England will have newfound energy
England’s bright new future is about to dawn. Ben Stokes has been named as the new captain and Brendon McCullum appears set to be appointed as Test coach.
So much for choosing a pair of different personalities who compliment each other. Stokes and McCullum are on the same side of the cheese board. They are gung-ho and aggressive and carefree in their approach. Good luck to the introvert who wants to talk about technique all day long. ‘Just go out and whack it, mate’.
In some respects the new broom brandished by Rob Key, also getting his feet under the table at the ECB as managing director, doesn’t bristle. England, for too long, have adopted long-term thinking and philosophies.
The Stokes and McCullum axis appears one designed to be exciting and to inspire a dressing room, and support base, both which looked sad and insipid with series defeat following series defeat
In football terms we’re talking about ‘new manager bounce’. There can be little doubt that there will be a terrific energy about England under Stokes, who has the air of man others will go to the summit for. And McCullum’s fun approach, designed to make players feel as if it doesn’t really matter a great deal, will be a first for an England side.
Hitherto the appointment of both men, and confirmation that James Anderson and Stuart Broad were shoo-ins to return, England looked a familiarly flaky wager at 5/4 for the first test of the summer against New Zealand at Lord’s on June 2. The Kiwis are 7/5. You can bet the Sportsbook markets here.
Now we’re not so sure. The new era swagger could well prove pivotal against a New Zealand side who find their condition and technique flabby and blunted respectively by white-ball excess in India. Anderson and Broad, two of the greats, nipping it off the seam at an overcast HQ is about as tricky as it gets.
Long term, Stokes is a sound appointment. Of course, there are naysayers. There always are when it comes to the selection of the captaincy primarily based on the criteria: who is the best player?
Andrew Strauss was probably the last skipper to be given the job with that indicator ignored. It is England’s way and worries that Stokes competitive instincts will be tempered or too much pressure will be brought to bear just don’t seem to fit.
Those fears stem back to when Ian Botham was made captain. Or Andrew Flintoff. Both were disasters as captain. But they appear to be exceptions to the norm. The personal statistics for England captains stand up to scrutiny as the table below shows.
Even Flintoff had better figures as a leader instead of the rank and file. It would be a surprise if Stokes’ form dipped.
England captains batting ave/ave player performance make-up
Not as captain: 50.98/90.9pp
Not as captain: 31.5/32/4 111pp
Captain: 33.2 bat/34.4 ball 119pp
Not as captain: 41.04/86pp
Captain: 40.7 78.8pp
Not as captain: 44.6/85.2
Not as captain: 52.8/104
* Flintoff bowling averages as captain/not: 32.4/34.4
The long-term concern should solely focus on McCullum. For a start, his reputation as a coach has been honed in T20 where he was successful with the Trinidad and Tobago Knight Riders franchise. Not so with the Kolkata version.
McCullum’s famed gung-ho approach has failed to deliver in successive seasons with KKR.
The latest edition has been something of a disaster with selection contradictory to his supposed method of giving players the freedom to make mistakes.
When the heat is on, it has appeared that McCullum has had few answers bar changing the XI every single game. And despite the glitz and razzamatazz the temperature in the Test arena is incomparable to franchise flings.
If England find themselves in a sticky situation in a Test match or series, a coach needs a few more tricks than telling players to ‘take ownership’ of their game or to counter-attack. He needs to find technical solutions for individual players, either to keep his players performing or stop the opposition from doing so. This could be Trevor Bayliss Mark II.
In New Zealand there is a suspicion that when the initial excitement wore off with McCullum the skipper, there was little substance. He was renowned for talking a good game, playing attacking Test cricket and setting innovative fields. Tactics and fields which rarely worked however and detractors claim it was all for show.
New Zealand’s record under McCullum was okay. Yet it is notable that of the 11 wins from 31 under his tenure, only four of them came on the road. England are likely to be exciting under McCullum. But only for a bit. In the end his methods could prove superficial and England will be back where the started.
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