England would not have won the Ashes if Kevin Peterson hadn’t been sacked without cause. Alastair Cook is the greatest captain in Test history. Paul Downton is a rare visionary national hero.
I just need to exaggerate a bit to understand this. History is rewritten. The invoice has been settled. A Bilge river of misdirection and vindictiveness winds its way through media circles.
Why does this matter? At the risk of alienating Ed Smith, allow me to quote George Orwell:
Whoever controls the past controls the future. Whoever controls the present controls the past.
Newspapers write contemporary history. You set the agenda and become the accepted version of events. The media influences those whose opinions influence cricket supporters – from the general public to politicians, sponsors and sport administrators.
Who are the heads of UK sport more likely to read? Mike Selvey or someone other than cricket?
Hackers have power, but some of them warp reality to serve a bizarre agenda.
Let’s get one thing straight. England didn’t win the Ashes because a master plan was honorably realized. England’s victory over Australia did not betray the visionary, methodical genius of the February 2014 decision-making.
England won despite everything that happened, not because of that.
Let’s review the exact course of events. First, Peter Moores was hired to help rebuild the England squad. Despite being the only candidate to have already lost, he was picked and met with almost universal disapproval. It promises more of the same micromanaged, data-driven straitjacket approach that has been discredited under Andy Flower.
how is he doing Moores led England backwards, not forwards: a win over Sri Lanka, a World Cup group stage defeat and a draw with the West Indies, a record matched only by a string of victories over a sad India.
It should be Peter Moores who is in charge of England’s Ashes Campaign. At the last moment, the ECB had no choice but to bow to the inevitable, leading to a panicked firing and replacement process. By firing Moores, Andrew Strauss managed to avoid something really stupid – by not firing him – but it was not the behavior of a very prescient cricketing genius.
What about new material for a website remake? Sam Robson and Gary Ballance were eliminated, along with Chris Jordan and Liam Plunkett. Chris Vox also fell off the radar due to status and injury concerns. Jos Buttler still had a century to go and shot 79 with just 13 points in this Ashes streak.
The plan announced by the ECB 18 months ago was to build New England around Alastair Cook. Since then, he has scored two centuries in seventeen Tests, a performance of supporting roles rather than protagonists. So far in the 2015 Ashes, Cook has hit 223 at 31.85 over seven innings. In terms of English average for the series, he ranks sixth.
Has Cook’s captaincy improved England’s form? He is now more willing to experiment with outlandish tactics – when England are leading. He will explain nine points less before lunch – when England are already more than 300 points ahead. As Unhappy Hippy pointed out on Twitter, “Cook’s captain played well and we deserved to win”.
If Cook changed his approach, he waited at least a year after the trip to Australia to do so. If Cook was sculpted from the right materials, why didn’t he evolve at a barely icy pace? In nearly three years at the helm, Cook has now led the England captain to 37 Test appearances. Only five have captained England more times.
Wouldn’t England have beaten Australia without Cook as captain? What has he done on this streak to turn England’s game in the team’s favour? Is this a case of his inner virtue inevitably asserting itself? Or is it an extension of the Collingwood principle — that someone who is captain long enough and refuses to resign ends up enjoying the series as things take their course?
The jury is still divided on the most important aspects of Cook’s tenure as captain. He was always willing to turn bowlers – as any idiot could do – and experiment with unconventional pitches. Cook’s real weakness is his impotence in the face of adversity. When the batsman is in the lead – like Australia at Lords Stadium, or when England loses control on the pitch – like at Headingley and India against Sri Lanka last year – Cook backs off to his case, rather than grabbing the game by the neck. These situations are a true test of the captain’s skills, and Cook always fails – shrugging off when he slips, handing the reins to Anderson and Broad.
Was it wise and farsighted for the ECB to keep Cook as captain, or was it just luck? As they keep acknowledging him after every disappointing result, what qualities do you see in him that are now on display this summer? How did they affect the outcome?
Would England be better off without Kevin Peterson? His backups — Ballance and Bairstow in this series (suggesting a change needs to be made) — struck out 177 in six innings. Will Peterson score lower?
Whether his absence helped improve team spirit and, if so, whether that atmosphere contributed to England’s victory for the Ashes is uncertain. Any claims in this regard are pure speculation.
However, there is no evidence that Peterson’s involvement during his time with England was detrimental to the team’s performance. He was part of the England squad that won four Ashes series titles, beating India to become world number one.