In the 10 days or so since England announced their Ashes squad for the winters trip to Australia a lot has either been said, or taken place. Jonathan Agnew has referred to it as one of the weakest squads that’s ever left these shores whereas, in total contrast, Andrew Flintoff has described it as the ‘best team we’ve ever had.’ It’s probably worth looking into that claim. Compare these two sides:
England 2005 Ashes Series
England 2017/2018 Ashes Series
|Marcus Trescothick||Alistair Cook|
|Andrew Strauss||Mark Stoneman|
|Michael Vaughan||James Vince|
|Ian Bell||Joe Root|
|Kevin Pietersen||Dawid Malan|
|Andrew Flintoff||Ben Stokes|
|Geraint Jones||Jonny Bairstow|
|Ashley Giles||Moeen Ali|
|Matthew Hoggard||Chris Woakes|
|Steve Harmison||Stuart Broad|
|Simon Jones||James Anderson|
Hmm… I know which team I’d back if they were to face each other. Part of the issue with the 2017/18 team is that we don’t actually know if some of those names will play. Is Vince – as rumoured – actually going to bat at 3? Will Malan get the nod ahead of Ballance (Ballance being a guy Root seems to really rate)? Will it be Woakes (incidentally, someone I rate highly) or will Overton or Ball get a go? Will Stoneman make enough runs?
Don’t get me wrong, there are players in our current group that I’d include in a composite XI (Cook for Trescothick, Root for Bell, Stokes for Flintoff, Bairstow for Jones and Anderson for Hoggard) but overall, the current team can’t hold a candle to the crop of ’05. Why is that? Well, for me it’s purely down to consistency. The ’05 team was setlled; everyone knew their place, their role and what they brought to the XI in ’05. We don’t even know what the XI will be this winter. How can we claim it to be our best ever, when we can probably only put 7 names on the team sheet for certain, particularly as one of them might not even be going to Australia?
I hope England prove me wrong. I hope Stoneman has a great tour. I hope Vince shows he belongs at this level and I hope that Ballance, in his rightful spot of 5, makes the runs he made when he first got in the team. However, I’m not sure I see it. We are so reliant on Cook, Root, Stokes, Anderson and Broad it’s a little scary. Where are the up and coming youngsters – the Anderson and Broad’s of ten years ago – to replace them? Crane, Overton, Ball? Where will our next Alistair Cook come from? We’ve not replaced Andrew Strauss yet – in 12 attempts – so how will we replace both?
There are some very good cricketers in England, some of which – like Worcestershire’s Joe Clarke – haven’t made this squad. Their time will come. I just feel that, after this winter, their time might come a little sooner that we all thought. Yet, this might be a good thing.
Will England retain the Ashes? I hope so but, realistically, I can’t see it.
Prove me wrong boys. Please.