The English Issue.
In England cricket there are many issues. Whether it be the consistent criticism of the state of the county circuit. The lack of money that’s actually in the game itself is something that, in recent times, is becoming a more prominent issue. Or the horrific events of last year, which sparked the extremely powerful and moving BLM protests, that caused the game to take a long look at its own problems with diversity and discrimination. Azeem Rafiq came forward and spoke about the disgusting treatment he and other non white players had been the victim of at Yorkshire. The response to this, not only did it make for some truly depressing reading, but it showed how deep the issue lies in British society. However this is not a strictly English Issue and the recent events at Sydney lay testament to this. Furthermore as a white male i do not believe it is my place to discuss such issues.
So what is, in my humble opinion, the true English Issue. Well it’s pretty simple it’s short sightedness and an inability to understand what is required to build a team. Being reactionary is something that has plagued the English Psyche for years. Reactionary has quite negative implications but England fans take it both ways. The 2005 Ashes series is a great example. After the series was won England felt on top of the world without actually preparing for the future, and the implosion was inevitable. In 2011 when England went to no1 in the world it was commonly thought that this side was invincible so the team barely changed and players grew sick of it and by the time they realised it, it was too late and as ever it imploded. England seems to have an inability to plan for the future and the fans hate the mere idea of it.
Countless times has this happened with England and the failure from fans to see the benefits of a long term strategy is seriously damaging. A perfect example is Zak Crawley. At the end of the summer it was widely accepted that Crawley was in the test side for a while, he looked a great number 3 and even those who doubted him couldn’t deny the assured dominance with which he racked up the famous 267. As the tour to Sri Lanka was confirmed the talk changed. Crawley was seen as a dead set to start as an opener next to Sibley. Crawley was down as an assured player of spin and going into the winter it was merely a new challenge for the gangly giant from Kent and nearly everyone believed Crawley will simply knock it down.
Yet it should’ve come as no surprise that Crawley, when placed in alien conditions, in a match situation, against a top quality spinner in Embuldeniya, didn’t look overly comfortable. After 2 innings, in one of which the ball was spitting like a cobra off the surface, he was gone. Why even play him? He’s a fraud, he’s been found out, he’s useless and the 267 (let me repeat 267) was simply a fluke. There was little talk about allowing Crawley to develop and instead the talk was well Bairstow could open with Burns in India, England should fly out Keaton Jennings etc etc. The English issue had kicked into overdrive. We didn’t think about the future and we didn’t contextualise the situation. Yet again we judge a complex situation off of one match.
Winning is an entirely relative term and victories come in all different forms depending on who the team is and a short sighted mentality can stop someone from realising this. The cries of England fans to bring in Keaton Jennings is a great example of this. Heading into the 2nd test England fans unanimously agreed England won’t win in India with Sibley and Crawley in the side and they need Jennings who is a superior player of spin. Bluntly put, England won’t beat India in India because no one does and having Keaton Jennings in the side makes no difference in the slightest. The need for the here and now will damage England. This is as for England to develop as a side it is crucial that their best top 3 (Sibley, Burns, Crawley) all develop a game against top quality spin and the only way to do this is play it. Playing county cricket in April and May will not help them in any way shape or form. These players need this tour so when England next tour they can compete. Building a squad takes time and is a process so we need to let it take place instead of clamouring for material scorecard victories let us look at the individual victories we can take away from a tour. If England can progress as a side, compete in all different parts of the world and build some momentum personally i take that as a win. Much like in football the end result isn’t always a fair reflection.
This isn’t a piece saying we must never celebrate and criticise by all means do and I am more than happy to do so (Crawley was very very poor against Sri Lanka and his technique needs to improve). But next time we are going to criticise just take a moment. Say perhaps Pope plays in India and has a poor series, before you call for him to be dropped consider whether that’s actually the right move. Think about Englands next tour to India when Pope is leading the side from the front with Sibley and Crawley and how they will off had the match experience out there to help them develop as cricketers. Please please don’t fall a victim to the English Issue.