Eng­land are at a cross­roads – so what needs to change?

This is the most im­por­tant year ever in English cricket – Michael Vaughan and Ge­of­frey Boy­cott tell Nick Hoult why

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - CRICKET - Do you think they have made progress? GB I don’t think they have enough

‘The selec­tors in Test cricket have had a shocker. The top seven looks set­tled but it is by ac­ci­dent’ On Stokes... We are lucky to have him. This kid has only scratched the sur­face of what he’s ca­pa­ble of On Bayliss... Trevor Bayliss has not played Test cricket. Does he un­der­stand the in­ter­na­tional game? On Cook ... Cap­tains have to be brave and that is the prob­lem with Alastair – he has no imag­i­na­tion or real flair ‘Get big scores and win a cou­ple of games and it will end the talk about whether Mor­gan should be ODI cap­tain’

A Ge­of­frey Boy­cott t the end of 2016, how do you eval­u­ate the per­for­mance of the Eng­land team? Has it been a good year in Tests, one-day­ers and T20?

They are good at home but not so good on the road. As soon as they go to Asia on slow, low, turn­ing pitches they are not very good be­cause their spin­ners are poor and they haven’t got the qual­ity bats­men up front to deal with the turn­ing ball. I un­der­stand why. It is be­cause in county cricket the Eng­land and Wales Cricket Board has tried to pro­duce pitches that sim­u­late Test cricket and the ad­min­is­tra­tors thought that would help them pre­pare for Test cricket. Well it does the job in Eng­land but not in Asia.

Michael Vaughan I think it has been a poor Test year. The team have lost eight Tests. There was a doc­u­men­tary about how bad cricket was in the 1990s last year and Eng­land have fallen to that stan­dard this year. It is not just los­ing. In any sport, if you are los­ing and com­pet­ing then you are only a small dis­tance from win­ning, but if you look at Eng­land’s losses, they are get­ting ham­mered.

Trevor Bayliss has coached 22 Tests and lost 12 games in an era where Eng­land have been good in Test cricket. In one-day cricket, I think this was the year when we started a new era. We play in the right way, reached the fi­nal of the World T20 and hit 400 twice in 50-over cricket. I know the DNA of the one-day team. In Test cricket, I don’t think the team knows their style of play.

If you go back over the last 15 years, we knew what Eng­land were about. Nasser Hus­sain’s team was very hard to beat. My style was to be ag­gres­sive and a bit risky. An­drew Strauss’s style was for­mu­laic and at­tri­tional by wear­ing down the op­po­si­tion and it worked. I just think, af­ter three years, no­body can tell me what this Test team play like. Look at Bren­don McCul­lum’s New Zealand team. We knew what they would be like. I’m not sure whether this Eng­land Test team know whether they are ag­gres­sive or at­tri­tional. I think they get con­fused. good play­ers. There are too many weak links. The spin depart­ment is re­ally poor. They have tried all sorts of play­ers in the top or­der. For a long time, they have not had a No 3. Joe [Root] has been No 4 and when they move him to No 3 they are weak at No 4. They are weak at No 5. You need five good bats­men. Haseeb Hameed has come through, Keaton Jennings started well. Has it been a good year for se­lec­tion? GB We have had be­gin­nings from those guys. That is it.

MV The selec­tors in Test cricket have had a shocker. Go back to Jimmy An­der­son and that Lord’s Test match. Look at the Eng­land team as soon as Ben Stokes does not play, they look a very av­er­age team, even in our own con­di­tions. They have stum­bled across a top seven that will serve them well in 2017. If you look at Hameed, Ben Duck­ett was se­lected ahead of him but failed, so Hameed was picked by de­fault. Then they had to fly in Jennings, so picked him by de­fault. If they had picked the right squad and had a spare right-handed bats­man in the mid­dle or­der, Jos But­tler would not have been given an op­por­tu­nity. He was picked at seven and it looks like a good po­si­tion for him at this stage of his ca­reer. The top seven looks set­tled but by ac­ci­dent. Nick Comp­ton was picked at the start of the sum­mer, Gary Bal­lance was called up when he was strug­gling for form…

GB The selec­tors have not done a great job at home and, also, Alastair Cook and Bayliss when they were pick­ing teams on the win­ter tour. They got se­lec­tion wrong. It begs the ques­tion about Cook and Bayliss’s read­ing of pitches and overseas con­di­tions. We know Cook is a cau­tious in­di­vid­ual who only likes to play one way with seam­ers, slips and gullys, and Bayliss has not played Test cricket. Does he un­der­stand the in­ter­na­tional game? You both know Joe Root very well. Cook has said he is ready to be cap­tain. What do you think? GB Is Cook telling us he is go­ing then? I be­lieve he is.

MV All I will say about cap­taincy is that when Nasser got the job in 1999, no­body thought he would be any good. He made a very good cap­tain. No­body said I would be any good, apart from the man to my right, but I made a pretty good fist of it. Then go on to An­drew Strauss, who got it by de­fault be­cause of the Kevin Pi­etersen fall­out and made a very good job of it.

In terms of will he or won’t he, just don’t look at a player be­fore he gets the job and make a judg­ment. As soon as you get the job, you do things dif­fer­ently. You don’t act the same way you did a player. Nasser changed as cap­tain. He be­came very good around the camp. I sur­prised many be­cause no­body sees what you are re­ally like un­til you get the job. I would not be sur­prised, if Joe is given the job, that Eng­land will play a dif­fer­ent way. Eng­land are set up to play an ag­gres­sive game.

They are go­ing to be more suited to play­ing that McCul­lum style of cricket but it will take the cap­tain to say to Stu­art Broad and James An­der­son: “If we take a sec­ond new ball on the first night, we are not hav­ing two slips, we are hav­ing five.” They need a cap­tain who is go­ing to say to the se­nior pair: “For­get your fig­ures and at­tri­tional cricket. You are go­ing to play my style of cricket, we are go­ing to be a bit more risky and you are go­ing to bowl a bit fuller, par­tic­u­larly in Eng­land.”

I think by do­ing that, Eng­land will move for­ward quite quickly.

GB Who­ever is cap­tain has to be brave and that is the prob­lem with Alastair. He has no imag­i­na­tion or flair. Play­ers will be given the chance to fol­low the new cap­tain’s ideas even if they are a great bowler. If they don’t, then say thanks, off you go.

MV The rea­son I talk about the seam­ers is be­cause the Strauss way was at­tri­tional be­cause they had an out­stand­ing spin­ner in Graeme Swann, so the seam­ers had to hold an end. Swann would get 90 per cent of left-han­ders out on days one to five.

If you have a high-class spin­ner, your seam­ers can hold an end, so your cap­taincy method changes. Eng­land do not have a high-class spin­ner now, so it is im­por­tant as soon as the ball starts do­ing some­thing that they at­tack, be­cause there will come a stage when the ball does not do any­thing and you have not got a spin­ner to get you out of trou­ble. So, they have to have the right mind­set as soon as the ball does some­thing; they can’t bowl for dots, they need to bowl fuller to get wick­ets and for­get the runs be­cause now we back the bats­men to score runs as well. It is a mind­set shift they need to go through.

GB We are lucky that we are in a pe­riod where we have Stokes. Botham, Flintoff and Stokes are rare gems. This kid has only scratched the sur­face of what he is ca­pa­ble of and is a rough di­a­mond. With more re­spon­si­bil­ity, he will get bet­ter. He seems to be smart enough, too. Some of the silly things he did when he first started have stopped. He is calmer and more col­lected. Eng­land are lucky to have him and it means they can be much more pos­i­tive be­cause he bal­ances the side.

MV I al­ways look at a team from a cap­tain’s per­spec­tive and I would lick my lips if I was asked to cap­tain this team. Look at what they have got. But­tler is go­ing to be a su­per­star. They have Root, Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and young bowlers com­ing through. I think Jake Ball is go­ing to be a spe­cial bowler. Mark Wood is ex­cel­lent, Chris Woakes is a ter­rific crick­eter. Hameed and Jennings have great po­ten­tial. The Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy is in Eng­land next sum­mer. Can Eng­land win it?

MV Look at the last two Cham­pi­ons Tro­phies in Eng­land. We reached the fi­nal with poor teams. No idea how my team in 2004 reached the fi­nal. We were rub­bish. Eng­land lost to In­dia in the fi­nal in 2012, again they were not as good as this team. South Africa and Aus­tralia will be strong. In Eng­land, you need seam­ers with power and those two teams are like Eng­land but with quicker seam­ers. Eng­land’s

‘I would not be sur­prised, if Joe Root is made cap­tain, that Eng­land start play­ing a dif­fer­ent way’ On The Ashes... Aus­tralia’s se­lec­tions have been doolally but they have pace. It’s down to Eng­land to match them On day-night Tests... Flood­lit cricket will not work in Eng­land be­cause we have cold nights ‘There are too many peo­ple run­ning the game who are fright­ened of any kind of change ’

bat­ting is deep and pow­er­ful. In one-day cricket, any­thing can hap­pen. You need a bit of luck but Eng­land have enough in their tank to win it. The only is­sue in the one-day side is the con­fu­sion caused by Eoin Mor­gan and Alex Hales not go­ing to Bangladesh. As much as the play­ers will for­get about it, they have to score a lot of runs in the In­dia se­ries in Jan­uary. Get big scores and win Eng­land a cou­ple of games and it will start to be for­got­ten and end the talk about whether Mor­gan should be the cap­tain. Have Eng­land put too much em­pha­sis on one-day cricket re­cently?

GB Yes. An­drew Strauss said as soon as he took over that white-ball cricket was his pri­or­ity and that is why he made Bayliss coach ahead of Ja­son Gille­spie. When we were los­ing in the United Arab Emi­rates a few weeks later, I said what about Test cricket? We ain’t that good. We ought to be bet­ter. Si­lence from Strauss.

MV I don’t re­mem­ber a coach los­ing 12 in 22. The change in cen­tral con­tracts is now re­ward­ing one-day spe­cial­ists equally as a Test spe­cial­ist. They will have to win a World Cup in 2019 to jus­tify that. If it goes wrong next win­ter in Aus­tralia, then they bet­ter hope they put it right in 2019. The Aussies have strug­gled, lost badly to South Africa and been forced into big changes. Are Eng­land favourites to win the Ashes next win­ter?

MV They were. Ev­ery team has a kickup-the-back­side mo­ment and Aus­tralia’s hap­pened in Ho­bart when they lost to South Africa and played as bad as any Aus­tralian team I have seen. They changed the top six since then.

GB That is what I am say­ing, Eng­land need to pick more young­sters.

MV Aus­tralia’s se­lec­tion for the first two Tests against South Africa was doolally. I think they will be a lot stronger for it next year. They have pace and if Aus­tralia have Pat Cum­mins, James Pat­tin­son, Mitchell Starc and Josh Ha­zle­wood fit for next win­ter in Aus­tralia, it will be down to whether Eng­land have enough pace to match them. We saw what hap­pened the last time when Eng­land could not match their pace, they lost 5-0. If Aus­tralia are smart and re­alise Eng­land only have Mark Wood, they will pre­pare quick, bouncy pitches and it will be a ques­tion of whether Eng­land can make the big scores again. Eng­land should not be sur­prised if they ar­rive in Aus­tralia and face bouncy pitches with pace.

GB We should not be go­ing into an Ashes se­ries with our off-spin­ner bat­ting four and our wick­et­keeper five. That tells me ev­ery­thing. You have to find qual­ity bats­men. Eng­land have a chance with seven Test matches in Eng­land next sum­mer to do that. They have found two young bats­men, get a third in. What have you got to lose? They have tried every­one else. I sup­pose Michael and I could put our pads on, but we’re past it. There are set to be big changes off the field in 2017. Eng­land are talk­ing about a new Twenty20 and there are lots of sug­ges­tions for im­prov­ing Test cricket.

MV I think this is the big­gest year for English cricket. This is the year when there will be change. Will it be for the good of the game? I think there needs to be a T20 tour­na­ment passed through. Test match cricket needs to be looked at. I know Ge­of­frey al­ways says: “What do the public want?” He is right. It is not about what I want, Ge­of­frey wants or you. What do the public want to pay to watch? I’m not sure about day-night cricket, though.

GB Even in my Cow­drey Lec­ture in 2005, I said flood­lit cricket will not work in Eng­land be­cause we have cold nights. But there is a big fac­tor here about how much it costs to watch cricket in Eng­land. They should be sell­ing fam­ily tick­ets where you buy tick­ets for two grown-ups and you get two kids in for free. That makes it cheaper for fam­i­lies.

Most of our Test matches, ex­cept for Lon­don, are not full. You could give 5,000 tick­ets away at Head­in­g­ley. The other thing is, many peo­ple do not want to take a day off work but are in­ter­ested in cricket. The big­gest crowds are on Satur­days and Sun­days, so maybe we need to try, not day-night cricket, but start­ing at 12 o’clock and play un­til seven in the week, be­cause we have a twi­light pe­riod in this coun­try. A lot of peo­ple might then turn up for half a day of cricket or the last two ses­sions af­ter work. Sell the tick­ets at a dis­counted price. There are too many peo­ple run­ning the game who are fright­ened of change.

MV I would like to ask, what is it we want from cricket? It is not a lim­ited com­pany. What is it the ad­min­is­tra­tors are af­ter? Is it just fill­ing the cof­fers so the game is cov­ered if there is a can­celled se­ries or some dis­as­ter? The ECB will get a mas­sive new TV deal soon. What will that money be for?

Pre­mier League foot­ball might go down­hill be­cause ticket prices are too high. If the ECB owns the rights to ticket sales, which I be­lieve they will in fu­ture, they can lease the grounds off the coun­ties and then sell the tick­ets. Don’t sell them six months in ad­vance for £70 like they do now be­cause you might not sell many and then get two weeks be­fore the Test you can’t sud­denly sell them for a ten­ner be­cause it is not fair on the ones who have al­ready bought tick­ets at full price.

GB They think suc­cess is get­ting more money in from TV deals. I see it dif­fer­ently. The last­ing suc­cess of Test cricket is get­ting more bums on seats, so teams are play­ing in front of full houses. Cricket can’t just be on satel­lite TV. Sky de­liver a great prod­uct but it is about get­ting it on free-toair TV. There is enough cricket in Eng­land to sell pack­ages to satel­lite and freeto-air chan­nels. I am not an­ti­satel­lite. It is just that many peo­ple can’t af­ford it.

MV The key for TV is this: The first screen for my gen­er­a­tion is TV. For kids it is tablets or Wiz­ard of Oz: Aus­tralia cap­tain Steve Smith wants the Ashes back

phones. My lad never watches the telly. He goes on YouTube and finds it on his tablet.

GB Ev­ery time you see an empty seat at a cricket match, it is a mar­ket­ing op­por­tu­nity. Years ago, in other parts of the world, the in­ter­na­tional cricket broad­cast was blacked out in the state in Aus­tralia or is­land in the West Indies where the game was be­ing played to en­cour­age lo­cals to come. Why doesn’t the ECB do the same? Tell tele­vi­sion you have to black it out within a 50-mile ra­dius of where the match is played. Then you get the best of both worlds: TV for peo­ple who live a long way away and bums on seats at the ground. The ECB is now in a prime po­si­tion to call the shots in the next round of rights deals be­cause Sky will not have it all its own way with BT Sport bid­ding as well. The ECB will want the money but crowds in Test cricket are go­ing down and it is vi­tal we do some­thing about it.

Straight talk­ing: (from left) Nick Hoult, Ge­of­frey Boy­cott and Michael Vaughan

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