New Era, New Hope? England Cricket Seeking A Fresh Start After A Pitiful Year

Thursday could be the start of a new era for England
10:23, 01 Jun 2022

A new Test summer brings a new captain, new coach, new managing director and new approach to English men’s cricket. Does it also bring new hope? Well, we’ll have to wait and see on that front. 

The raft of changes that have taken place since the disastrous Ashes series defeat at the turn of the year were necessary to say the least. The pitiful showing in Australia led to Chris Silverwood being sacked as coach and managing director Ashley Giles also losing his job. When the side subsequently submitted to a shambolic 1-0 series defeat in the West Indies, skipper Joe Root fell on his sword. 

England haven’t won a series in five attempts since a Root-inspired 2-0 win in Sri Lanka to begin 2021. Their only win in 17 Test matches since beating India in Chennai last February came in the incomplete home series against Virat Kohli’s side last summer, and they trail that encounter 2-1 heading into next month’s rearranged Fifth Test at Edgbaston. 

The current ICC World Test Championship standings have England placed, unsurprisingly, right at the bottom. They’re below the struggling reigning champs New Zealand, who they host at Lord’s beginning on Thursday. Below a still-unconvincing West Indies. Even below minnows Bangladesh.

In the 16 months since that win in Chennai, they have used a total of 29 players, had six different opening partnerships with the bat, nine new-ball pairings in first innings alone, named four wicketkeepers and collapsed to a total of lower than 200 on 16 different occasions. The chaos has resulted in panicked changes, and the panicked changes have resulted only in further chaos.

 That is where the new appointments might make a bit of difference. Rob Key was announced as Giles’ replacement at the head of the structure shortly after the humiliation in the Caribbean. Within a few weeks Ben Stokes was named the new Test captain and shortly afterwards former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum was unveiled as coach.

Brendon McCullum
Brendon McCullum

The additions give some reason for optimism, particularly in light of some of what has been said by the new men. Stokes was quick to confirm that he would have no hesitation in picking Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson together. McCullum backed up his skipper by insisting that he will dispense with the recent trend for rotation. 

“I’ll probably get in trouble, but I like to pick the best team every time,” McCullum told the BBC. “My job will be to plan as if you’ll live forever, but live as if you’ll die tomorrow.”

And asked about Stokes’ plans to use Broad and Anderson – who have started together in only six of the last 21 Tests – wherever possible, McCullum said he is in the same camp.

“Why not? They can work together,” he responded. “They have had successful careers together.

“There might have been times when the combination might not have been as good as everyone hoped, but there are circumstances around that – there might not have been enough runs, or they were bowling in benign conditions. I’m certainly not against picking them together.”

The rhetoric is refreshing, but England cricket fans will be forgiven for awaiting actions rather than words given their side’s recent fortunes. None of the five days of the Lord’s Test have sold out as things stand, the lack of interest being reflective of the sense of apathy within the setup. But if the team can start to show the kind of togetherness, consistency and spirit that have been missing, then the supporters ought to be back through the gates in number before long.

Until then, there need to be signs of improvement. There must be a steady opening batting partnership, a consistent middle order, a new full-time wicketkeeper ordained, and a deep bowling line-up behind Broad and Anderson. None of those have been evident of late, and it will be on Stokes and McCullum to make them key features of the England side going forward.

Thursday could be the start of a new era. As England supporters, we can but hope. And it’s been a long time since we’ve had any of that.

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