Following the embarrassing 2nd test defeat at Lords yesterday, it seems it cannot get any lower for the England cricket team. Having now gone 10 test matches without a victory, there seems to be more and more questions without any hint of an answer coming from within the England Cricket Board.
Yet how has it got this bad? Following the 5-0 whitewash in Australia, the decision was made to keep Alastair Cook and remove the combustible Kevin Pietersen. Rest was the order of the day for many senior players who missed the Caribbean one day series before the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh. Yet the results have not improved. A test defeat to Sri Lanka has been followed by inept cricket in two tests thus far versus an equally inept Indian side.
What is the solution? Do England make wholesale changes? Do they remove the senior players for a new zest of youth and form players. In this test series only four players can be picked on form; Gary Ballance, Joe Root, Moeen Ali and Liam Plunkett. Tellingly there is only one bowler in my list, and he was nowhere near the Ashes squad in November. It seems that Jimmy Anderson has got slower, Stuart Broad is again injured and Ben Stokes' poor batting form is affecting his batting. Plunkett, meanwhile, has transferred his early season county form for Yorkshire to the test arena.
Therein is an answer. Plunkett played domestic first class cricket and his batting has been useful also. However, Anderson and Broad had torrid winters and Stokes lost to a locker room door in a straight fight. Dropping Chris Jordan sent out the wrong message, he has youth and pace on his side as well as a desire to succeed and achieve.
Perhaps too many of these senior players have achieved too much and now want to gain riches of the IPL, where is there short term and long term targets now. Matt Prior has removed himself from selection for the remainder of the summer and probably played his last game for England, his fitness issues were too much to overcome. Yet the decision to play him despite being less than 100% fit was indicative of Cook wanting seniority instead of form, when Jos Buttler's one day form was screaming for selection for first test versus Sri Lanka.
Yet the in house hegemony of the England cricket team which is very cliquey and looking after their own is doing a disservice to the players who are and are not picked. Look at how James Taylor was treated after he played two tests and did nothing wrong, supposedly dropped at the behest of Pietersen who did not rate him. Even the call back of Simon Kerrigan of Lancashire, who was coached by Peter Moores last season is a fair form of nepotism or naivety in not knowing who else is available.
England need to pick players in form. Players like Daryl Mitchell of Worcestershire, Ravi Bopara of Essex, Adam Lyth of Yorkshire and his team-mate Jack Brooks, the bowler. This is unlikely however as England do not pick players or from winning counties. They ignored Mark Alleyne when Gloucestershire was winning every one day competition; have any Lancashire player been selected after they won the domestic title, Glen Chapple remains the best county bowler not to earn an England test cap.
Yet I feel they need to change the order and ask Moeen Ali to open the batting as he does for Worcestershire with Mitchell. Then have Ballance at three, Root at four with Bell at five or six. England need to have a long look for themselves and if players are not fit then they need to do the honourable thing and stand aside as Prior has done.
It seems England have been more worries about selecting eleven players who will fit the ethos and mindset of a supposed identity, yet when the results are not happening you go back to picking players who will create results and from there a new ethos can be ushered in.
There are many dilemmas to be addressed but only the coach, Moores and the captain, Cook, who should both remain can supply them.