Two Reasons India will spin webs around Aussie batsmen

Next week the first Test between kicks off in Pune. The contest will be dramatic. The war of words strident and the crowds big and loud. Can Australia compete?

India’s form is irresistible. Undefeated in 18 Tests. Most were at home and recent series provide clues. They beat Bangladesh 1-0 in a solitary Test and England 4-0 across five Tests.

The England series was compelling for Australian fans.

England posted 400 and 500+ totals on three occasions. In the first Test they had India on the back foot, but India held on for a narrow draw.

India then found rhythm and England were thrashed. Despite having five of the series’ top ten run scorers England were routed by superior batting.

Virat Kohli scored 655 runs at an average of 109. India passed 400 five times, their biggest total was declared at 7/759.

Meanwhile, Australia’s batting has been a widely publicized problem. Series losses to Sri Lanka and South Africa were papered over by resurgence against Pakistan. 

New faces adorned the top order. Handscomb and Renshaw provide hope.

But India away is next level. Difficult conditions, big crowds, lots of noise, falling wickets, men around the bat, blunt words and pressure to hold on.

Can Australia avoid past mistakes?

The common phrase ‘play your natural game’ is a pitfall.

It is bandied about too often. It’s a license to throw your wicket away in difficult circumstances. Chase a wide one in the hope you’ll get a few, before they get you.

Steve Smith has forecast change. Aggression is not the only tactic. Counter-attack has often failed. Australia’s batsmen need to be prepared to go to war in the dusty trenches. For hours, even days.

For Australia, the question isn’t how do we take 20 wickets?

But rather, how do we score 600 every time we bat.

Warner’s quick 100s need to be converted into bigger, longer scores. The top order must bat long and wear down bowlers down, who won’t be intimidated by one-off rapid scoring.

Ashwin and Jadeja need to be stopped.

They spun webs around England. Ashwin bowled 300 overs and took 28 wickets at 30. Jadeja bowled 290 overs and took 26 wickets at 25.

It was all about spin.

The leading fast-medium bowler on the England tour was India’s Shami. He took just 10 wickets. Each of England’s pace bowlers took fewer than eight across the series.

The point here is spin. It’s all about spin. And batting big. Really big.

Starc and Hazlewood will play a role. But Lyon, O’Keefe, Agar and Swepson will be important. But nothing is more important than runs and Australia will be tempted to cram as many batsmen into its XI as possible.

Enjoy the ride, this series will be awesome. Cricket Froth will be there for fourth Test in Dharamshala. So stay tuned for up-close analysis.

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Himachal Pradesh Cricket Stadium in Dharamshala. Situated at the foot of the Himalayas in northern India. Hosts the fourth Test between Australia and India in March 2017.

Sheffield Shield heads to Northern Australia

In the midst of a national cricket crisis, the Sheffield Shield has never been so important. The city of Townsville will be treated to a FREE special event this week when Queensland host Western Australia at Tony Ireland Stadium. The timing couldn’t be any better.

As the Australian cricket team crumbled to its tenth straight loss in Hobart, the public’s attention turned swiftly to the nation’s First Class competition.

Responding to Australia’s poor form coach Darren Lehmann said “there’ll definitely be change”. He wasn’t mucking about. Cricket Australia made six changes to the squad and four new players could debut in Adelaide on Thursday.

The ‘crisis’ at Test level had elevated State cricket to critical priority. This is ironic. Despite verbal commitments of support, First Class cricket has continuously been demoted by cricket’s national administrator. The Sheffield Shield is difficult to follow, no longer on the television or the radio and was pushed to the fringes of the summer and replaced by the franchise T20 Big Bash League in 2011.

Are we seeing the sour fruits of this demotion flow through to the Test arena?

Although the squad for the third Test against South Africa has been chosen, the game in Townsville is pivotal.

Australia has three Tests against Pakistan this summer and a tour to India in March 2017. Every player in the Sheffield Shield has a chance to make it to the top, so the competition at Riverway will be fierce. It’s also the second last match in the Shield before the competition is suspended for the Big Bash.

Locals have an extra incentive to support the event.

A big crowd will show Cricket Australia how much the city loves cricket and guide future decisions around hosting rights. The Northern half of the continent is starved of professional sport and for competitions to be truly national, the North needs more exposure to big events.

There is a chance that Townsville could host a winter Test Match against Bangladesh, who recently beat England for the first time. So this is Townsville’s chance.

The city has a rich and extensive cricket history. The local competition is four grades deep and the top tier is a good regional standard, having produced players such as Mitchell Johnson. It stretches at least as far back as the Sheffield Shield’s 124 year history and cricket royalty has visited before. Queensland defeated a West Indian side at the city’s Endeavour Park in 1987. Haynes, Richardson, Gomes, Richards, Dujon, Marshal and Garner played. The city also hosted the under-19 50 over World Cup in 2012 and recent A-list tour matches including India, South Africa and Australia.

Local clubs Norths, Saints, Brothers, Northern Beaches, Suburban Parks, Wests and Wanderers are encouraged to help boost the attendance at the Shield match this week.

Everybody in the North Queensland region who enjoys a day out with fabulous free entertainment should seize the opportunity to see quality live cricket.

Strong support will enhance Townsville’s chances of seeing Test cricket in the future.

What you need to know about the event:

  • FREE ENTRY
  • Four day match Queensland v Western Australia at Tony Ireland Stadium
  • Play starts at 10 am Saturday 26 November, finishes 1700
  • Play also scheduled on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday 1000-1700

There’s a world class grandstand, plenty of shade and grassy hills perfect for a family picnic, a bar for refreshments and a free public pool next door to enjoy during the lunch and tea breaks. Howzat!

Join the event on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/events/1255627194508853/

Follow Cricket Froth on Facebook for more local and international cricket talk and stop by footyalmanac.com.au for some of the best and most diverse sports journalism in the country.

Pink Ball Nights

Some will call it historic. But futuristic is more appropriate.

Day-night Test cricket is almost here. How long it stays is anyone’s guess.

The outcome of events at the Adelaide Oval in the next few days will have an enormous impact on the concept. This has the potential to reshape the future of the world’s greatest game.

Everybody will have an opinion on the pink ball.

Adelaide will be radically different from the draw at the WACA last week. There will be a result.

Although in recent years Sheffield Shield matches have been played at night with the pink ball and New Zealand have just played a warm up match in similar conditions, both sides will step into the unknown.

This increases the mystery behind the occasion.

New conditions, altered playing times and different equipment will be tested.

The lunch and tea breaks have been swapped. The pitch has been doctored to suit the fragile pink ball and more grass than ever can be expected on a wicket likely to assist bowlers more than batsmen.

Huge crowds will flock through the gates and the scene will be spectacular. The striking images of the incredible India-Pakistan Cricket World Cup Match at the Adelaide Oval in 2015 will be remembered.

India Pak CWC2015

A result is assured on what is expected to be a seam bowlers paradise. Batting at dusk will be difficult.

Vision will be restricted as the setting sun competes with artificial lights. Facing a thunderous 150kmph spell from a pack of carnivorous fast bowlers will be tougher than usual.

Fielding in the deep won’t be fun either.

We all dread the skied shots that slowly make their way to us in the deep. They should be easy, but diving away in the gully for a one handed grab seems like a cinch after you try to chest mark a ‘sitter’ on the fence and it rockets off your collar bone for four.

If you’re not in Adelaide then get yourself down the local tomorrow afternoon and take a peak at cricket’s future.

India v South Africa

Can you believe it?

We’re into the Third Test between these two cricket juggernauts and the highest innings score so far is 215!

That’s right. India has prepared some feisty wickets for South Africa’s tour.

The first Test was a titanic battle and a revolving door for batsmen. India won by 108 runs and the Second Test was destroyed by rain after the Proteas were rolled for 214.

At Nagpur yesterday the Proteas knocked India over for 215 without the injured Dale Steyn or the dropped Vernon Philander. But they are 2/11 in reply.

Expect all out war on day two as South Africa battle to make a three figure score on a low spinners paradise in front of a massive Indian crowd.

 

 

 

 

Pink Ball Cricket: a bright, floodlit future

The first ever day-night Test match featuring the controversial pink ball is weeks away.

Will the pink grapefruit be as good as the red cherry?

Well, pinky doesn’t last eighty overs for a start. DRS can’t track it consistently and batsmen struggle to pick up the seam.

The pink Kookaburra ball performed terribly at a recent tour match between New Zealand and the PM’s XI in Canberra. An abrasive Manuka Oval wicket was blamed when the ball had to be changed twice.

These are serious and unresolved problems weeks out from a Test Match.

Speculation rages that CA might even change the Test back to a daytime event, but that is not possible when you consider what is at stake.

Millions of dollars have been poured into this event and the cricket world is watching. The enemies of Test cricket (yes they exist) would pounce should this fail.

The Sheffield Shield matches provide an opportunity for limited refinement. All three first round matches are day-night pink ball events. A grassy Adelaide Oval wicket has been prepared for the clash between NSW and South Australia to reduce scuffing of the pink ball. That is not sustainable.

A litany of keen observers will be at this match, considered a dress rehearsal for one of cricket’s biggest modern moments.

Why pink?

Red balls are difficult to see at night. That’s why we use white balls in one day cricket. White isn’t suitable for long form cricket because it gets dirty quickly and also becomes hard to see. More importantly, white balls don’t last eighty overs, the minimum life requisite for Test cricket balls. But apparently neither do pink ones so um… yeah.

The debates and trials of alternate coloured balls have been raging for at least ten years. Surely by now there is a compound or a combination of materials that can replicate the behaviour and ageing characteristics of a traditional cricket ball?

This ball was bowled to NSW by SA in a Shield Match in Adelaide... on a grassy wicket.

This ball was bowled to NSW by SA in a Shield Match in Adelaide… on a grassy wicket.

The day-night show must go on

Cricket Froth believes that day-night Test matches are a positive step and the Adelaide Test must proceed as planned. The ball should be ready by now but can be improved or the colour changed if it isn’t yet perfect.

As a marketing event it fosters new interest and for the purists; the tactical effect of the different playing times and conditions will be most interesting. There may be better times to bat or bowl as dusk, night time and dew environs and a switched lunch and tea break take effect.

Test cricket should have a bright, floodlit future.

Force Majuere: who is responsible?

It is difficult to beat the other lot when they bat, bowl and field better than you. It’s even worse when they cherish and enjoy the contest and your lot turn up looking like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.

Australians lay in bed all over the continent this morning contemplating another loss in England. Or is this the Australian players struggling to motivate ahead of the Test? Both are possible, it seems.

Australians lay in bed all over the continent this morning contemplating another loss in England. Or is this the Australian players struggling to motivate ahead of the Test? Both are possible, it seems. Bill Murray in Groundhog Day

England comprehensively punished Australia and deserved their victory. They played better than form suggested and Australia – who are still a better team than England for now – were poor and repeated two glaring mistakes of past England tours. They bowled too short and too wide for too long, expecting their quicks to blast people out as they do in Brisbane and Perth, and their batsmen went hard at the ball instead of playing later as the swinging conditions require.

Poor preparation?

Australia has a problem with slow pitches; they lost seven Test matches in India and England in 2013, and the following year they lost at Port Elizabeth in South Africa and twice in the Gulf against Pakistan. Now they’ve been utterly embarrassed in Wales. Has Australia recognised this weakness or ignored it?

Poor execution?

Few expected Australia could chase down the 411 set by England but with two days to play (the fifth with rain predicted), many more expected a demonstration of resilience. Perhaps a decent fight that might take them close, to at least 300, and if inclement weather arrived – as it did today in Cardiff – then a draw was possible. But they rolled over and died.

As day broke today in Cardiff Australian captain Michael Clarke was last seen running down the street to beg England for one more chance.

As day broke today in Cardiff Australian captain Michael Clarke was last seen running down the street to beg England for one more chance.

At one for 97 going into the last over before lunch, there were clear nerves and anxiety beginning to show throughout England. The huge wicket of Warner on the last ball before the break eased the tension and triggered a force majuere.

Within 5 overs the Aussies were 5/106. When Watson departed, perhaps for the last time ever in a Test match, Australia had lost all of their batsmen and were 7/151. It was a disgrace and none of the Australian batsmen took responsibility to resist the superior fight and attitude England brought to the contest.

Shane Watson’s body language summed up Australia’s approach. He looked encumbered by the world’s problems and trudged about sporting an agonised grimace apparently loathing the task of having to play cricket. Watson was picked because of his superior bowling when compared to Mitch Marsh but when Clarke called on him to bowl in the vital second innings, he failed to lead by example or make an impact. His Test career looks over. Brad Haddin’s keeping (and batting) will also concern Australia.

It was a tough gig watching that collapse. Bill, here again, sums it up nicely.

It was a tough gig watching that collapse.

Australia’s bowling

Although their bowling was erratic on day one Australia actually bowled well in the second innings. Starc was in agony with an ankle injury but steamed in and bowled 145km regularly. He was accused by Shane Warne and others of lacking heart when he left the field on a hot day in Brisbane last summer against India. It seemed this was in the back of his mind and his contribution was admirable. But the damage done is likely to exclude him from the second Test at Lords. Another huge loss for Australia.

Suddenly the two men who England’s batters will have studied the most – Starc and Ryan Harris – aren’t playing and Australia will have to go to Peter Siddle. Pat Cummins is the other man on tour but talented as he may be, Cummins is likely to bang it in shorter than any other. The concern with Siddle is that he’s a bit similar to Hazlewood. At least Johnson is still fit. He bowled very well without luck in Cardiff and Cricket Forth predicts that he will lift on the slope in London.

There’s a direct correlation between Johnson’s form with the bat and him taking wickets and he scored more (77) than Rogers, Smith, Clarke, Voges, Watson and Haddin combined in Australia’s second innings capitulation. With Australia’s bowling seemingly getting weaker the batting will become all the more important.

Let’s get back to discussing England though

The ICC needs to take action against the ECB because there are clearly different rules for Jimmy Anderson; why is he allowed to use a taped up tennis ball and swing it 2 metres? This guy is a legitimate superstar and must be nearing par with other great swingers like Wasim Akram (and your best mate’s parents, didn’t you know?). The Aussies haven’t got a clue. He was backed up well by Stuart Broad who was quick, extracted bounce where others could not and built the pressure that provided the lesser Moeen Ali and Mark Wood with wickets.

Wood is a great find. He has not taken a backwards step against Australia in his third Test and looks a great character and competitor. Ian Bell played himself back into form in the second innings and Ben Stokes has showed Shane Watson what an all-rounder looks like.

The series is not over yet though. Now let’s get some sleep before the second Test.

Moving Day: Shane Watson versus England (and the Australian public)

England is on top at Sophia Gardens and the stage is set for Shane Watson to silence his critics and keep his side in the Test. The first two days have been difficult for Australia and England has proven resilient and disciplined with bat and ball.

Coming in, Australia’s bowling was its strength and England was primarily concerned with how to manage that threat. Flat and deadened pitches were expected and Cardiff has delivered. But from a position of strength in bowling, Australia now looks slightly uncertain with the ball.

The series started terribly for Australia with the loss of their main strike bowler and pack leader Ryan Harris. England feared Mitchell Johnson after he murdered them in 2013-14, but will feel slightly less threatened after he finished with 0/111 from 25 overs. Johnson received a huge, stadium-wide standing ovation after ‘scoring a ton’ and the taunting will get louder in the second innings if wickets elude. Johnson bowled far better than the stats demonstrate and remains a potent weapon.

England’s resilience was proven after they moved from 3/43 to 430. They stole 87 runs for their last 3 wickets at the start of Day 2 and pushed the Aussies off the field looking flat. England were led by the superstar Joe Root (134) – who was dropped by Haddin on 0 – and an excellent lower order dig by Moeen Ali (77), who is probably the most overqualified number 8 to play Ashes cricket. Ian Bell’s failings are papered over for now. He has 11, 1, 0, 0, 1, 29, 12 and 1 from his last 8 Test inns.

The Aussies navigated a tricky 45 minutes before the lunch break. Broad and Anderson hovered and their superior knowledge of the conditions was demonstrated by their fuller length. England plundered runs square of the wicket, proving that Australia’s bowlers banged it in too short, too often. Broad and Anderson were at the stumps and at the pads, full and swinging both ways and were rewarded when Warner snicked up for 17.

England’s discipline persisted and their well-executed plans rewarded them with a position of ascendency. They have removed Australia’s top five batsmen and although each of their bowlers contributed to Cook’s plans of building pressure, the Australians will be smarting at the nature of their dismissals; five questionable shots and five catches.

Thousands of Australians have joined a growing chorus of ridicule directed at Shane Watson and were outraged when he retained his place in the side of ahead of Mitch Marsh. But as soon as Harris went down, Watson became a certainty. He is a better bowler than Marsh and provides stiffer support to Starc, Johnson, Hazlewood and Lyon, but his batting is most maligned and now it is what Australia needs most to stay in the match.

Watson is 29 not out and Australia trail by 166. Nightwatchman Nathan Lyon joined him in the fading light yesterday and only Brad Haddin remains in the shed for Australia. Starc and Johnson can bat a bit but Watson must deliver if Australia is to get back at England. Day three – moving day – awaits.

Ashes Series Selection Dilemma: Fitting 14 into 11

Australian selectors have one heck of a job picking 11 blokes to face England at Sophia Gardens. Contention rages over the middle order and the bowling attack but unlike 2009 or 2013 these are good problems; at least 14 guys make a good case for the Cardiff Test.

An almost leisurely two nil victory in the Caribbean confirmed two theories and uncovered another; Steve Smith is becoming one of the best batsman Australia has produced in over a decade, Australia’s fast bowling is lethal and Adam Voges is a capable dark horse. Perhaps a fourth note should be added, Shane Watson continues to pour on the match-winning 25s.

The Aussies begin with two four day tour matches and the first starts on 25 June at Kent followed by Essex at Chelmsford. This gives the players and selectors an opportunity to perform and assess.

Here’s a wrap of the Aussie touring party.

Certainty at the top

Chris Rogers missed two Tests in the Caribbean due to concussion but he surely returns to partner David Warner.

Steve Smith is Australia’s tenth number 3 since 2011 and – at 26 with an average of 56 and scores of 97, 162*, 52*, 133, 28, 192, 14, 117, 71, 25, 5*, 199 & 54* in his last 13 innings – could be the last number 3 Australia will need until about 2025.

Michael Clarke is determined to be the first captain to win in England since Steve Waugh in 2001.

The middle candidates

Shaun Marsh scored a ton on debut in 2011. Couldn’t get off the mark in several subsequent innings and was dropped. Came back in 2014 and has scores of 32, 17, 32, 99, 73 & 1 at number 5 against India and 19, 13*, 11 & 69 against West Indies filling at opener.

Adam Voges plundered a ton on debut against the West Indies. Voges’ selection baffled punters who’d prefer a younger talent but at 35 and with 11000 First Class runs at 46, Voges adds steel to Australia’s squad. After 14 years without a win in England this is not a series about blooding talent.

Mitchell Marsh was promising with the bat in the Tests he played against Pakistan and India and is unspectacular, although talented, with the ball.

Shane Watson… um. There’s still a strong chance he’ll play a key role in this series. He’s a great slips fielder. Every team needs one!

Wicket-keepers

Cricket Froth was convinced Brad Haddin would retire at the end of the summer. But at 37 Hads is keen as mustard to win a series in England. His presence is a huge asset for Australia. Opponents hate him; he brings the needle to this Aussie team (along with Watson from behind the stumps) and won’t be moved an inch by a combative English media or parochial home crowds. Peter Neville is Haddin’s capable back-up.

The bowlers

There’s only one thing as certain as the force of gravity on planet earth; Ryan Harris will play every single Test match in England if he is fit.

Splitting the rest is probably the most difficult task for selectors. Mitch Johnson murdered England last time and is in solid form. Mitch Starc swung the Duke a mile in the Caribbean and was lethal in the world cup and Josh Hazlewood has looked the part since hitting the Test scene. All these blokes bowl between 140-150kph and then there’s Peter Siddle, a proven workhorse who’s dropped to 5 in the pecking order.

In one sense the ECB could be expected to kill the local pitches to negate this ferocious attack, but England does not have a frontline spinner. Whatever is done to tame pitches for Australia’s fast bowlers will have equal effect on the hosts.

Nathan Lyon will be needed as Australia seems reluctant to play four fast bowlers. Victorian leg spinner Fawad Ahmed is the 17th man on tour and could be a trump card if a real turning pitch shows up.

In a strange video coming out of Dominica in the West Indies the Aussies revealed that pickle juice is used widely by players as a highly regarded cure for muscle cramps. See the Cricket Australia video here: http://www.cricket.com.au/video/chris-rogers-video-blog-pickle-juice-dehydration-west-indies-test-series-bupa/2015-06-19

Australia become number 2 and England give India a real blue

Seismic shifts in world cricket. They’re busting up proceedings all the time. Last week England were in  tatters. They hadn’t won in 10 Tests, their Captain was eyeing off a bloody guillotine and the wicket-keeper had walked away. Today their Captain sits comfortably at slip and marshals a buoyant and aggressive bowling unit who have the scent of Indian blood firmly ensconced in their nasal passage.

Overnight their batsmen plundered an indolent India and declared after scoring over half a thousand runs. Their new wicket keeper battered 85 off 83 – leading to ridiculously premature comparisons with Adam Gilchrist – and Gary Ballance and Ian Bell looked a million pounds on their way to 156 and 167. On Day 1 Ali Cook had at least bequeathed some of the pressure on his batting towards his leadership qualities by scoring a gritty 95. Now he has India precariously perched on 1/25.

England must win this Test Match. Mathematically, if they don’t they can still win the series, but the bounce they’ll get and the critics they’ll savagely retort (including me) at least in the immediate short term will propel the dressing room and startle India – who are known for lacking a bit of fight when things get tough away from home. But, let’s not get carried away. England’s had two better days at playing cricket than they’ve had for a little while. The uncertainty of Cook’s leadership and tactical nous remains and administrative and dressing room issues require much more work.

A development that might stir up an incredulous response from Australian cricket fans is the change in ICC Test Rankings overnight. South Africa have retaken number one billing off Australia after winning a 2 Test Series 1-0 in Sri Lanka. It could have been so different. On a dreary last day of the 2nd Test at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo South Africa resisted a desperate Sri Lankan bowling attack to nut out a thrilling draw. With the Proteas leading 1-0 their foci lay on preservation and defiance. At 6/118 with 13 overs remaining rain fell. But, it quickly subsided and the Proteas had to face the wrath – or more accurately the Rangana Herath, who took 5/40 off 45 overs. But, South Africa’s tail clung on at 8/159 securing a 1-0 win and a return to the top of the pops.

In other news the ICC is to “investigate” pro-Gaza wrist bands worn by England’s Moeen Ali during the Test v India. Apparently political messages are banned by the ICC. And Kevin Pietersen has signed up to play for the Melbourne Stars in Australia’s Big Bash League in the southern summer. Could be the first time the bloke isn’t unanimously booed at the MCG?

KP has also come out and said that he “feels sorry for the geezer” when discussing former England Captain Andrew Strauss’s recent on air gaffe where he labelled KP “an absolute c***”. Clearly the personality feud continues even though both men are now ex team-mates.

10 Tests without victory: Has England lost its spine?

England are only 1-0 down in the series against India, but it feels like they’ve just been beaten 5-0 again. The reaction to yesterday’s defeat at Lords and the projections radiating from England are all dire. A lack of quality, bad execution, ordinary tactics, poor fielding and troubled county and player development systems… I’ve read it all in recent days, but the dressing room problems that stalked England’s tour of Australia appear most relevant.

India bounced England’s batsmen out on a day five wicket, that on day 1, looked as green as the 18th at Royal Liverpool. Chasing 318 for victory with 4 sessions to play, England were in the box seat, but Ishant Sharma shredded them with 7 wickets – many of which were caught in the deep. England asked India to bat first on a green top and failed to capitalise, with their seamers consistently bowling too short on a pitch demanding a full, seam-nibbling length. India toiled hard with the bat throughout and set a competitive 4th innings chase. It was more than a touch ironic that short bowling undid England’s batsmen in the end. The difference between carefully executed, field appropriate short bowling and banging it in too often has never been plainer.

Twelve months ago England were ranked 2 in the world and were on the way to beating Australia 3-0. Now you’d be forgiven for thinking it was 1999. It’s not and England shouldn’t be this bad, but a packet of off-field problems are destroying them in the middle.

The big question for me is why somebody like Matt Prior is now quitting after two Tests?

“To treat injuries” is his reasoning, but Prior is the third (Trott and Swann) top 11 player to walk out on England mid-series is less than 9 months. They’re all legitimate reasons you say? Well ok, maybe so, but if England were preparing as well as they should be then Trott’s mental state would have been exposed and managed internally before he was obliterated after one Test in Australia and Prior’s “injuries” (and perhaps stomach for a fight) been adequately appraised before this absolutely vital home series against India. The bloke has quit when times are tough and injuries aside, I wouldn’t expect he’ll play for England ever again as some of England’s insiders are smarting.

The second issue is Alistair Cook. A great player with an incredible batting record that has seemingly been in steep decline ever since Andy Strauss stepped aside. Cook seems like a “lovely lad” as described by Strauss overnight, but is he a leader of men? I’m not convinced and the sight of bowlers changing fielders behind his back without consent and the general body language of certain players towards him looks bad, but I wouldn’t be demoting him during this series. This again, for me, comes back to preparation. If the head honchos at England cricket do not believe that he is the man to lead the  side then why go into this series with him at the helm? Why do these things keep needing to be dealt with mid-series?

Australia’s terrible, ill-fated tour of India in 2013 threw up several mid-series dressing room fiascos. When these incidents began to emerge on the subsequent tour of England and it was evident that they had not been managed, the head coach was sacked and a new leadership group redrawn before the first Test. Some decried the timing, but it has turned out for the better.

Cook absolutely needs runs to take some of the sting out of the criticism being fired his way. But, he could score hundreds and if England keep losing and their bowling and fielding plans lack shape and distinctive strategy, then his leadership will continue to be questioned.

The upshot is that England are only 1-0 down with three Tests to play. India are a very good side, but they’re not at the top yet and England is a difficult place to win (Australia hasn’t won in England for 12 years). Cook and the rest of the England unit must fight on and win this series at home, or be the subject of a rabid inquisition unseen in English cricket for at least a decade.