Can I just double check with our readers — England did win the Ashes 3–0 at home this summer didn’t they? I’m not stuck in an alternate universe where England were thrashed? I’ll continue on the assumption that I am in fact in the same universe as everyone else, and that England did indeed win, in which case I have to assume that a large section of the media, including the BBC are the ones in an alternate universe.
In the last week, amongst other similar examples, I’ve read that England are “unloved” and I’ve seen a player rankings which clearly shows that Australia were by far the better team. Not long before we had the storm-in-a-teacup where ex captain (and legend) Michael Vaughan and current top guy Stuart Broad had a little disagreement on twitter, with neither bringing any glory to themselves. And before that we had some nonsense about England “losing the momentum”. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the things I try really hard to do when writing about cricket is to write about the positives, because to do so is representative — most of the things available to write about are very positive — cricket is of course a wonderful game. Sadly the same cannot be said about large parts of the press in the UK, but the BBC’s cricket coverage is usually reasonably positive, so the articles in question were particularly disappointing to read. Let’s address them both so we can get back to being positive about the game, and about England!
Unloved England (according to Jonathan Agnew)
Before I deal with the article in particular I want to make a public appeal to Aggers. Generally speaking Aggers manages a good balance of positive attitude with appropriate scepticism. Sometimes though, he has a tendency to get into a bit of a negative rut as he seems to have done this summer. We’ve had all sorts of (unjustified) criticism of DRS technology, criticism of both teams being overdone (e.g. Australia’s use of DRS and England’s slow batting), and the post-series negativity about the way England played. If you didn’t know the result of the series you’d never know England had won it, let alone won 3–0. Aggers had a similar “negative period” like this in the past when Angus Frazer joined the TMS team. Frazer was a very dreary whinger on the radio and Aggers was drawn into it. Thankfully Frazer moved to pastures new and Aggers had until this summer been much more cheery. Let’s hope that the Australian summer brings back the happier Aggers this winter.
So, onto the article. The “unloved” label belongs originally to Matt Prior, but he meant the team didn’t care if the opposition didn’t find them friendly. Agnew took it and used it to talk about unconvincing performances, slow over rates etc. England batted very slowly in 1 day of the entire series which seems to have prompted much of the negativity. The irony is, many TMS commentators (eg Geoffrey Boycott) have been calling for England to do exactly this for a long time. The players playing slowly were out of form and were trying to bat themselves into form, and also to ensure England couldn’t lose the match. As for slow over rates they’re hardly a problem unique to England. Agnew also talks up Shane Watson and Steve Smith — both players who wouldn’t get anywhere near the England starting 11. As far as I’m concerned the article seems to be written to fill a space (or a contract) — if this is the case, surely a man of so much experience could have used it to write about something more positive — the success of the England women, or the (at the time) upcoming game between England and Ireland.
Player ratings (according to Alec Stewart and Jim Maxwell)
Alec Stewart and Jim Maxwell have given their player ratings. As you might expect the Englishman has been understated and pessimistic, whilst the Aussie has been over-confident and assertive. What they don’t seem to realise is that this looks ridiculous after a series has been so comprehensively won by England. If these are the ratings after England win 3–0 what would they have been in the 1990’s when England were thrashed?
Overall Stewart has given England 6.45÷10 whilst Jim Maxwell has given Australia 6.53÷10. That doesn’t sound like a huge difference, but Maxwell has rated 13 players, some of whom clearly wont be lining up for Australia in the test arena for some time. If we drop the lowest 2 (Phil Hughes and James Pattinson) the Aussie average jumps up to 6.81. You’d think Australia had won when you compare this to the England ratings.
To be fair, at least both have got some internal consistency, and their combined “best side” (based on their ratings) isn’t a bad one, although it includes Smith and Watson who wouldn’t get anywhere near mine.
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