The Ashes: Giving Joe Root assistance and England’s ‘beyond bad’ decision making in Australia | Cricket News


Head coach Chris Silverwood and captain Joe Root have faced criticism after a poor start for England in The Ashes

Head coach Chris Silverwood and captain Joe Root have faced criticism after a poor start for England in The Ashes

England are 2-0 down in The Ashes with their selections and decision-making coming in for plenty of criticism.

On the Sky Sports Cricket podcast, Mike Atherton, Rob Key and Nasser Hussain discussed some of the more baffling decisions and whether captain Joe Root needs more assistance, whether that should come from the head coach and how getting rid of a chief selector has left Chris Silverwood more open to criticism.

Here is how that discussion went…

Mike Atherton: Don’t you think, in a way, the thinking behind the team selection (for the second Test) was really worrying and confusing? Whether one accepts that the spinners England have are good enough or whether they have faith in them is a rather different matter.

Mark Wood dismissed Steve Smith in an encouraging performance in the first Test but was rested in Adelaide

Mark Wood dismissed Steve Smith in an encouraging performance in the first Test but was rested in Adelaide

When you looked at the selection of that team for this surface, for kind of new-ball bowlers, five right-arm seamers, all in a narrow range of pace, leaving out your man of extreme pace – resting him, they said he was fully fit, resting for what? We’re 2-0 down – and the spinner, it just didn’t make sense.

I couldn’t see any situation where that selection made sense for this game and I find that quite concerning because they must talk about selection, obviously, ahead of the game. There is no cricketing common sense that comes up with that team on that pitch.

Rob Key: That is another issue that they’ve got. Joe Root gets a lot of stick and tactically he’s not the greatest captain in the world but that’s nothing new. But actually, the captaincy has brought so much out of his batting, it’s made him a better player that responsibility – and you take that a little bit. As a set-up, what you’ve got to do then is sort of understand that – it’s nothing new that about Joe Root, he doesn’t always make the greatest decisions.

Former England assistant coach Paul Farbrace says England don't have enough batters who are able to cope with the scrutiny of Test cricket

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Former England assistant coach Paul Farbrace says England don’t have enough batters who are able to cope with the scrutiny of Test cricket

Former England assistant coach Paul Farbrace says England don’t have enough batters who are able to cope with the scrutiny of Test cricket

So what you do is bring someone in who is brilliant at making those decisions, who has got such good nous, such a good read of the game that they can help him out. So when he turns up to Brisbane and is thinking ‘we might have a bat here’ on a green pitch, that person, whoever the coach is, says ‘hang on a minute, don’t worry about that, you have a bowl on there and this is the team you want to go with’ and then the same thing at Adelaide.

When he turns out there thinking he is going in with five seamers, they go ‘no, no, this is the flattest pitch, this is where you need your spinner’ so you’re actually helping him. Same when he’s got Ben Stokes bowling bouncers for a session or whatever it was or they’re bowling too short, he comes in at lunch or a message goes out – ‘just pitch it up a little bit’.

Or on the morning of the second day, he can ask ‘who are you starting with, Joe?’ and he says so-and-so and so-and-so, he can say ‘no, Robinson is the man you go with, he’s been your best bowler, that’s the best way to do it’.

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Nasser Hussain: That was the problem, I think we all said, when they changed the procedure and made Silverwood the chief selector. In terms of accountability, before that he could just defer to the chief selector if there was an issue and it keeps him away from the spotlight for a little bit, keeps him away from the pressure cooker of errors and making errors.

But also, secondly, when you are in that bubble with your bowlers around you and you’re trying to back them up and listen to Broad and Anderson and Woakes, trying to show faith in them, sometimes you need someone from the outside, to come in and not to say ‘do you know what this looks like’ – because you should never do something just based on what it looks like – but ‘do you know what this looks like in a cricketing sense?’

Just take yourself out and look from above, you going to Adelaide on a flat pitch, dry, hot and you’re going in with five samey bowlers. Each decision you make will have repercussions and because you’ve gone in with five samey bowlers, who is going to be your enforcer?

Ben Stokes was used as an enforcer with the ball despite having struggled with a knee injury in Brisbane

Ben Stokes was used as an enforcer with the ball despite having struggled with a knee injury in Brisbane

You do occasionally need someone who can take the pitch out of the equation. Who did they go with as their enforcer? The lad who could snap at any minute in Ben Stokes, who is coming back from an injury, has played the least cricket out of any of them and struggled with a knee injury in the last game.

He was bowled into the ground and I’m telling you that Ben Stokes’ bowling efforts were affecting his batting, he could hardly move at times. So I do think the decision to make Silverwood the chief selector does have repercussions and you don’t have that outside voice.

MA: (Confused selection) can come down to many factors, pressure may be one, history may be another. We talked about the decision at the toss in Brisbane and the weight of history with Nasser and all that kind of stuff. Maybe a lack of knowledge of Australian conditions is another, although Root is on his third tour, Anderson his fifth, Broad fourth – I’m not sure how much of a say the two big bowlers are having – and obviously, Collingwood and Thorpe have had plenty of experience here.

Could England have brought in someone like former Australia captain Mark Taylor as a consultant for the Ashes tour?

Could England have brought in someone like former Australia captain Mark Taylor as a consultant for the Ashes tour?

I was wondering if it would be worth bringing somebody in on a consultancy basis for the tour. I was thinking about someone like Mark Taylor, for instance, who knows Australian conditions inside out and he’s not going to get a tracksuit on but from time to time, he’s the kind of person who might be able to say ‘this is what you need at Adelaide’ or ‘this is how you bowl in these conditions’.

You’d think that kind of knowledge would be there but given what has happened so far… that has been the most disappointing thing so far, I can take England being beaten by a better side; I played in so many defeats against Australia, who were a better side than we were, and no doubt we made lots of errors as well. But I do think England’s selection, decision-making and strategizing on the nine days of this tour so far has been beyond bad.

RK: You’re right and it’s not just been nine days, it’s been going on a bit longer than that, through India and I know we’ve had Covid and all that. I agree completely about someone like Mark Taylor but aren’t these decisions that the head coach should know? As a player, even if you’re as good as Joe Root, you don’t know everything.

Rob Key says he would drop Rory Burns and Ollie Pope for the third Ashes Test, following England's defeat in Adelaide which left them 2-0 down in the series

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Rob Key says he would drop Rory Burns and Ollie Pope for the third Ashes Test, following England’s defeat in Adelaide which left them 2-0 down in the series

Rob Key says he would drop Rory Burns and Ollie Pope for the third Ashes Test, following England’s defeat in Adelaide which left them 2-0 down in the series

But that is why you have a coach, not to tell you how to hit a cover drive or tell you what time the bus is leaving, he’s there to actually tell you and help you make the right decisions as captain. All these things we’ve mentioned, getting in a consultant – there are enough coaches there – shouldn’t they be the ones that know this?

NH: Just to play devil’s advocate, I go back to something I asked Ath last week about cricketing decisions. They rely heavily on stats. If someone from that backroom staff was here now, to back themselves up, they’d say ‘you do know we struggle with finger spin in Australia? You do know that Moeen Ali doesn’t get wickets out there, Jack Leach is getting belted so why are we leaving out Broad, Anderson, Woakes or any of our seamers for a spinner?’

They know would explain it by the fact that finger spin, apart from Lyon, doesn’t do very well out there with the Kookaburra ball. My point being, there are reasons for them doing it so my question is: do you go on history or do you look at Leach or Bess and say this pitch says play a spinner so we’re going to play one? Don’t just give up on finger spin in Australia, this pitch says play one so we’re going to play one.

MA: I’m not for one minute saying that the outcome would have been different if England have played a spinner, it is just the thought process behind the selection that I find a little worrying because there are very few decisions that England have made so far on this tour that have been good ones. That is a concern.

Sky Sports' Michael Atherton explains the problem with bringing in new players for the third Ashes Test against Australia

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Sky Sports’ Michael Atherton explains the problem with bringing in new players for the third Ashes Test against Australia

Sky Sports’ Michael Atherton explains the problem with bringing in new players for the third Ashes Test against Australia

RB: There are reasons: they clearly don’t rate their spinner. That’s why he’s not a shoo-in to play where any other spinner that you guys played with would have got in, from Giles to Swann, it wouldn’t have been an issue. Even Moeen Ali, they probably would have picked. I get that but where the logic doesn’t work is when they leave out Mark Wood when you get there are see the flat pitch. It doesn’t work when you see the green pitch and leave out Broad and Anderson. The logic with the spinner is a bit of a red herring.

MA: They two are one and the same thing. Wood has just got Steve Smith out at The Gabba, this is a guy who has averaged a hundred against up in the last two series. Wood gets him hopping around, you’re going to be a pitch that is dry and biscuit coloured, and you leave him out.

Now if he can’t play back-to-back to Test matches then that is a different matter, but they said he is rested for the next game. Now England are 2-0 down, there’s only one team in the history of The Ashes has come back from 2-0 to win: what are you resting him for?





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