I DON’T want to hammer England’s selectors. They generally get it right. There is a huge gap between county and Test level and not everyone is able to bridge it, yet they tend to choose well. But they really must grasp the nettle right now and remove captain Alastair Cook.
England cannot get any worse. In this week’s second Test against India, they won the toss and bowled first on a green Lord’s pitch. They held all the cards, yet still lost. They had chances to win, but didn’t. They’re rudderless, and keeping Cook, as they have decided to do for the third Test, is merely delaying the inevitable.
Fear of failure is dictating all of England’s decisions, from top to bottom, and paralysing them. Coach Peter Moores and the selectors have taken the unadventurous option by backing Cook, but it is inviting more of the same. And that mindset is trickling down to the team.
I can feel England getting more defensive by the day. The key moment at Lord’s was Ravi Jadeja taking on England’s bowlers in the second innings and scoring a vital 68. England used to change the momentum like that; now they wait for opponents to make mistakes.
One of the reasons they haven’t dropped Cook is, I suspect, because they don’t have the courage to pick any of the alternative opening batsmen. Perhaps Nick Compton’s face didn’t fit, but James Taylor at Nottingham is a very good player. He could do the job, if given a chance.
There is similar inertia on the issue of filling England’s spin-bowling void. Simon Kerrigan was called up but then not used, amid fears he could suffer a damaging re-run of his 2013 debut nightmare. Yet he’s the best we’ve got, so they have to be bold and see whether he’s good enough.
I’m not suggesting Cook be thrown on the scrapheap, nor do I think England’s problems run deeper than can be fixed with selection changes. Everyone is pulling in the right direction and they are trying to do the right things – albeit very safe things.
But as I wrote a few weeks ago, Cook needs a break, to go back to Essex and rediscover his touch away from the spotlight of Test cricket, while another of England’s automatic choices takes over the captaincy.
Former skipper Michael Vaughan has nominated Eoin Morgan, but he doesn’t even get in the team so can’t suddenly come in and take charge. James Anderson or Stuart Broad, however, would be sensible choices in the short term and not affected by the extra responsibility.
Making tough decisions like this is what selectors are there for. While India are growing in confidence, England need strong leadership from the top to stop theirs seeping further and the series running away.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer who has also served as captain and chairman of Warwickshire.