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England must let the pain of defeat sink in and imprint it on their minds before using and channeling it for the future. Shane Warne and Ricky Ponting both claimed the pain of the Ashes defeat in 2005 was what drove them to revenge in the 2006/7 whitewash, and England must utilise defeat similarly. Share thoughts and pains, get it out in the open, and let it hurt.
In the short-term it is onto Melbourne and to Boxing Day. It is difficult to see how England, with the squad they have at their disposal, can actually improve the personnel for the next Test.
Despite the general problems with the batting, only really Matt Prior is droppable at this point in time. Alastair Cook is the captain. Michael Carberry has looked promising—more promising than Nick Compton and Joe Root did opening.
The potential havoc Kevin Pietersen can wreak is too great to dispense with. Ian Bell is Ian Bell and is in relative form, as is Joe Root. Ben Stokes has just scored a hundred. Prior is droppable but who do you select in his place?
Jonny Bairstow is the reserve keeper but will he do a better job than Prior at this point in time? It’s hard to tell. And there’s an argument to be made that playing Bairstow may do more damage to a player for the future than Prior will damage England’s chances of victory.
Bowling isn’t even the biggest problem. But England could rest, or even send home, James Anderson, who looks as if he’s bowled 10,789 overs this year. Which he probably has. Graeme Swann could be similarly treated, but there’s a feeling his retirement is imminent.
Tim Bresnan had a poor comeback Test here, but was arguably rushed back into the side, and he bowled well at the MCG in 2010.
The reserve bowlers are at least more of a known commodity than the batsmen for whom we know little of and can thus have little faith in them improving things.
The most salient reason for change is that Stokes, unburdened by time and defeat was fresh, punchy and positive in the face of Australia’s dominance.
But bringing in another young inexperienced player simply because he’s young an inexperienced makes little sporting sense. Change for change’s sake is likely to do more harm than good.
Ultimately, changes for Melbourne need to be in performance more than personnel.
In the long-run, serious questions do need to be asked. This tour has, for various reasons, been a disaster, but it has by no means been anywhere near as bad the 1990s as many pundits are extravagantly claiming.
Successful structures, academies and systems that have proven to have a positive influence are still in place, while during the '90s problems were deeply infrastructural—they are more superficial, although not entirely, this time around.
Andy Flower’s position as head coach will no doubt be a matter of debate but there is almost no possibility that the ECB will fire him, unless he refuses to resign, which is highly improbable, if requested. He appeared non-committal on his future when asked at the end of the match, but being guarded is his style.
Although many feel England have reached a glass ceiling with Flower, he will be adverse to leaving the team in the predicament it now finds itself in. And, like selection for Melbourne, there has to be a better candidate.
There will be calls too for Cook to relinquish duties of some kind. While the Test captaincy will certainly remain his the ECB may see it fit to remove the ODI captaincy from him.
However, with the ODI World Cup so close, and a stated major aim of the board’s is to win it, such a move will be considered carefully.
It is team and strategy changes that are perhaps the most likely long-term developments. With more players to choose from than the current squad, although Carberry has proved promising, England may move towards youth for the Cook’s opening partner.
Prior too will certainly struggle to keep his place beyond the end of this series. While jettisoning Swann and Anderson similarly to Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison could be an appropriate signal of intent to move on.
But widespread change should be carefully considered. On long tours bad form breed bad form, and all of England’s out-of-form players are not old, and fit enough to enjoy at least a little more success in England shirts.
Things do need to change. But transition should be a process, not an event.