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Monday, 2 December, 2002, 18:37 GMT
Who's to blame for cricket's decline?
The post mortem into England's Ashes capitulation continues, as calls grow for an overhaul of the county game.
Who's to blame for the state of the game in England - and what can be done about it?
England's abject surrender in the third Test to hand Australia their eighth consecutive Ashes victory has put the future of the game under the microscope.
Some point the finger of blame at England's county system - and claim that a revamp is needed to reduce the fixture list and raise standards.
Others bemoan the reluctance of schools to teach the sport, and children's lack of interest in participating.
And still more blame conflict between the counties and the ECB, for the failure to fully implement central contracts; only 16 players so far have received one.
What, or who, is the architect of England's misfortune? And how can the game be rejuvenated?
This debate is now closed. A selection of your e-mails appear below.
The selectors' decision to include four injured players in the touring party was insane. Could they not foresee the consequences of another one or two players picking up injuries? You're on tour in the inhospitable cricketing cauldron of Australia, playing one of the greatest teams of all time and half your squad's injured. Morale was obliterated; the selectors only have themselves to blame.
Also, in this day and age, how can an international player, such as Andrew Flintoff, and one so crucial to his team's chances, be left to manage himself back to form after an injury?
Graham Thorpe is generally considered to be England's best batsman. When was he England's best batsman? Certainly not in the last 18 months because he's hardly played. He's turned his back on England one too many times now. You have to ask, where was Graham Thorpe when his country needed him?
There is no doubt we have made progress with the Fletcher/Hussain team and there are many reasons for our poor performance. It is regretful that we had to gamble on Gough's fitness as he is the only bowler in the squad to have played and taken wickets over there.
I have been a great admirer of Alec Stewart but his time has come and in all our sports we never seem to get the balance right of picking the best current side whilst preparing for the future. Perhaps it's testament to the fact that our county game is too weak and players cannot be relied upon to develop there.
The Thorpe debacle needs to be looked at and the management team should have been stronger and more realistic with him in the first place. Australia are without doubt one of the greatest cricketing sides to have ever played the game and I am sure that our first 11 would give anybody else in the world a tough time home or away.
No scapegoats please but honest assessment, I do believe it has been an almost unique tour in terms of the factors going against us.
So England lose The Ashes and the part-time cricket fans come out of the woodwork heralding the 'demise' of the game. What exactly is that supposed to mean? Even before any injury crisis, it was obvious that England, as well as the rest of the world, are still several rungs below Australia.
OK, the lads who could play haven't performed in the way we would have liked, but Team England and the structure of the game here is making progress from the dark days of the late 80's and 90's - the younger players are learning how to cope mentally and technically. I find the mocking, negative attitude of some of my compatriots sickening and juvenile. Let's look to the future and get behind the lads!
I believe that not enough is done at youth level for cricket in this country. There is a kind of old boys', in crowd, mentality in grass roots cricket. For instance, as a 16-year-old, I tried to break into my local village team.
I played a season of matches and was put into bat at number 10 and never bowled a ball, while the in-crowd, most of whom were over 40 and involved in business deals with one another got to bat high up the order and bowl. I was told that as a youngster, I would have to play for several years to get higher up the order.
Trouble was at number 10 you usually either did not bat or came in with three balls to go. I can well remember an over 60-year-old opening batsman hogging the crease for three hours and making about 30. I know from speaking to other cricketers that this grass roots attitude is not uncommon, and I think this is also reflected in the current England set-up.
There is this dreadful English sentiment of having to serve out your apprenticeship, like a good little boy. We don't pick people until they are in their mid-twenties and by then they have been worn down by constant county cricket grind. In addition, my son, who is only three but already likes cricket and wants to play it, has the choice at local primary schools of either no cricket or kwik cricket!! Where is the incentive for youngsters wanting to play the game? Ashes regained, think 22nd Century!!
There are many reasons for England's humiliation. The selections could have been better; currently the selectors pay very little attention to achievements in the County Championship. Martin Saggers was a shocking omission and I cannot believe Nick Knight was not picked after averaging over 100 this summer.
The current vogue is to pick young players with potential but no achievement to date. If a player struggles to take wickets in English domestic matches what hope has he got against the best in the world? I firmly believe that English bowlers do not bowl enough and therefore do not bowl themselves fit. Match practice makes perfect.
However the real problem with English cricket is not with the county game but the lack of youngsters playing the game at the grass roots. There is a paucity of talented youngsters coming through challenging for county places let alone England places.
The selectors got the selection wrong and I assume the chairman may acknowledge that. I would also like to see how Australia fare without their first choice bowling attack and a top middle order batsman (this is how we are set-up at present without Gough, Giles, Jones and Thorpe). So take Warne, McGrath, Gillespie and Gilchrist away and see the result. Otherwise, please let us recognise what a truly great side the Australians have at present.
I think you have to look at the roots of the game. At my school we never played a proper game of cricket. We were never taught how to bowl over arm let alone bat. Bizarrely we were taught how to field though. Who knows I could've been the English Shane Warne. I like pies so I was half way there already.
The yawning gulf between county and test level is hamstringing England's best from developing sufficiently. Until the cirkcketing cream can regularly play in meaningful matches against full strength teams, the step up will always expose their weaknesses
England is not producing good quality cricketers due to the attitude within the game. Youngsters are put off by games where they field for 50 overs and then don't bat at all - the element of fun has gone.
There are no heroes to look up to - people would like to be like Shane Warne rather than a dour Englishman. Until the fun is brought back into the game, and decent facilities, England will always be miles behind.
As a pace bowler myself, I know that the only way to keep fit is to protect your body. Silverwood, Gough and Caddick have all being carrying injuries for some time.
I remember a couple of years ago, I sustained a stress fracture from bowling too fast, too often. The only cure was to take a year out and let my body heal. Why can't England's players be allowed the same recovery time?
Unfortunately in England, cricket is not a major sport. Only a hatful of people are interested in county games and thus wages for cricketers not very good (apart from cricketers who play for England).
English players need to practice harder for those with 'potential' talent to blossom, and make them into world beaters.
Unfortunately, England's problems seem to have many causes, with no one with the strength or authority (or courage?) to deal with them.
The ECB, by all means necessary, must take full control of the game in England and take responsibility for fixing it once and for all.
Sack the selectors who do not seem to have the courage to plan for the future. Why, for instance, was Stewart retained in the ODI team in the summer when England were planning for the World Cup? What is Caddick doing in the team? Why pick Gough and Flintoff when they are unfit? These are all problems of the selectors' own making.
And, let's not over-estimate ourselves. Making out a moral victory after losing in India, bowling wide off the stumps for the entire series is no basis for calling England the second best in the world. Remember, since the last Ashes series of 2001, England have only won once: against lowly Sri Lanka.
Get youngsters like Murchall, Bell and Kyle Hogg playing at the top level before second team county cricket knocks the confidence and the "fight" out of them!
And make county cricket competitive. Today it's a cricketer's windfall ticket to a testimonial season, not an arena for the fittest and best.
Look at India! Their selectors have had the courage to pick Parthiv Patel, a 17-year-old kid, BEFORE he played Ranji trophy. And he's not the first. Apart from Sachin, there's Harbhajan, Yuvraj, Kaif, and yes, Ganguli, who all got their breaks before they turned 20. Those that have the bottle make it!
Rejig the whole county game. Less teams with higher quality of players. The counties will understandably not want to do this, but it's a question of what will make English cricket great; what would they prefer??
There are numerous factors, you can't just blame one aspect of the game. There is no cricket being played in schools. A lack of mental strength in English players. Not enough competitive cricket. And poor coaching and poor facilities.
England's fundamental problem is that the standard of first class cricket here is so poor. The emphasis on money-spinning but otherwise meaningless one-day competitions has created a generation of batsmen lacking the concentration and technique to build an innings in a Test match context and bowlers unable to contain, let alone trouble, quality players on good wickets.
The new 20-over competition will only make the situation worse. Instead of simply chasing silverware the county clubs should be judged, and maybe reimbursed, according to the number of successful Test cricketers they produce.
Perhaps it's time to take a hard look at the board of selectors and the entire selection policy which ignores up and coming youngsters.
Ashes report card
02 Dec 02 | The Ashes
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