So the ECB presented Ashley Giles with enough rope to hang himself and, with a little help from Holland, he duly obliged.
Once the painstakingly long job interview afforded to ‘The King of Spain’ was finally brought to its conclusion, it is Peter Moores who once again becomes Head Coach and with it the ECB have managed to slam the door firmly shut on any hope we (as cricket fans) had for Kevin Pietersen’s return to the England set up.
While some coaches have the luxury of inheriting a team at the height of its powers and requiring only a slight calibration to their own ideas and principles (see Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich), Moores has a far more extensive rebuilding job on his hands.
By John Fraser – @HDTreatmentBlog
1. Restore Captain Cook’s confidence
Alistair Cook was a shadow of his former self in the latest Ashes series, night and day compared to his previous trip Down Under when he seemed to be at the crease for the entire series notching up century after century. By the end of the 5-0 whitewash he was a broken man; his confidence in his batting, captaincy and press duties shattered. Early season form in the county championship seems promising and if Moores can ease the pressure from the media and any team issues, then Cook can focus on how he prefers to the lead the team – by piling on the runs.
2. Who will open with Cook?
Since the retirement of Andrew Strauss, we have seen Nick Compton, Joe Root and Michael Carberry all given chances to cement their position at the top of the innings alongside Alistair Cook. However no-one has shined in the position and with Carberry looking to have blown his chance with criticism of the ECB, the position is up for grabs once more. Middlesex’s Sam Robson might be moving into the favourite position.
3. Jonathan Trott’s replacement
There is still an element of confusion over Jonathan Trott’s condition given the differing statements we have seen; anxiety, stress, depression? However regardless the cause, the fact is we will not see Trott take his usual position at number three. Joe Root and Ian Bell filled in during the last Ashes series and perhaps Ian Bell, as senior player and arguably England’s best batsman, should be given the responsibility of this important position. Number three is where we saw Bell take his first major steps in international cricket and ever since he found a place further down the innings, there have been constant questions over when he will return to number three.
4. Kevin Pietersen’s replacement
We all have an opinion on how Pietersen was treated by the ECB and whether you agree with the decision or not, we will never see KP back in an England shirt. When looking for a replacement, the most obvious candidate is Eoin Morgan, given his similarly destructive batting abilities. However his previous exposure to the test match arena was not a huge success and the question marks over his suitability in the longer format of the game still remain. James Taylor, Gary Ballance, Moeen Ali and others will likely have a say. Early season form with their counties may have the biggest bearing.
5. Settled positions for Ian Bell & Joe Root
Discussions around my three previous points will all likely involve Ian Bell and Joe Root. The constant movement up and down the batting order will be of no benefit to these players; especially Joe Root who I feel has to spend some more time lower in the order where he had success in India. Root’s place in the team is by no means certain as his form in the test arena has been very inconsistent. However most consider him to be a bit special and perseverance is likely to be name of the game here.
6. The fitness and temperament of Ben Stokes
Ben Stokes was the one glimmer of hope to come out the Ashes train wreck with his confident bowling and batting displays. However his form deserted him in the limited overs series that followed and led to him missing the World T20 with a broken hand after punching a locker in frustration at a golden duck. He has previous and was sent home from a Lions tour for unprofessional conduct. Stokes’ first task is to regain fitness and form, and then has to hope the powers that be forgive his latest indiscretion. Otherwise the search for the all-rounder that every test side so desires will continue.
7. Who will keep wicket?
Hopefully the Jonny Bairstow experiment behind the stumps is over, which would surely leave Matt Prior in pole position once again. His form prior to being dropped in the Ashes series was absolutely dire and he can have no complaints, but if he can regain his form in the early country games then surely he will return to the test side. Jos Buttler will be mentioned given his excellent limited over form but the general opinion is he not quite ready for the test arena. Steven Davies may also come up but my feeling is he will always just be ‘ok’ rather than ‘great’.
8. Graeme Swann’s replacement
Borthwick, Tredwell, Panesar, Kerrigan, Rafiq, maybe even Ali & Root could share responsibilities for a bit of Hail Mary. In my opinion, Swann will be hardest player for England to replace. He would make something happen out of nothing. It was easy for Cook, he didn’t have to be very imaginative to think up ways to get batsmen out, just chuck the ball to Swann and let him get on with it. More often than not, he would make the breakthrough. Swann allowed England to play four bowlers as he would tie up an end while the three seamers rotated at the other. Tough, very tough.
9. The Third
Stuart Broad was one the few England players to come out the Ashes with his reputation still pretty much intact. James Anderson, as we are back in English conditions, still has a bit left in the tank and will lead the attack this summer. So who will join them? It’s probably fair to say Boyd Rankin and Chris Tremlett will not be in the reckoning. Tim Bresnan would normally have been the favourite but a succession of injuries and loss of form have damaged his chances. Chris Jordan may be the one whose seam bowler selection chances are gathering momentum at the right time. And then there is of course Steven Finn, the great hope of English bowling which the system managed to destroy. He is back amongst the wickets in county cricket but perhaps remaining there for the whole summer so his action is nailed down will be most beneficial in the long run.