there is no talk of Cook being replaced. And a quick glance down the list of possible replacements shows there are no obvious nor outstanding candidates waiting in the wings.

Ian Bell is a best price of 11/4 with Betfair, but I can’t see any logic in making Bell the next England captain. He doesn’t strike me at all as captaincy material, and as England’s only other senior batsman, do we want to hamper him with the stresses and hassles of the top job?

Stuart Broad is a 4/1 shot with Stan James, and while I wouldn’t pick him, as current T20 captain he has to be a serious player in the running. I wouldn’t like him in the job as I got the impression in the World T20 that he didn’t have much of a clue either, he seemed to be captaining to a pre ordained plan, a plan that wasn’t too be strayed from no matter what.

It looks like Cook stays in the job by default (for the time being). I can understand him carrying on throughout the India series, as there is no one else. And in fairness to Cook, he has probably earned the right to be given the chance to put things right.

Cook’s final involvement in the India series will be the 5th and final ODI fixture at Headingley (of all ironies) on Friday 5th September (there is a T20 afterwards), and William Hill are offering odds that Cook is still captain on 31st September (basically, will he lead England after this series).

Hills are offering 2/5 that Cook is still captain on 31st September, and 7/4 that he will no longer be captain on this date.

The end of the India series could well be a watershed moment with regard to the England captaincy as I do wonder if Cook’s outburst against Shane Warne ahead of the 2nd Test (against Sri Lanka) may have sealed his fate already?

Is it now possible for Cook to lead England against Australia in next year’s Ashes? By moaning about Warne in the way he did, Cook has now announced to every man and his dog that Warne can get to him with public criticism.

And does anyone really think that Warne will leave it now that he knows he has got a bite? Of course he won’t.

Unless Cook performs brilliantly – both in his role as captain and with the bat – against India and puts the argument to bed, this will carry on up to, and during the Ashes. So it will be interesting to see how England perform against the Indians, and what happens with the captaincy at the end of the series.

Clueless Cook and England To Carry On

It seems to have been one debacle after another for Alastair Cook lately, and it was compounded with what happened at Headingley on Day 4 of the 2nd Test match against Sri Lanka, when Cook and his cohorts contrived to lose a Test match that England could have already won twice over.

It just seems to be one disaster after another for Cook, everything he touches seems to be going wrong. No form, no tactics, no imagination, even no luck.

England’s tactics in helping Angelo Matthews score a magnificent century and lead his team to a historic series victory on British soil were baffling.

And it wasn’t just Cook who baffled me – yes he is the leader, and so he has to carry the can – but he has experienced bowlers in Broad and Anderson, and experienced cricketers in Bell and Prior, so why didn’t any of them question the tactics? Or did they?

Also, why wasn’t a drink sent out from the dressing room with a message from Peter Moores during that embarrassing afternoon session? I know these things get picked up on TV, and Andrew Strauss (as captain) was once criticised for looking like he was getting advice from the dressing room, but this was one occasion when such criticism would surely have been the lessor of the two evils?

This seems to be an English disease. We seen similar rigid tactics from Broad in the World T20, when he seemed to be picking who bowled which Overs to a pre-determined plan, and couldn’t sway from this plan. It’s almost as if the England team as a whole is incapable of thinking on their feet.

I believe the problem and how to resolve it isn’t easily sorted either, as it starts way above Cook. There seems to be no joined up thinking with England. We can go back to all the bean-pole bowlers in the Ashes squad, leaving no room for a bit of variety with Graham Onions.

The decision to sack Kevin Pietersen when we had just lost Graeme Swann and Jonathan Trott, world class players don’t grow on trees, and England haven’t got them queuing up down the road.

The batting also had a long term frailty prior to the Ashes, as we have never replaced Andrew Strauss at the top of the order, and so we think it is a good idea to sack Pietersen on the back of all this!

Then we had the selections for this series. No front line spinner, and a team packed with seamers. I get the idea, early season pitches, etc, but this was a series in June, not mid May. Did anyone check the calender? Never mind the pitch conditions and long range weather forecast.

It was obvious that conditions weren’t outright seamer friendly for this series. It seems to be one baffling decision after another. Almost clueless.

And finally back to Alastair Cook, he will carry on as captain for the time being, and probably rightly so as there is no obvious heir apparent. He is 2/5 with William Hill to still be captain at the end of the India series, but England surely need to start planning now for a replacement to be in place well before next year’s Ashes.

I thought his decision to speak out against Shane Warne last week was a shocker, even before this latest episode.

What he did with Warne has told me that he cannot lead England into next year’s Ashes. Warne well suspected he was getting under Cook’s skin, now he knows it. How much constructive criticism will Cook now be getting next summer?

Cook has totally played into Australia’s hands this time and his position (as captain) for the Ashes is surely now untenable.