Let's go to the Bop
Bumble blogs on Australia's talent shortage and why Ravi Bopara should replace Paul Collingwood.
Last Updated: 07/02/11 11:19am
Three innings defeats and the Australian media still can't grasp the simple fact that they're just not as good as England,
The TV, radio and newspapers over here are calling for knee-jerk inquiries into what went wrong for Australia in this Ashes series, but most of the complaints assume that the talent is there in the first place.
Well I'm sorry folks, it isn't.
A bloke in Adelaide stopped me in the street on Monday and told me they were unlucky. I'm not sure what luck's got to do with it pal, England outplayed you from start to finish.
He then told me they've got some good kids coming through. Are you kidding? This is a nation that has produced Matthew Hayden, Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath - and now they're coming up with Phillip Hughes, Steven Smith and Usman Khawaja.
That simply doesn't compare. They haven't got the players and they need to be patient until they find some.
It's important that they identify the correct talent when it emerges. That's something that England have done extremely well in the last few years.
The chairman of selectors is integral to that. We had a very good one in David Graveney and an excellent one currently in Geoff Miller, who has the right tools and the right finance to get the best procedures in place.
They have the right coaches and the right back-up staff, but the key to it all is identifying the talented players. Miller does that fantastically well.
When you're looking for a player to come forward and step up to international cricket, you have to look at more than what he does on the field. He needs the right temperament, his character has to be spot on and his lifestyle is absolutely paramount. All of those ingredients go into the mix to make a Test player.
We've seen that in guys like Jonathan Trott, Chris Tremlett, Steven Finn, Eoin Morgan and the other players that have broken into this England side. I know Geoff Miller very well and I know how much emphasis he places on temperament and character.
Our selectors are a very thoughtful group. They get the majority of things right and they deserve great credit for this Ashes success.
Some people might question why Alastair Cook, the leading run-scorer in the Test series, has been excluded from the side for the one-day matches.
I remember Michael Slater, one of the biggest dashers in Australian cricket, didn't play much limited-overs stuff. It's the same with Cook and even though he's in great form I think it's better for him to concentrate on his international Test match career. You can easily slip into bad habits.
Equally, there are players who look magnificent in the shorter format who you would never put anywhere near a Test team. I can identify two perfect examples in the Australian ODI side - Cameron White and David Warner - and you could say the same about Michael Yardy. He's one of the first names on the one-day team sheet, but you wouldn't dream of playing him in a Test match.
Eoin Morgan is another who has a bit of work to do to get into England's Test team. Paul Collingwood's retirement will create an enormous amount of competition in the months ahead and assuming Ian Bell will move up to number five, the sixth batting position is up for grabs.
Morgan is in the squad now and would have played against Australia if any of the batters had fallen down, but I'm not sure he's the best like-for-like replacement.
People are talking about James Hildreth, but my pick would be Ravi Bopara, who is tailor-made to fill Collingwood's shoes. He's a number six batsman who already has already has three Test centuries and he can also bowl those fill-in overs that Collingwood has given us over the years.
Jonathan Trott is a magnificent slip fielder, as good as anyone in the world, so he can cover for Collingwood there, but Bopara can do the rest and I do feel we need another bowler in the top six.
I know he struggled against Australia in 2009, but he was batting at number three in a team that was under pressure. He will be much more comfortable slotting into a successful team at his preferred number six slot.
Bopara's the perfect choice in my eyes.
The time is right
As for Collingwood, it was a perfect time to bring the curtain down on his Test career.
He's had a really good run, but when you look at it in the cold light of day, he's 34 years of age and he's no longer producing. It's time to bring a younger player into the side and they are queuing up behind him.
This was perfect timing from a perfect bloke. He said himself that he is not a Kevin Pietersen or an Ian Bell, but he hopes he has contributed in other ways. For me, his no-nonsense approach has been fundamental to the ethics of this England team and he definitely found a way to be effective. He averaged 40 in Test match cricket and he certainly left his mark.
He continues as one-day captain, but personally I don't think he'll be around for too much longer in that format either. However, his off-cutters and his change of pace will be useful in the World Cup.
And I bet his "people" were straight onto the phone to the IPL when he announced his retirement. He didn't get a game the last time he went there, but it was no surprise to see him picked up straight away in this year's auction.
Personally I'm glad to get away from Sydney to the quieter city of Adelaide. Suits me better.
We're here for the first Twenty20 international on Wednesday and I'm looking forward to it. Australia will be looking to their three W's - Warner, White and Watson (rather than Worrell, Weekes and Walcott) - but England are world champions, so we can expect a good performance from them.
We've done the job that we came to do, but the next five weeks should be treated as preparation for the World Cup. The fact James Anderson has been sent home until the last three ODI's suggests that England are concerned with priming their players for February.
Of course we want to win, but these matches are also about gauging performance for the World Cup against the reigning 50-over champions.
We've won the Ashes and the ICC World Twenty20, but I don't fancy us to win the World Cup. Maybe if it was being held elsewhere, but I would be putting my money on India or Sri Lanka on home soil.
I know this England team will have everything in place to go a long way, but I suspect the World Cup might be a step too far.