England cricketers never last – why learn lessons when you’ll probably never return?

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It’s a truism that the England players will learn from this series defeat to Pakistan. You could actually see it happening before your eyes at times: Jonny Bairstow fighting his impulses or Ben Stokes seemingly devising a batting method on the fly. We just wonder whether these players will ever get chance to demonstrate what they’ve taken from this schooling.

We touched on this a few days ago. England cricketers may well play as many Tests as their counterparts from other parts of the world – but they don’t tend to play for as long (quite possibly because of the very fact that they play more frequently).

The class of 2012

Last time England were in the UAE – which was all of three years ago – Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar all learnt plenty. But what for? When did they get chance to use that knowledge?

It’s surely no coincidence that the survivors from that series – Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, James Anderson and Stuart Broad – were among England’s best-performing players this time around. Yes, even Bell – that’s how ineffectual everyone else was. Broad even had the gall to finish with England’s third-highest batting average.

The Trott template

In many ways, Trott is the archetypal England cricketer. Other than a brief aborted comeback as an opener, his Test career basically comprises one Test touring cycle from 2009 to 2012. One tour of Bangladesh, one tour of India, one tour of New Zealand, one tour of South Africa, one tour of Sri Lanka, one tour of the UAE and one full tour of Australia, plus one aborted. Funnily enough, his later reappearance provided his only tour of the West Indies.

All of those lessons learnt. No chance to demonstrate his knowledge.

The one thing in England’s credit this time around is that the comprehensive implosion of that previous side has meant that this current one is that much younger, so there is actually a decent chance of a few of them returning to the UAE if it remains Pakistan’s rented ‘home’. We wouldn’t bet on it though, because no matter what their age, very few England players endure.

What else?

As this series comes to an end, Test cricket’s kicking off elsewhere in the world with four of the five teams above England in the rankings (Pakistan are the other) currently in action. Australia are continuing their annual tradition of comforting themselves that everything’s okay during their home summer, racking up a huge total against New Zealand. Meanwhile India, the home of spin, has just played host to a masterclass from that all-time master of the art, Dean Elgar.


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  1. It’s odd that what was missing from this team was a batsman experienced in spinning conditions who had the game and the confidence to take on the opposition. Cook is an excellent player of spin but he is very much batting for time and distance.

    England badly missed Prior and He Who Must Not Be Named for this tour. As England got bogged down in strokelessness (is that even a word) this morning, I was actually comforted by the fact that Broad’s plan was to hit out. It clearly failed for him but a better batsman (Taylor, Bell, Bairstow, Root etc.) may have scored a few runs .

    1. Curious, Who would you have dropped – from the XI – if He Who Must Not Be Named were to have been picked?

      1. I would not necessarily have selected KP as it’s obvious that whatever bridges were once there were thoroughly burnt by the people standing on both shores but playing your game I would have dropped Bairstow or Buttler. Or maybe even Bell (who should be told that if he wants back in the team he has to make so many 1st class runs that the selectors look stupid for dropping him).

        And I mean serious numbers of runs- Chris Rogers channelling the ghost of Bradman numbers.

  2. I do agree with this in patches but then again, an international cricketer should already be the finished product. It is certainly fashionable for cricketers to say routine things like “I learnt a lot from this experience”, “there were a lot of positives” etc., but these are usually meaningless. An international match is not a training ground – it is where you demonstrate your skills learned elsewhere. That elsewhere is home. And that is where the problem is – England wouldn’t breed spinners and have them bowl on flat wickets and India wouldn’t breed good fast bowlers and have them bowl on bouncy tracks. And you have teams that are shit in certain conditions.

    1. Yeah, but at the same time a team is always a mix of experience and inexperience. Whether international players are supposed to be the finished article or not, it simply isn’t the case. You generally have a core of older players who carry a bit more weight (not in the Samit sense) in less familiar playing conditions.

      International cricket is not for learning, but players do learn within it.

  3. Still, I’m sure Hales will thrive opening against Steyn not having played a FC game in months.

  4. Yes, but last touring cycle after getting thrashed in UAE basically the same team then did OK in Sri Lanka and the won in India, demonstrating that they were at least learning sub-continental conditions as they went. Trott, your example here, did considerably better on both the subsequent subcontinental tours after the UAE one.

    1. This series has echoes of Australia 06/07. After that tour England went away, spent a few years rebuilding and players who had a lot to prove came back.

      Strauss proved he was the captain that England needed ahead of Freddie, KP and Collingwood excised the ghosts of Adelaide, Cook showed why he would become one of the greatest opening batsmen ever, Bell averaged over 60 and got his 1st Ashes century and Jimmy took wickets pretty much everywhere he went.

      Hopefully there are enough young players who remember the pain of this series and want to come back in a few years and fix what went wrong (Root, Taylor, Baistow and God of Sex and Violence, I’m looking at you).

    2. The question in the title was entirely facetious in all honesty, Micko. Lessons learnt are always valuable. We’re just highlighting that England players don’t always get to take as much from them as players from other nations who endure for a greater number of years.

  5. We are always told that it is valuable for players just to spend time in the England dressing-room. We are never told why but I assume it is so they can learn the ability to give their colleagues nicknames ending in the letter “y”. On this basis, James Tredwell is probably the best-equipped spinner in England given that he has spent so much time serving drinks and bringing out gloves to his colleagues over the last few years. Alternatively, he might be angling for a job in the travel industry when he retires.

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