Let me say up front and openly: I do not think personnel changes would have made a difference to which side won the urn this year. Nor do I think, realistically, that if Vaughan, Trescothick and Simon Jones had been fit,
My list of concerns, to be tackled in order, is primarily:
- The wicketkeeper
- Andrew Flintoff's judgement as captain
- Duncan Fletcher's position as coach
1. The Wicketkeeper
Why are like Test ducks like local buses? You wait 51 innings for one, and then two come along at once.
Whatever else happens, or does not happen, in Geraint Jones' career he does, for the moment at least, hold one desirable batting record. He is the proud holder of the world record for number of innings before a first Test batting duck. He had completed 51 innings for
Jones' selection was negative, backward looking and ill-conceived; his poor performances bear this out. Picked ostensibly because he is "the better batsman" of the two wicketkeepers in the squad, yet he had above 20 in 2006 (52 at
Thus I think Geraint Jones needs to be dropped. He needs to be given clear instructions to find some batting form, improve his keeping, and develop a backbone. What's more he needs to know that he will not magically get into the side again regardless because his mates are picking the team: he should be dropped on merit and he should have to earn reselection on merit, or not at all. Chris Read should come in with the knowledge that barring injury he has the last two Ashes Tests, the World Cup, and the first home Series of the 2007 season (against the West Indies) for certain to re-establish himself. Ideally he will apply himself and make the job his, then he will get the
2. Flintoff's Captaincy
I have a great deal of respect for Flintoff as a player. With bat and ball he has shown himself to be a great servant for
Whilst his decision making on the field has not been all that bad in the current series there are a couple of things that point to Flintoff having somewhat questionable judgement as a captain. Leaving aside all the issues about him having too much of a workload (I think his poor form is more a result of his less than healthy ankle and a lack of match practice than it is down to him being captain) it is his decision making that is worth querying. Why, for example, in a side playing 5 frontline bowlers, does one of the attack get left to graze in the outfield, contributing only 10 of 112 overs, when the rest of the attack are not only failing, but are getting flayed around the place. And that is before you consider the extreme conditions - 40 degree heat is incredibly sapping for bowlers, going double for us poor poms who are just not used to those temperatures!
The inevitable rumour is that Flintoff under bowled Mahmood so much because he did not want him in the side. Regardless of the truth of this nugget, Mahmood should have been bowled more (or failing that, the part-timers
But where I see the biggest problem with Flintoff as captain is with his input into selection. When the team is overseas, so it is rumoured, the selection of the team is down to a combination of coach (Fletcher) and captain (Flintoff). There is also rumoured to be input from "senior players" somewhere along the line. After
It is not abundantly clear that Freddie standing by his mates has been a problem, but that would be my interpretation of what we have seen and heard from the
3. Fletcher's Position
Duncan Fletcher's position is apparently being looked at by the ECB, and by Fletcher himself, after the World Cup. One thing can be said for certain about Fletcher: despite all the flack he is taking now he is going to go down in history as a very successful coach of the
Graham Gooch said this week that the situation on tour needs to be looked at, and the bizarre way selection has been handled on this tour really bears that out. Fletcher is just one of three
Geoffrey Boycott - never one to mince his words - said in the run up to this series that Fletcher had "reached his sell-by date" as
Replacing him mid series, or even before the World Cup in the New Year, would be impractical and a mistake. It would also be a mistake to have Duncan Fletcher still leading the team come May. I really hope that one of two things happen - that either the ECB act in light of the obvious mismanagement of this Ashes tour, or that Fletcher himself is big enough to accept he is no longer the positive force he was and stands aside.