It’s good to be ambitious and open minded and not hidebound by the past. It’s maybe not quite so smart to talk about how you’re going to rewrite how Test cricket is played – particularly if you’re England.
Ben Stokes has mostly spoken well since he took on the captaincy, but this wasn’t one of his better comments.
“We’re trying to rewrite how Test cricket is being played in England,” he said after beating India a month ago.
Those four successive successful run chases – three against New Zealand and one against India – were probably worth getting carried away with, but carried away is surely what Stokes was. Because while those initial results represented a more impressive turnaround than Derek Zoolander’s revelation of ‘Magnum’, England were still fundamentally England – as they’ve just proven.
An innings defeat to South Africa didn’t feel like an aspect of something revolutionary and new. It didn’t feel new at all. If you’ve been watching England play Test cricket these last few years, it felt very, very familiar.
In which case presumably Stokes’ and Brendon McCullum’s attempted rewrite continues. And rightly so. As we said when England were riding somewhat higher: chasing near enough 400 to win in the fourth innings probably isn’t sustainable, but maybe the unambiguous mindset is. Anything that helps simplify the players’ approach will probably result in a net gain in a format where weaknesses don’t come much greater than second-guessing yourself.
The issue is not the attempt to rewrite something (England’s Test game) that previously didn’t read very well at all. That’s an entirely logical thing to do. The issue is crowing about this amazing new novel you’ve come up with when all you’ve really done is string a couple of early chapters together.