England assistant Paul Farbrace has insisted the form of star players is not a concern, despite their latest Test humiliation.
An Ishant Sharma-inspired India outfit ripped England apart on day five at Lords to seal a 95-run victory, with many of the Three Lions’ key men failing to perform once again. Nonetheless, Farbrace told Sky Sports that it is the team as a whole who should be placed under the spotlight, rather than individuals.
“Everybody on the team is always looking for better performances”, the former Sri Lanka coach added.
The result means Peter Moores’ side have now gone ten Tests without a win, though several of those defeats came under his predecessor Andy Flower.
Joe Root – now officially England’s highest-ranked batsman – offered some hope with his knock of 66, but after Moeen Ali’s short-sighted dismissal, India met with little resistance as they proceeded to skittle out the rest of the order.
There is a point to be made
However, Farbrace is perhaps correct in refusing to blame individuals. Over the last year, England have admittedly been open to rotation as they seek to establish a preferred eleven in a time of transition. Yet for the regulars in the side, fears of exhaustion are now beginning to surface.
Cook in particular looks visibly worn out. The under-fire captain looked to be playing himself in with a series of defensive shots, as England set their sights on 319 for victory, before being caught behind on 22. This is not simply a sign that the skipper is cracking under relentless media pressure amid calls for his head, but an indication that the strain of playing 70 Tests in just under five years is finally taking its toll.
Even wicket-keeper Matt Prior, who has struggled with injury, has participated in 67 Tests in that period, while James Anderson has played in 65.
Ian Bell is facing similar struggles, managing a combined total of just 17 from his two innings. Since being voted ‘Player of the Year’ last month, the Warwickshire batsman has found it difficult to replicate the performances that earned him the accolade.
Too much cricket?
The question has to be raised whether England’s top players would benefit from playing less cricket, or at least from being given a chance to spend more time gaining form at a lower level with their counties.
Although the dressing room has undoubtedly suffered from the losses of Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann, and Jonathan Trott, their departures cannot be accepted as the sole justification for England’s performances.
The squad has been given little to no time to regroup. Farbrace must be putting on a brave face if he says the ECB are unalarmed by the shortcomings of their stars; the reasons behind those failings, however, are not down to the men on the pitch.