In any big organisation, you'll always find a certain number of 'time servers'. The sort of people who do just enough to keep from being fired, but who are unwilling or incapable of making the leap to a higher level.
England's current level of cricketing mediocrity - which, if you think about it, stretches back to 2005, is caused in part by the fact that they currently have six 'time servers' at the top of their batting order.
The big problem is that, secretly, management like people like this. Any big company does actually need a certain number of people with limited horizons, but who are happy to do a routine nine-to-five job with just enough reward to keep them happy.
In English cricket terms, it means that the selectors do not have to make the difficult decision of dropping anyone. They can point to the fact that Ian Bell, for example, has a pretty decent average and constantly gets good scores - sixties and seventies. The problem with Bell is that he doesn't go on and get really big scores - which is what a true test quality batsman is supposed to do.
Ask yourself, when was the last time Paul Collingwood made a really big ton? Yes, he's scrappy, makes the most of his ability, scores useful runs and is a fine fielder, but if you're going to be batting in the top six, you need to be making at least one score of 150 plus every five tests or so - not every five years.
The same goes with Lord Snooty. He did just enough in the first test to keep his job, just enough to avoid any direct criticism - a typical 'time-server' attribute. But when was the last time he scored a ton for heavens sake - let alone a big ton? Showing rare bravery, the selectors actually dropped him in the summer, but as soon as they could, and without any evidence to suggest he'd got better, they spinelessly withdrew into their comfort zone and picked him again. Based on what evidence?
Vaughan? A ton on his return last summer (against a very weak Windies bowling attack) but since then a whole series of average scores, and a whole load of constant bleating about how 'big scores are just around the corner'.
Then there's KP. There'd be an outcry if he was dropped, because he's still the one 'English' batsmen that everyone in the world genuinely fears. But it's a heck of a long time since he made any big runs - plenty of flashy fifities to keep the average up, but the growing sense that bowlers are starting to suss him out.
The current level of performance demonstrated by the top six means we win the occasional test (big celebrations all round) then lose a couple, drew a few, win another one, and so on. Sorry, that's not good enough. If we're really supposed to be the number two in the world (Vaughan's laughable comment before Saturday's debacle) then they can't afford much more than one or two defeats in a calendar year.
You don't need much of a crystal ball to see how the next eighteen months will pan out if things don't improve. We might (just) scrape a draw in this series, then maybe win on home turf against the Kiwis, before going close against South Africa. Then defeat in India, followed by a close win in the Carribbean (cue much talk of being 'number two' again after that) followed by a predictable three-one defeat in the Ashes 2009 - and we're back where we started from.
Now - I'm not suggesting that the selectors adopt a 'rip it up and start again' strategy (It was 'Orange Juice' if you're trying to remember...) but they do to do something to let the top six know that they really need to start performing properly NOW, or else they are going to be shipped out.
At the moment, everyone's far too comfortable - secure in the knowledge that if they get a forty and then a thirty, they'll keep their place - and be in good shape for another central contract when the spoils are handed out each year.