Anorak News | England Expects…To Lose

England Expects…To Lose

by | 19th, September 2005

‘HOW many of you think it will take Australia 18 years to win back the Ashes? Not merely hope the Australians will experience the same mush of unremitting failure seasoned with bits of soulless torpor as England have, but truly believe it?

How long before we see this?

The answer should be none of you. There is almost no chance of this happening. Put your money on something that offer you a beter chance of winning, like Wayne Rooney not swearing for a full minute or Richard Caborn, the Minister for Sport, jumping off the nearest charabanc to spend the day watching a country championship cricket match.

The belief that England can be world number ones at cricket, and so take over from the Australians at the top of the International Cricket Council’s rankings table, is one based on the performance of the current first XI.

And then this thinking can be distilled still further. England’s talisman, Andrew Flintoff, is in his mid twenties, so he and England can get better. On the other side, Shane Warne is advertising hair restoring products between overs and approaching forty. We are on the up, they are on the down.

“We’ve beaten Australia,” says Andrew Flintoff, now widely regarded as the finest cricketer in the world. “Now we’ve got to be like Australia.”

What he means that that England have to be as ruthless as the great Australian sides. England’s players have to maintain their concentration, keep the standards high and play to win.

And this side can achieve all that. As Flintoff says in the Times, “I don’t think many of us have reached our prime. We are all of us a little way from being at the peak – now if we can all do that together…”

Ah, the big “if”. And it gets even bigger if Flintoff or any of his teammates are injured or lose their form (bar Geraint Jones and Ian Bell).

Just look at Ashley Giles, that quintessential team man, happy to do his bit for the common good. He’s a decent enough player, but surely he’s replaceable. Indeed he is, just not with anyone who’s all that good.

Great sporting dynasties flourish on the ability to replace one top player with another. Australia’s leg spinner Stuart McGill is no Shane Warne but he’s a very accomplished substitute. The Australians boast strength in depth.

For England to get to the top and then to emulate Australia and remain there for a long period, the first XI will need to be at its best and the squad replenished with one or two new players a season.

But where will the new players come from? Who really plays cricket any more? Writing in the Telegraph, Michael Parkinson says that fewer than one in 10 state school’s offer “meaningful cricket” on the curriculum.

Any country can get lucky and produce a crop of fine players once in a generation, and secure the services of a top coach as England have in Duncan Fletcher to mould the talent into a team, but it takes investment and training to keep the player pool well stocked.

Without investment, this Ashes triumph will be talked about in the same manner as that epic win in 1981 – a brilliant flash in the pan…’

Posted: 19th, September 2005 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink