Former England player Mike Selvey has voiced his concern over the current set-up following the Ashes defeat in Australia. Head coach Chris Silverwood is in the firing line with England having lost nine of its last 12 Tests. Selvey believes Silverwood’s position is not tenable after what has happened but hopes he isn’t the “collateral on his own.”
Speaking to Sportstar, Selvey said Silverwood has too much control.
“He will certainly go. But in my view, there has been mismanagement in a variety of ways. Removing the position of National Selector and giving all the power to Silverwood was a huge mistake and in no small part the result of a personality clash between Ed Smith and the team/coach/captain and Silverwood’s desire for the supremo role. It was a poor excuse for getting rid of a dispassionate voice. We can all criticise selections, but in my opinion, Ed ended on the plus side, and the overall impression is of poor judgement at times since,” Selvey said.
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“However, Silverwood is not alone, and I hope he isn’t the collateral on his own. The mismanagement of the COVID rotations last winter, the scheduling, the terms of Silverwood’s appointment in the first place, were all signed off by Ashley Giles as Head of England cricket.”
Selvey, the current president of the Middlesex County Cricket Club, has also offered his support to Joe Root, who will end 2021 with 1,708 Test runs – the third-most in the format over a calendar year. However, he raised questions over Root remaining as England Test captain, having lost his third Ashes series in the role.
“I think it is remarkable how his (Root’s) own performance has not just sustained at a high level but has arguably been galvanised by the strife of his team. He is not an outstanding captain on the field but by no means a bad one.
“Like Silverwood, though he has been complicit in some bad selections, especially on this tour, and the decision after winning the toss in Brisbane added to the team selection, was disastrous. England have been beaten by a better side gaining in momentum, but that was an opportunity missed making an early statement.
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“He can say whether or not he wishes to carry on, but really it is not his decision to make. The trouble is that although he is officially appointed by the ECB board, it would be at the recommendation of Giles. You can see the conundrum. Replacing him would not be easy because a new captain must be a guaranteed place, and, despite Pat Cummins in Australia, it [captaincy] precludes bowlers because of workload management. I don’t think it is something Ben Stokes, the obvious person, needs at the moment, but he might argue strongly the other way (although Ben would be very loyal to Joe).”
Overhauling red-ball cricket
Selvey also delved into the pragmatism of calls for changes in red-ball cricket, on the scale undertaken after the 2015 50-over World Cup to revolutionise England’s limited-overs performance.
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“Our cricket always craves an overhaul, especially after a (regular) Ashes defeat in Australia. But we go round in circles,” he said.
“After the 2015 World Cup disaster the imperative was to win that. So, resource was poured into that effort, which was successful. But now it is viewed as being to the detriment of the Test side and the imperative on young players to maximise white-ball potential is dominating. It does not seem to have impacted unduly the way the New Zealand team manages in both red and white-ball cricket.
“He is not an outstanding captain on the field but by no means a bad one.” – Selvey on Joe Root (in picture)
“The revolutionary Hundred is being regarded as the villain of the piece, taking a chunk out of the middle of the summer and sidelining red-ball cricket. Although there are some measures to address it, red-ball cricket still bookends the season and is often played on poor pitches. This latter point is by no means new but most counties will prepare pitches to suit their own needs.
“Without wishing to go into the why-s and wherefores of the Hundred, the huge broadcasting deal gained by ECB was ultimately contingent on it and would not be as substantial without it. Which would mean less cash for the counties, grassroots, development, facilities etc. I can’t see that going away, if indeed it does eventually until the broadcasting deal is over after I think 2025. It does mean that the fixture schedule is a mess, with too much being squeezed in. It may mean that more red-ball cricket has to be played concurrently with the Hundred if it is to be played through the summer.
“I mentioned New Zealand earlier, and I think it is relevant. Traditionally NZ pitches were slow, encouraging medium pace bowlers. My understanding is of a recognition that the best players develop on the best pitches so the imperative has been to produce flat surfaces that promote good technical batters and genuinely fast bowlers, (not to mention a spinner who recently took all ten Indian wickets). The result has been obvious. I think it is a good model to try and emulate although a centralised control over pitches here would be tricky.”
Selvey weighed in on whether the domestic game in England needs an overhaul to produce Test-standard batting. Although the County Championship — with 18 first-class counties — has been reduced from 16 to 14 games in the recent past, the majority of the fixtures take place at either end of the summer, when conditions are harder for batters. Selvey feels the current system is sustainable and resisted the urge for a shorter, more condensed first-class competition.
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“There is always a belief that we need ‘fewer counties’ although no one is ever able to articulate which would be culled,” he said. “I think the current system is perfectly sustainable and could even argue for another county/regional side covering East Anglia. We do need a more robust, less blinkered pathway for young players, and make sure that the young cricketers from ethnic minorities are given that same opportunity and encouragement to progress their game as other youngsters.
“Much of what has happened in the past year off the field has highlighted that. There have been some excellent articles written about the need for the best coaching to be at junior levels, an ambition thwarted by the hierarchical nature of coaching that sees the better coaches work their way up the ladder to more accomplished young players. Teaching the fundamentals correctly is paramount but all too often lacking.”