Captaincy, 'Keeper and Beyond: What England Must Change After Lord's Loss
England slumped to defeat against India at Lord's on Monday, collapsing after the lunch break to give MS Dhoni's side a 1-0 advantage in their five-Test series.
Prior to the interval, the hosts appeared well placed at 173-4, but the dismissal of Moeen Ali by Ishant Sharma kickstarted England's demise as Alastair Cook's men lost their final six wickets for 50 runs in less than 13 overs.
The loss, which is the second of the summer in four Tests so far, extends England's winless stretch to 10 outings, dating back to last August against Australia.
With pressure mounting on the captain, the wicketkeeper and a host of other personnel, we look at the changes that must be made to this England outfit to arrest the team's downward spiral after the disastrous defeat at Lord's.
Peter Moores' Role
While others in the England setup are quickly running out of both time and explanations for their failures, it's too early to discard new coach Peter Moores amid the team's current slide.
However, the question needs to be asked: What expertise is Moores currently providing to England?
After a succession of ghastly tactical showings in the field from Alastair Cook and his bowlers, the England coach, who was appointed by the ECB in April, needs to exert a greater influence on the way his players conduct themselves.
Surely he didn't order Cook to set the abysmal fields on show at Headingley against Sri Lanka during Angelo Mathews and Rangana Herath's match-defining partnership?
He can't have been asking for the perplexing methods used at Trent Bridge just one Test ago, can he?
And are we to believe he instructed England's seamers to bang the ball in short on the Wimbledon-like surface on offer at Lord's on Day 1 of this Test?
Of course not.
But given that England continue to put forward truly incomprehensible displays, it has to be assumed that Moores doesn't hold the authority that is required in his role.
For England's sake, that must change. Moores must take greater control of the direction of his team, assuming a dominance in the formulation of the team's plans, rather than being a peripheral mentor.
James Anderson and Stuart Broad's Power over Field Settings
There's good reason why fast bowlers have rarely been appointed Test captains throughout the game's history.
Typically possessing an inner fire and an aggressive streak, pacemen have seldom owned the poise, objectivity and serene disposition that are the hallmarks of great on-field leaders.
Yet, for England, James Anderson and Stuart Broad continue to hold influential roles in Alastair Cook's side, often seen ordering fielders around from the top of their mark while the captain stands at slip.
While it's understandable that the team's spearheads have their own ideas, the pair's reluctance to follow Cook's lead only continues to undermine everything this England team is trying to achieve.
Compare that to Australia, South Africa or India: Rarely, if ever, have you witnessed Michael Clarke's authority being challenged, Graeme Smith—prior to his retirement—having orders hurled at him by Dale Steyn, or MS Dhoni being overruled by Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami.
That same needs to apply for England. Peter Moores and the captain—whether Cook or otherwise—must reclaim the ultimate authority.
The ECB's Search for Revenue
It's not just the players who need to take responsibility for England's current demise. The game's governing body in England, the ECB, has played a significant role in the nation's ongoing malaise, too.
So intensely focused on delivering positive profit-and-loss statements, the England board is continuing to undermine the strength of the team it is supposed to serve.
As explained succinctly by George Dobell of ESPN Cricinfo, the ECB's current business plan that is delivering record revenue is the same process that is preventing its national team from performing optimally.
From the ridiculousness of the board's bidding process for Test matches that forces grounds to prepare pitches like the one at Trent Bridge to ensure ticket sales for all five days, to the obscene scheduling of five Tests in 42 days against India, to the switch of the game to subscription television, the ECB's search for wealth—which does also have some positives, such as funding for both disability and women's cricket—is harming the team's performance and the connection between player and fan.
A better balance simply must be attained.
There's no getting around the issue anymore: Matt Prior must be dropped from this England side.
At Lord's, the 'keeper's work with the gloves was again below Test standard, dropping a pair of catches in India's first innings, which came on the back of a number of grassed chances in the opening Test of the series at Trent Bridge, bringing his summer tally of drops to six.
If he's unable to fulfil his primary role in the side, then Prior must be replaced.
Additionally, the 32-year-old's form with the bat is non-existent, averaging just 22.05 across 22 innings since last July—a stretch that includes three ducks and 10 completed innings with 10 runs or less.
So effective for so long, Prior is only holding England back at present.
If England harbour hopes of emerging from the team's dramatic slide that commenced in the 2013-14 Ashes series, then Alastair Cook must be relieved of both the captaincy and his current place in the team.
In the field, the team's leader has repeatedly showcased his tactical deficiencies, squandering countless opportunities for victory with perplexing field settings and bowler rotations that have rendered numerous sessions this summer utterly shambolic.
With the bat, it has been even worse.
Since the beginning of the 2013 Ashes series on home soil, Cook has scored just 638 runs from 27 innings at an average of 23.62.
In 2014 alone, the England captain is averaging 14.33.
Unable to score the way he once did and having led this England side to a winless streak spanning 10 Tests (as well as three consecutive one-day international series defeats), Cook must be removed from the leadership and his current position in the team, returning to county cricket to fight for his place as the nation's other representatives have been forced to do.
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