Joe Root: Captain Perfect Or Not?

The decision to appoint Joe Root as England captain has been met, primarily, with acclaim. After all, Root’s career to date has seen him earn a batting average of over 50 in test matches, and he is widely reported to be a popular figure in the dressing room.

There is no doubt Root is a talented batsman, currently in the top three in the ICC Top 10 Test Batsmen standings, but will the step up to captain see him fall into the trap that befell Michael Vaughan and Alastair Cook, both of whom saw their batting careers take a nosedive once the weight of captaincy was placed on their shoulders?

Was Root The Only Candidate?

Perhaps some of these concerns revolve around the lack of real competition in terms of contenders for the next captain of the national team.

Jimmy Anderson is no longer fit enough to play consistently for England, Ben Stokes has talent but needs to improve his levels of performance on the test cricket scene, and Stuart Broad is reaching the end of a brilliant career, so it’s fair to say there was a rather limited pool of options.

JOE ROOT

This in isolation doesn’t necessarily make Root a bad choice, but with England recently so reliant on Root to dig them out of a hole with the bat, is this the time to make him captain? Having to deal already on a regular basis with the burden of being the man capable of grabbing the game by the scruff with his own skills, can he cope with the additional pressure of making the team work smoothly as captain?

Will He Live Up To The Great Yorkshire Tradition?

Joe Root isn’t the first England captain to hail from Yorkshire. In fact, he takes his place as the 10th captain to come from the county. The list of prior Yorkshire captains is an illustrious one, including Yorkshire legend Geoffrey Boycott, but there’s another intimidating statistic here to pile even more pressure on those young shoulders: those captains between them have only lost 29 tests.

At the age of just 26, Root is certainly one of the younger players to have taken on the England captaincy, and he will need to use the confidence of youth to his advantage in order to help England back to the top of the world test rankings.

Getting off to a winning start against a South African test team at the home of cricket, Lords, will be essential for Root as he looks to stamp his authority on the national team and start proving his doubters wrong. From then on, all eyes will turn to the Ashes and England’s chances of success against the Aussies.

England Cricket Team - The Ashes Trent Bridge 2015

Current cricket betting odds from bet365 suggest that the chances are stacked against Root and the English team to triumph in the next Ashes series, with England currently at 13/5 to win the series, but stranger things have happened than a new, young imposter in an England shirt carrying the weight of the nation on his shoulders leading his team to glory and that famous little urn.

England’s, Pietersen selection dilemma

If press reports are to be believed then it is possible that Kevin Pietersen may have already played his last game for England.

John Etheridge, the Sun’s cricket correspondent said on Twitter last night (Friday) that it is his understanding that the selectors met at Edgbaston on Friday and couldn’t decide whether or not to include Pietersen in the squad for the 3rd test at Lord’s.
He claimed that the selectors wanted to find out more about the contents of the text messages Pietersen is alleged to have sent to South African players during the 2nd test, before they decide whether or not to pick him. It is rumoured that the texts were less than complementary about Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower.
  
If this is found to be the case, I get the feeling that could be it for KP. Why else would the selectors be undecided? After all, this England side generally picks itself.
Even if Pietersen is picked, I still think it is a stay of execution. The situation has a very terminal feel about it with neither side showing any signs of backing down.
Although I can see Pietersen’s gripes – his wish to play IPL, his unhappiness at the leaks about conversations – I don’t believe he has done himself any favours in the way he has handled things.
I’ve also said it before, I believe that the ECB need to be a bit more flexible when it comes to IPL, they are also out of order with the leaks. But I also have to ask myself why has this been allowed to happen?
Are the ECB totally incompetent? Personally, I doubt it. I get the feeling that the leaks are more deliberate than incompetent.
This leaves me to believe that Pietersen must have been behaving like a right pain in the arse lately, otherwise why the hell is England apparently trying to force him out? It seems senseless to hang your best player out to dry (as it looks like the ECB have done by releasing these leaks that are damaging Pietersen’s reputation).
Maybe I’m guilty of buying the ECB’s story? I don’t know. But they didn’t send the texts, and they didn’t make the inflammatory remarks last Monday.
Even taking Pietersen’s gripes into consideration, I now find myself questioning his approach towards resolving them. Things aren’t always as we would like them, sometimes in life we have to accept things we are not comfortable with.
In the past Pietersen has done this, like he did when he was sacked as England captain. But in the past he has also left Natal, Nottinghamshire and Hampshire under a cloud. According to Jack Bannister, he was also not signed by Warwickshire as a youngster because of his temperament, when they wanted to sign him on his ability.
A lot of people can be wrong and one man right, that is not impossible, but it is highly unlikely.

If this is the end, and I really hope it isn’t, then that will be a ridiculous way for his international career to end. Both England and Pietersen will be worse off for it, and cricket in general probably will be. There will no doubt be people who will disagree because he can play their beloved IPL, but I think 6 weeks of Pietersen a year, compared to seeing him playing international cricket all year round, is crickets loss.

Is the current England side better than class of 2005?

Andrew Flintoff claims it is and to be honest it’s hard to disagree. I do though believe the team of 2005 played better cricket in that series, they had to have done as they were playing a far superior side to the Indian one that England are currently playing.

Over the course of those 5 test matches in 2005, England dominated 3 of them and got thrashed in 1, with the honours shared at the Oval.
The team of 2005 played well above itself, in fact they played out of their skins in 4 of those 5 test matches. There was no way they were ever going to be able to maintain that level of performance over a sustained period of time.
The series was one of those momentous sporting occasions when a David raises his game and defeats the seemingly formidable Goliath, quite simply it was a one off. I think that was proved in 2006/7 in Australia when the bulk of those same players managed to loose the series 5 zip.
The crop of 2011 has now walloped Australia in Australia, beat Sri Lanka without any real scares and looks likely to inflict a series thrashing on the world no.1 team. This team has done it on a more consistent basis.
This team also has strength in depth in the bowling, unlike in 2005. When Simon Jones got injured in 2005 we all thought it would be ok, he’d be back soon and if he wasn’t it was only one of our bowlers and we could cope.
What we hadn’t reckoned on was the fact that Steve Harmison was already in terminal decline, the rest of Andrew Flintoff”s career would be blighted by injury. As would Michael Vaughan’s and Marcus Trescothick would succumb to depression.
Not only were these players good cricketers, they were also leaders of men and strong characters. We had no one with the cricketing talent or the stature to be able to replace these men.
The current side has plenty of strong characters in it also, like there was in 2005. In Strauss, Swann, Broad, Pietersen, Cook, Trott, Bresnan and even Ian Bell, we now have cricketers who won’t take a backwards step.
We now not only have a strong first choice seam bowling attack of Broad, Anderson and Tremlett (prior to the 2nd test it was anyway), but we also have a strong second choice of Bresnan, Finn and Onions to back it up.
Bresnan has the ability and is arguably a stronger character than any of the first choice attack. Finn is an up and coming bowler and Onions is a proven performer with an Ashes series victory already to his name. In 2005 we didn’t have any such luxuries lurking in the background.
I believe that the batting is slightly stronger now than it was in 2005, although like in 2005, there isn’t a massive amount of back up should someone get injured.
One department that the 2005 side had that is stronger than this current one is the captaincy. That is not meant as a criticism of Strauss who does a good job, it is a complement to Vaughan, who was an outstanding leader.
And on a final note, there is also a lot more youngsters coming through now than there was in 2005. Dare I say that England could be on the verge of maybe dominating test cricket for a few years to come?

Better from England

Some better news for England at last, Friday’s victory over Pakistan gave more encouragement as we saw an improved all round performance by the team.

Positives in the batting came with Paul Collingwood at last getting some runs and Kevin Pietersen showing some form in his new role at the top of the order. From the reports I read and heard, Pietersen wasn’t slogging, he was playing proper cricket shots.

We also had Matt Prior chipping in with some valuable runs, he looks far more effective coming in down the order.

We got another typical Bell innings, getting off to a good start and then getting out when well set, suppose the same can be said of Bopara, this is where we are really going to miss the injured Eoin Morgan.

In the bowling department, it was good to see Collingwood bowl all his 10 overs after his recent injury problems, we never know when and how many overs we might need from him, but at least this shows he is capable when required.

Another positive was to see Broad and Bresnan have a good run out, in particular Bresnan. Broad has been nursed back after his injury with the medical staff making sure he wasn’t pushed too fast, too quickly. No such luxaries were available with Bresnan who just had to be chucked in at the deep end.

All-in-all, after the Canadian near miss on Wednesday and the Aussie thrashings, this was a major improvement. Maybe it took a game with a bit of added needle to galvanise England into producing a better performance.

Hopefully this is the turning point in our disappointing run. We are getting more of our first choice players back now, so there can be no more excuses if the team fails badly over the next few weeks.

Fabio, what has really changed?

That is the question I would like to ask Fabio Capello after the England football teams latest shambolic performance.

I gave myself 24 hours to think about this before I posted my views, as I didn’t want to come on here and start posting abusive rubbish about negative, unimaginative, boring, stale and rigid Italian football tactics and an inability to break down a team that has come for the draw.

Maybe Montenegro deserve a lot more credit than they are currently getting. To be honest I think they are a half decent side and their rise up the FIFA rankings shows this. I’m also sure they will keep on rising and will soon be a lot higher ranked than their current position of 40th.

At the end of the campaign we might look back at this and see it as a decent point. But then again I doubt we will, will we?

I’ve got to admit that I am not Capello’s biggest fan, but I am also not one of those people that blames him for absolutely everything.

In his defence, he had a lot of injuries to cope with and he also cannot play the game for his underperforming stars. After all, once they have crossed the white line it is up to them to do the business.

He can also only work with the players he has and maybe the time has come to accept that these players just aren’t good enough.

But for me, there are areas in which Capello can influence things and he appears to be choosing not to do so.

For a start off, I don’t think that Capello has really made that many (promised) changes to the team that flopped in South Africa. Joe Hart was an obvious one that had to be made and also bringing back Theo Walcott and adding Adam Johnson were no brainers.

Apart from those three and bringing Jack Wilshere into the fold, not much has changed really. Of yesterdays team, Joleon Lescott and Ashley Young were only there through injuries and suspensions.

Also, while Kevin Davies is a good honest pro and I’m glad he got he’s got his cap, the question has to be asked, ‘was his selection really a step forward’?

Why wasn’t Newcastle’s Andy Carroll looked at? I’m not saying he is the finished article, far from it, but surely it was the ideal opportunity to have given him a chance.

I also would imagine that had John Terry and Frank Lampard been fit, that they both would have played as well. As would Emile Heskey had he made himself available.

So I say it again. What has really changed?

Another thing that also seems ‘same old’ to me is Capello’s inability to make positive, match changing substitutions. His two changes of Wright-Phillips for Young and Davies for Crouch were just like-for-like.

Why wasn’t Jack Wilshere given 20 minutes? He has that bit of craft that could have unlocked the door.

But no, Capello played it safe as usual. The substitutions were a show of typical Italian negativeness for me.

We all know what we are going to get with Kevin Davies and as for Shaun Wright-Phillips, well he is as predictable as they come. I have never got what he adds to the side at all.

Also why didn’t he swap Young and Adam Johnson around? It’s not a massive tactical shift that only a genius could work out and I’m sure Montenegro would have expected it, but it would have given the full-backs something different to cope with, possibly taking them out of their comfort zones. It’s just basic stuff really.

There seems no imagination, no ambition to win the game or no variety, just the same old stubborn, rigid attitude that helped get us embarrassed at the World Cup.

Another thing that has pissed me off which isn’t actually Capellos’s fault is all this bullshit that Steven Gerrard should have remained captain, after his post World Cup performances in that role. Why? You have to ask what happened to this great captain during the World Cup?

Personally, I don’t see the big deal about all this, Gerrard should be able to perform to a high level with or without the armband. If he so badly needs the armband to perform then you have to ask why is he even in the team? It just dosen’t add up.

If England are too be successful they will need 5 or 6 captains on the pitch, it shouldn’t matter who wears the armband. We need a team full of leaders, like they had with the 2003 World Cup winning, Rugby Union team.

To be honest I have to admit that I got a bad vibe of what was to come when before the start of the match I seen on my TV the sight of Sir Dave Richards walking along the line of players, shaking hands. This man is the genius credited with taking the clause out of Capello’s contract pre World Cup and hence, leaving us with this problem of having a ‘lame duck’ in charge and just biding his time for the next 2 years.

I don’t know if I am the only one, but I get really annoyed at the mere sight of this man. I get the feeling that while we have people like this within the FA that we are never going too see the national team move forward.

I’m sure he will play a pivotel role in appointing another spineless ‘puppet’ in the role recently vacated by Lord Triesman. Another one of the boys who won’t try and undermine or alter the comfy positions that Richards and co hold within the powers of football.

The phrase ‘Turkeys voting for Christmas’ springs to mind!

Can Chris Tremlett come good at last?

On hearing today’s news that Chris Tremlett has signed a three year contract to play for Surrey, I couldn’t help thinking that hopefully this could be the catalyst to him reviving his once promising England career.

Tremlett played three Tests for England against India in 2007 and impressed by taking 13 wickets, at the time he was in for the injured Harmison and looked every bit his long term successor with his height, pace and bounce.

What has happened to him since then?

In the past he has had questions asked of his temperament, his body language has never been great and his demeanour out on the pitch has never looked too impressive.

Shane Warne commented on this during his spell as Hampshire captain and worked on it with him, resulting in him getting picked for England against India.

Tremlett had been on the radar of the selectors even before his 2007 appearances against India, during the 2005 Ashes series he was 12th man for the first 4 Tests and was then ironically left out of the squad for the 5th Test due to lack of match practise.

He has also had his fair share on injuries, added to the squad for the winter tour of New Zealand in 2008 as cover, again for Harmison, Tremlett returned home injured before having the chance to bowl in a Test match. He also had to withdraw from the 2005 tour of Pakistan with an injury.

Could this move revitalise him and put him back in the thoughts of the selectors? At 28 years old he should be coming into his prime, already he has a respectable 1st class average of 28.66, picking up 289 wickets. If he was to really get his act together imagine how good those figures could look.

He looks to have it all on paper, if someone at Surrey can give him the boot up the arse he seems to need, not only could Surrey have some bowler, so could England. And lets face it, at the moment there is a massive vacancy in the England team for a bowler of his ilk.

Is Andrew Flintoff planning Ashes return?

When I briefly heard the news that Andrew Flintoff had to have another operation on his injured knee I thought to myself that he might have already played his last game in any form of cricket, that the knee was turning out to be worse than expected.

Since then I have discovered that Flintoff is so pleased with the outcome of his latest operation that when he returns he plans to play in all forms of cricket for Lancashire, with the most notable thing being his plans to play in four day matches, which he originally said he wouldn’t be playing in.

This leaves me to wonder has Andrew Flintoff got desires on playing in one more big Test series for England?

Why else would he want to play four day cricket for Lancs? In doing so he could prove his fitness to the management and to any doubters in the England camp.

Further to this I also believe he must have a feeling that he has unfinished business ‘Down Under’ after the disasterous 5-0 defeat he suffered as captain, a time he described as the lowest point of his career.

A competitor like Flintoff wouldn’t want his last memories of Australia to be of such a low point.

During his time out he may well have seen how Australia performed against West Indies and Pakistan, and seen how they looked beatable at times.

He also might have realised how much he missed the England set up when watching the Test series against South Africa, noticing that England look to be improving as a side under Strauss and Flower, seeing a new found backbone that wasn’t there before.

Taking all this into account and his ‘you live for the day attitude’, Flintoff might well be thinking England can keep the Ashes when they go there later in the year, maybe he just might be considering one last revenge mission against the Australians before he finally brings the curtain down on his international career.

If it does happen, remember where you read it first!

Strauss stands aside for Cook

The announcement of crickets worst kept secret was confirmed today when England announced their Test and ODI squads for the tour of Bangladesh. The news that Andrew Strauss is to be rested from the tour, with Alastair Cook filling in as captain, was greeted with a mixed response.

In my view it is a tough call to make, on one hand your captain should be there and with Strauss not playing T20’s, there surely is enough time for him to rest ahead of the summer.

If England where to come unstuck in Bangladesh, the fall out would be massive.

Another problem that could emerge from this, is a possible feeling of resentment in the dressing room. Some other senior players might be looking at the situation and thinking ‘whats good for him is good for me’, I’m sure there are a few others that don’t really fancy this trip.

Paul Collingwood for one, could have cause for complaint such is the workload he undertakes, in Tests, ODIs and T20’s.

The flip side to this is that Strauss took over at a turbalent time and has had non-stop cricket since, the added pressures that come with the captaincy may well have drained his resourses and partly caused the recent dip in his form, maybe a spell away from it all, to revitalise him ahead of a busy schedule including the Ashes, is what is best for him.

After all, England’s last two long term captains, Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan, both looked broken men when they resigned the position.

Only time will tell if it is the right call, maybe a more practical solution might have been for Strauss to play the Test series and then skip the ODIs?

One thing that will confirm it to be the correct decision is if Strauss where to win the Ashes series starting in November, I doubt anyone would question the decision then!

All well in the English garden for once!

What a difference a week makes eh!

A week last Sunday England were looking down the barrel of a 7-0 whitewash, they were stuck with the same squad that had been hammered by Australia and had to take it to the Champions Trophy where it will have no chance of winning the tournament, this useless bunch wouldn’t even get past the group stage and would be booted out when they returned home.

The diagnosis of Kevin Pietersen’s injury was bad, apparently he wouldn’t be fit in time for the tour of South Africa as the wound is taking longer than expected to heal. With the way England were playing at the time they needed him fit more than ever.

Then there was Andrew Flintoff refusing to sign his central contract. The noises coming out of his camp – mainly from his agent – where that he was going to play when he wanted and for who he wanted, or appear on celb based TV programmes instead. He would pick and choose his England matches and that would spell the end of his international career.

But wait,

Now all of a sudden everything has changed, England are now world beaters after three wins (honest), the players who didn’t know how to bat all of a sudden are taking top international bowling attacks apart. Kevin Pietersen is now apparently more likely to be fit to tour South Africa and Andrew Flintoff has announced he is available for all England’s One Day International fixtures for the 2010 season and has reassured the ECB with a written declaration of his availability and commitment to the England team.

Hugh Morris and company have all of a sudden had a complete turnaround in fortune. Also add to that they might have found another test player in Eoin Morgan to go along with Jonathan Trott, who is waiting in the wings for the South Africa tour.

Their good mood might be the reason they awarded Tubby Bresnan and Morgan the now infamous ‘increment contracts’ today.

All they need to do now is find the genie who can grant the ‘consistency‘ wish, what a difference a week makes, lets see where we are next Monday!