Thursday, February 01, 2007

Dazed & Confused

If it was a boxing match, they'd have stopped it in round 5 - and if the England side was a racehorse it would have been put out of its misery weeks ago.

But before the serious recriminations start, you need to take a deep breath and bear in mind that, since the test series ended in Sydney, and more pertinently since the departure of KP, this touring party has simply been going through the motions, waiting for the nightmare to end and counting down the days until they can get on the plane and fly home.

Any measurement and analysis of individual performance has to be shot through that prism. You could argue that professional cricketers should be able to perform at the peak of their performance regardless of the circumstances, but that would overlook the mental effects of being totally humiliated in a test series where they'd been expected to be at least competitive (and where they, to all intents and purposes, gave the crucial test match away) and then having to follow up immediately with a further tour around the scenes of those disasters.

My original intention when composing this post was to be highly critical of the performances of Strauss, Collingwood & Bell over the past month, and seriously question whether the 2005/06 tour would rival the 1974/75 series in terms of being 'test career ending' for a crop of English batsmen - but then sanity returned and you start to realise that it's difficult to perform when you're batting in a daze and simply going through the motions because that's what is expected of you.

This is one seriously screwed up squad of players - and the big question is whether the scars are too deep to allow a quick recovery. You can bet your bottom euro that the Australians will take every opportunity to remind them of the past three months - muttering 'Adelaide' could cause a reaction like a shell-shocked war veteran hearing a car backfiring... sort of like 'Headingley' must have sounded to an Aussie until that particular ghost was exorcised by Alan Border and Steve Waugh.

Remember, this was a side that went off on a wave of optimism - and still had fond, recent, memories of the 12th September 2005, and the day after in Trafalgar Square. To fall from that height in such spectacular fashion is going to be traumatic, to say the least. Then follow that up with some of the pretty inept one day performances in the run up to the premier ODI tournament means that, had the World Cup been starting in a week, I wouldn't have fancied our chances against Kenya or Canada.

I know we keep coming back to this point, but the itinerary has been an incredible form of torture - revisiting the scene of traumatic events might seem like a good idea to some amateur TV psychologist, but for real life flesh and blood it must be utterly demoralising. The Adelaide disasters for example can't be excused, but they can be understood on the basis of 'let's get this over and done with as soon as we can'. From now on, someone at the ECB needs to insist that the ODI series forms part of the warm up to the test series rather than a depressing coda.

Happily there's now a chance to regroup and refocus - whether Duncan Fletcher is the person who can facilitate that process effectively is a moot point.


Mr Z said...

Don't get too caught up with the schedule - the ECB had a fair amount of input (eg the abandonment of the traditional Lilac Hill tour opener).

I also seem to remember the Australian team's warmup matches in the 05 Ashes tour were quite limited as well.

Maybe it's a case of turn and turn about.

Mark said...

Before the Lords Test in 2005, the Australians had 17 days of cricket.

ECB take note.