We’re not sure what the disease is called. Nor can we tell whether it’s a mild virus that you soon overcome or a more serious illness, like rigor mortis.
Either way, symptoms include caution, timidity and a fear of failure. Observing these qualities, relatives yearn for the patient to display freedom of expression – although this also often results in their pleading for what would, in normal circumstances, be considered recklessness.
A sickly morning
In the morning, the top three of Cook, Trott and Ballance looked to have the capacity for frozen shotlessness. But it is a question of degrees. In other circumstances, on another day, it might not be a problem at all. Strauss, Cook and Trott usually proved rather productive, for example.
The issue, instead, seems to be that players, whether naturally attack-minded or of a more patient nature, often seem disinclined to take the initiative. There is an air of paralysis surrounding all involved and the medically-minded among you will know that paralysis cannot be treated by simply asking the patient to move.
So how do you free up a team like England? Most people call for the inclusion of players who they consider to be freewheeling risk-takers. It seldom works. Either they’re flavour of the month and not up to standard or they’re eventually picked on for wilfully unravelling the carefully woven platforms bequeathed to them by their colleagues.
Soon enough everyone’s playing responsibly because at least it looks right. To lose responsibly is the aim of a fool.
Just go out and whack it
You can’t tell a player to ‘go out and whack it’. You first have to tell them that if they go out and miswhack, they’ll keep their place in the team. Second of all, you have to somehow convince them that what you just told them is the truth.
Peter Moores is fighting to keep his job. Alastair Cook is fighting to keep his. They need people to succeed right now. They can’t really afford failure today in the pursuit of success tomorrow. For them, whatever they may say to the contrary, “don’t throw it away” will be the subtext.
We have sympathy. They’re being asked to produce a viable long-term plan knowing they’ll be judged on what happens in the next three weeks.
Fortunately for them, Joe Root’s still in the team. Joe Root ain’t getting dropped, so he can play how he likes. After overcoming Ashes paralysis, Root appears to have resolved that such a thing will never happen again. Ian Bell’s pretty secure in his place too. Let him get warmed up and he’s not afraid to try and hit the odd four. And Ben Stokes hasn’t been dragged into conservatism just yet. Nor Jos Buttler.
Perhaps if these sorts of players can do okay, England can get some wins and if they get some wins, maybe the surfeit of black bile that is the cause of the illness will ebb away. Who knows, a fit and healthy England might be a different beast.