So, Alistair Cook is the new England Test captain with the job of taking England back to the number 1 spot in the long format. But I think he has a greater job in trying to stop the team becoming the laughing stock of international cricket, where we are currently heading. This isn’t a criticism of anyone in particular but there are a number of factors that seriously need to be addressed.
The first is that England fans need to stop moaning about other teams and focus on their own. Yes, India have taken a slightly cheeky step in that they have not played any out-and-out spin bowlers in the recent warm-up match so England will be under-prepared going into the first Test, but surely that’s England’s own fault for making it so plainly obvious that they rubbish against spin? Having said that, why is it that our batsmen can make spinners such as Saeed Ajmal look like an absolute donkey one minute and then make him look like an Asian terminator the next? Just because he has a bent elbow when he bowls it doesn’t mean that he has turned into Murali overnight! And it’s not as if we don’t exploit home advantages during our summer of cricket by making maximum use of swing bowling against sides who come from countries where wind and clouds are as rare as a sunny day is over here, therefore putting them at a disadvantage. All India are trying to do is win a series against a team who they see as a massive threat, so we as fans should stop being bigger hypocrites than our government and do all we can to help our players do the impossible and actually win down in India.
England’s deficiency against spin is very worrying, however, and Kevin Pietersen has inadvertently not helped the situation in any way. In 2008 he branded India’s Yuvraj Singh a ‘piechucker,’ which is quite an insult for a spinner (I know this from personal experience having been called it a few times), yet just yesterday he took 5 wickets for an India A side against a full strength England XI, including KP. We have recalled the man, arguably the best batsman in the country, to bolster an inexperienced batting line up and he is getting out to a bowler who he reckons shouldn’t be playing Sunday League cricket – what on earth is this saying about our side? If our best player is getting out to a second-rate, part-time bowler then we are well and truly stuffed when the Test series starts in two weeks, with Ravi Ashwin and Praveen Ojha picking up 15 out of 20 New Zealand wickets not long ago. Cook needs to tell his players to keep quiet to avoid any more embarrassing situations such as this!
Finally, Cook and the selectors need to stop picking players with ridiculous names if we want to reverse our fortunes! There are so many English players whose names are also nouns and verbs – Cook, Trott, Bell, Onions, Swann… Thank God Phil Mustard isn’t in the team anymore otherwise we’d have most of the ingredients for a hot dog rather than a cricket team! Some of the names are highly appropriate though – Jonathon Trott rarely bats with any intensity while Stephen Finn can scare opponents like a great white when he feels like it, which isn’t seemingly going to be soon after he hurt his thigh over-stretching his ostrich-like legs trying to stop the ball. Even head coach Andy Flower’s name reflects his tenure in charge – he took over the team from the bottom, set some really strong foundations and made them big and strong before they have wilted away recently. And with Joe Root looking to firmly set himself at the top of the England order and Jos Buttler opening a door for himself in the middle order the trend that has spanned decades looks set to continue. In the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s Geoffrey Boycott seemed to think that running would get him nowhere except for the local A&E department so avoided it like the Plague while ‘keeper-bastman Alan Knott used to bamboozle opponents with his extravagance in front and behind the stumps. Yet England have never had any real long-term cricketing success and I think this could be why! Our players need sexy, stylish names such as AB de Villiers or Shane Watson, not Graeme Swann, if we want to dominate the world! Still, I suppose the name Pat Cummins could worse…