After a 4-0 defeat in the Ashes, England Test captain Joe Root has claimed that county cricket is not preparing his players for the jump up to Test cricket.
After succumbing to the same scoreline on their previous tour of Australia, England have now lost 13 of their last 15 Tests in the country. They finished the fifth Test at Hobart with a collapse of 10 wickets from 56 runs to bring an end to another nightmare series Down Under.
“I’m not going to make excuses for a performance like that, because that’s not good enough for Test cricket,” said the Yorkshire player. “It doesn’t matter how inexperienced you are, what opposition you’re playing against. Even on that surface, which did offer for the seamers, we’re a better team than that and we’ve got to give a better account of ourselves.”
When questioned about what needs to be changed at the first-class level, Root reflected on the things that were missing in the county structure.
“How long have you got?” The captain said, “What I’d say is, what incentives in county cricket right now are there to open the batting, right at the top of the order? What incentives are there to be a spinner? And what incentives are there to bowl fast? There don’t seem to be many, the way it’s set up, the way the games seem to unfold, whether you look at the first-innings average scores of 250 or whatever they are, how short the games last.
“What I will say is, anyone that’s coming into this Test team at the minute is doing it in spite of county cricket, not because of county cricket. I think there are definitely things that need to change, some things that need to change over a long period of time – it won’t happen overnight – but there are a lot of things that can change quite quickly that would hopefully make a significant impact for youngsters and guys in and around this team to ready themselves better.”
He looked at the fact that the county cricket isn’t preparing up-and-coming players for the trials of Asia or Australia, where spin or bounce could be a huge concern.
“You look at some of the young batters – when have they had the opportunity to go out with 450, 500 on the board and deal with scoreboard pressure?” continued Root, “You don’t practice it in county cricket, the only time they’re exposed to it is in this environment. When have they had to go out to save a Test match against a turning ball in spinning conditions?
“They’ve never been exposed to it. And yet we’re expected to go to the subcontinent and win games against the best spinners in the world, we’re expected to come here and deal with pace and bounce when we might face one guy who bowls over 90mph a season.”
He then went ahead to make suggestions which included restructuring of the county cricket structure to give primacy to red-ball cricket, incentivising batting in the county game, and experimenting with the Kookaburra ball.
“We need to produce better wickets. How are we going to do that? Hopefully by playing at a better time of the year. By flattening the seam on the ball. Maybe giving our seamers the opportunity to bowl a Kookaburra ball, if that’s going to help. Double the batting points. Whatever it is. Incentivise first-innings leads by getting over 400.”