So, England have comprehensively wrapped up the Ashes with a game to spare. What a turn-around from 18 months ago where they were humiliated by an average Australian side. With such huge swings outcome over the past 3 Ashes series the talking heads have focussed on the conditions playing a huge part. Are they right to?
As often the answer isn’t a simple one. In the case of England and Australia, yes, there is a very large element that the conditions play — England have been hopeless and inept against the fast pitched bouncing deliveries common to Australia, and the much vaunted Australian batsmen have been even more hopeless when facing the moving ball. Is that all there is to cricket though? What about other test sides?
Well India have always been excellent at home and poor away from home, with conditions there also playing a major part. But what about South Africa, Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, and the West Indies? All of these sides seem to be less influenced by conditions — with South Africa being very successful everywhere and the West Indies often struggling.
The problem is far greater for England, Australia and India. These are also the sides with the most financial dominance in the game, and the biggest home-based tournaments. Is there a link?
How many of the players for these 3 sides have played long-format cricket in conditions other than their own? Chris Rogers has played some county cricket — and unsurprisingly led the way in runs for Australia with an average of over 54, with only 3 of the side managing to average over 40. The figures look even more clear if you exclude the Australian friendly wicket at Lords, with Rogers and Warner managing to average 35 and no-one else managing over 17!
So does the same logic apply to England and India? Do many Indian players play long-format cricket outside India? Do any England players play long-format outside England? The simple answer is no!
What about the other test sides? Many of their players DO play a lot of their cricket abroad.
The lesson is clear — Australia, England and India all need their players to spend more time playing abroad (difficult with how much cricket it played these days) or they need to find another way to better prepare players for foreign conditions. England need more county sides (and facilities) to prepare players for the pace and bounce of Australia and the spin of the subcontinent. Likewise Australia and India need more players to play in county cricket.
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