Now that the dust has settled on England’s god-awful performance with the bat against the West Indies, it’s time to start thinking about what England need. The answer, it seems to me, is change.
What do I mean by change? Not a radical throwing out of the baby with the bathwater, but a reasoned reassessment of the whole batting line-up. Ian Bell has had enough chances now, and keeping him in the side because he has occasionally showed promise (mainly when England are already cruising) would be foolish. Owais Shah is the only ready replacement in the squad, and his good form in the tour of India has probably earned him another shot (his four knocks so far aren’t necessarily enough information to go on regarding his ability at Test level).
As well as dropping Bell, Collingwood needs to be made to feel under pressure. His recent form has been poor, as has Cook’s, but there are limited options for making wholesale changes in the middle of a tour. Much as I rate Rashid, whether he is good enough to come in purely as a batsman is uncertain to say the least. Swann may get his chance soon
In the medium term, England need to chop away at the dead wood, but the fear of angering senior players, or of not having a settled side for the Ashes will probably save most of the old guard.
As for blaming the IPL, that’s lazy journalism (as predicted elsewhere) at its most clichéd. All the players who aren’t involved in the IPL made equally poor scores, and Flintoff, who could potentially have been adversely affected by learning of his newfound riches, made the side’s biggest score (admittedly a below-average 24, but the next-highest was Strauss with 9). There shouldn’t be any excuses made for a performance as bad as Sunday’s – the players, after all, are supposed to be taking more responsibility for their own performances.