Rob Key was slated to take over the funny male role on Sky from David Lloyd when the England and Wales Cricket Board came to knock on the door and appointed him director of their international men’s team.
But if the new Bumble is not to become the latest bungle, Key must sort through the chaos hitting English cricket with a quick and safe hand.
When Key was appointed over the Easter weekend, there was no test captain (Joe Root resigned Good Friday), no full-time coach and no president of the ECB. Nor is there a chief voter, though that role was dispensed with last year and may not be repeated.
It’s a power vacuum, and a key is about to take hold, as the international season starts in just over six weeks. He will likely start by appointing a captain, although strictly speaking a coach (or two, judging by Keys’ desire to share the red and white ball roles) should be in place first, if only to approve the manager on the pitch he wants to work with. But then logic has rarely been an ECB feature.
Key himself was captain of Kent and England A, so he knows what is required. That said, he is not blessed with a perfect candidate. Ben Stokes is the obvious choice for the Test captain, provided it is always desirable for a leader to be worth his place in the side, yet England have rarely thrived when their champions have been clad in leadership – as evidenced by everyone else’s offices. -rounders Sir Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff.
Botham did not win a single one of his 12 Tests as England captain, while his batting and bowling averages turned to the point where they could have been confused with each other (not a good thing).
Flintoff won two of his 11 tests, but lost seven. During that time, his batting average improved, although his bowling average got worse.
With England’s Test team so fragile at the moment, it would be a risk for Stokes’ form to suffer similar shocks, though I’m not sure Key has a big choice. Other candidates for the role have been suggested such as Jos Buttler, James Vince, Sam Billings, Stuart Broad and Eoin Morgan, but only Broad has been given a permanent place on the test team, albeit not recently.
I liked Billing’s fight and energy in his one appearance during the Ashes horror show, and he appears to be Captain Kent and Oval Invincibles with a light but safe touch, but that’s sparse evidence to base his candidacy on.
Morgan has his proponents and a very impressive track record as England’s white-ball captain, but has not played first-class cricket since 2019. He is also the kind of franchise freelancer that Key should be looking to crack down on if England mean it seriously. a reset of red ball.
Key is said to be an admirer of Buttler’s cricket brain, but it would quickly become irrelevant if the team fought under his captain and he found himself short of running.
Buttler is at least Morgan’s natural successor as England’s white-ball captain and should really be saved for that when the time comes. It seems to leave Broad as Stokes’ biggest rival if it were not for the fact that the fast bowler was left at home with James Anderson for England’s recent tour of the West Indies.
Both men were badly used under the ashes and let their concerns be known. Senior players having a squeal is nothing new, but it is not a sign of the selfless qualities that leaders need. Which really only leaves Stokes, provided he wants the job, which I think he does despite the bad kind of test team he will inherit.
He will enjoy the challenge, or at least claim he does, but England lack nus and depth, especially in their batting, so he can have some trying times if he gets it. It will help if England’s leading bowlers can all get in shape again, but even they will need a proper score on the board to be truly effective, which rarely happens unless Stokes or Root do well.
The one who is appointed, and this also applies to the coach, must have time after the ash series in 2023 to make his mark. Before then, the road is probably paved with deep holes, but from adversity good, hardy stocks can be forged.
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