0The Ashes urnAm I in an alternate universe?

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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