Not ALL of this mess is the fault of Ashley Giles and Chris Silverwood, many of these problems existed under Trevor Bayliss and Ed Smith. However, the stark reality is this test team has gone backwards under Silverwood, and Giles has been no help at all.
It is frustrating that over 2 years ago Alec Stewart was in the running for Director of Cricket and Gary Kirsten for coach but neither were appointed. The latter has this week made it clear he would take a test only role, and this is a huge opportunity not to be spurned.
This the perfect time for Kirsten to take on the England test cricket project and with the assured hand of Stewart as Director of cricket we would have the correct balance of character and skill to move us forward from the current malaise.
Stewart will bring a structure and respect for the game that is needed, whilst Kirsten is proven to be a strong leader and coach. He has had success across formats, across cultures and is an excellent fit for England.
Root simply cannot be captain, and this means an inexperienced leader will have to be appointed, one who will need strong support from the coach tactically and in reading pitches and conditions. Test cricket is meant to be played over 5 days and too often we have teams ill equipped for the variables of the game.
The long experiment with Jos Buttler is now over, so are the test careers of Woakes, Malan, Leach and Bairstow. All have had moments but not delivered on the promise for a variety of reasons. Runs and wickets across the next 2 dead tests should not allow careers to be prolonged.
I suspect Stokes could be the captain, he’d need to bat at 6 and probably need to be prepared to walk away from international white ball cricket for his sanity (no problem for me if he wants to play IPL).
The spine of a new team must be Root, Stokes himself and Wood. The keeper batsman position should be in the safe hands of Ben Foakes and his back up should absolutely be Ollie Robinson of Kent.
We have identified Mason Crane and Matt Parkinson as spinners of talent. Both will be 28/29 by the next Ashes – play them now! They might go for a few runs, but I bet they take wickets too, both top order and they’d clean up most tails ends.
Over that last 4 years we have identified Mahmood, Archer, Stone, Garton and now Ollie Robinson as bowlers who can bowl in different conditions. Alongside Wood that is a 6 strong stable of seam bowlers who need to gain experience and be allowed to bowl (we need to get Stone and Archer fit … and Robison fit to bowl day, in day out).
Assuming Root is rooted to no 4 and Stokes moves back to no 6 we need to find a top 3 and a number 5 … sound familiar?
I have read several commentators/ex-players say there is no one else out there, but this is simply not true. Over the recent years we have identified a number of players, many of whom have not played any test cricket yet.
We know that county cricket as it stands is not the barometer for a test player, this is where the likes of Stewart and Kirsten will need to see past ‘stats’ and look at technique, temperament and the circumstances in which runs are scored (the Duncan Fletcher method).
Cricket is all about opinions. My opinion is that Nick Gubbins, Sam Hain, Tom Abell, Joe Clarke are all players we need to look closely at now.
I still believe that Pope and Crawley have the talent, but both need technical help and even more so need help to learn how to construct an innings. Of the next generation both Jamie Smith and Harry Brook may have something but they are no where near ready yet.
Whatever the message Silverwood is providing is not landing. Kirsten and perhaps Kallis may be able to provide a different voice and thought process to move these players forward.
Test cricketers need something ‘extra’ – take Ollie Robinson and Craig Overton. Two excellent county cricketers of similar age, performing a similar role for their teams. One can take that into the test arena and translate it to success, the other steps up and can not move the ball at all. The ECB have invested a lot in Craig, it not his fault, but someone must look and say this is not working.
My new year wish list is for Stewart and Kirsten to be appointed and for a fresh England to head to the Caribbean.
Crawley, Gubbins, Hain, Root, Pope, Stokes*, Foakes+, Robinson, Wood, Stone, Parkinson
(Abell, Clarke, Robinson, Garton, Crane, Mahmood) (Archer not fit)