In our age of media and social media saturation it sometimes feels really hard to try to write an original thought for this blog. Everything seems to have already been said by other people, usually better qualified than I and in a timelier manner. So, herewith, a collection of not very original musings on the first three Tests.
The fourth Test seems further into the future than the first Test is in the past. It doesn’t begin until 12th March and given the extra days off thanks to England’s performance in Ahmedabad it feels particularly distant. I suppose when you look at it this way, with the gaps between matches, it makes the rest and rotation policy easier to understand. I’m not sure why we didn’t play in two blocks of back to back Tests with a longer gap in between for any squad rotation to take place.
On which note, an unoriginal thought: England dangled Moeen Ali out to dry before seeing the error of their ways and whipping him back in again. Given the official ECB statements clearly supporting players like Jos Buttler, Johnny Bairstow and Ben Stokes with the whole rest and rotation policy, there was a frustrating silence for a worrying amount of time after Joe Root’s apparently erroneous suggestion that Ali ‘chose’ to return home to England. Chris Silverwood later clarified that Mo had merely stuck with his original schedule; after all, it wasn’t his fault he got Covid and had to isolate in Sri Lanka for weeks, nor that he wasn’t picked in Chennai.
Pleasingly, many ‘big names’ of the game spoke up in his defence: Nasser Hussain; Paul Newman, David Lloyd. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why Michael Vaughan is so obtuse about things like this: he seems unable to separate his frustration at the ECB for having this policy from the required sensitivity and understanding of players who are simply following this policy. I have read or listened to a few suggestions that Ed Smith doesn’t like Ali and has treated him fairly poorly. This is disappointing if true and not what England fans want to see in the National Selector.
Something else I didn’t actually want to see was Joe Root taking 5-8 in the third Test. Misleading records make things unfair for those who are real masters of their craft. My Park Run PB is totally flawed by taking place on a day when I know, genuinely factually KNOW, that the course was short of 5km. Now, to beat that PB, I have an unfair struggle on my hands (as well as an unfair spare tyre around my waist). In the same way, ‘genuine’ bowlers have had that opportunity for ‘best figures by an Englishman in the subcontinent’ snatched away by what seems like a bizarre pitch. Fair enough, India batted fine on it second innings so it can’t have been that bad – honestly in spite of the whole Channel 4 thing, lockdown work has been too busy for me to watch – but when Root’s getting figures like that it just feels wrong.
Equally wrong was Rory Burns’ petulant reply to England Women’s Alex Hartley. Her tongue-in-cheek Tweet was clearly that and Burns’ response just screamed immaturity, irresponsibility and bad loser-dom. If England are to get anything from the rest of this series they are going to need to spit out the sour grapes and focus on their own performance rather than what’s going on around them, appalling Third Umpire decisions included.
I’m looking forward to the final Test, though. I think England need this sort of mental and technical challenge. I like Crawley and I like Lawrence, and I think they will both keep learning and come out of this tour better players. With everything else going on in the world right now that’s maybe as much as we can hope for, although you never know, we might be able to level the series.