Why is English Cricket Struggling in the Longest Format?

English cricket is going through an all-time low when it comes to its red-ball form. They have lost nine Test matches in 2021, the most they have ever lost in a calendar year. So what are these systematic issues that are prohibiting English cricket from excelling in the longest format of the game? Most English pundits have had their say on the matter, and these are the broad four points.



After a catastrophic 2015 50-over World Cup for England, the entire system of English cricket switched to prioritising white-ball cricket. Andrew Strauss took over as the Director of Cricket and building a solid white-ball team was high on his agenda. It all started with Eoin Morgan, the captain of the limited-overs side giving absolute freedom to his players to express themselves in the shorter formats. The team before 2015 was playing a brand of cricket that was lacking serious intent. It all switched and it came into fruition as England reached the final of the 2016 T20 World Cup and went a step ahead in the 2019 50-over World Cup.

While the white-ball English cricket was flourishing, the red-ball side was going down the pecking order. Suddenly, the team had only a few batters who could score big runs, and those were Alastair Cook and Joe Root. Since Cook’s retirement, all the run-scoring burden fell on the shoulders of Joe Root and the team is struggling to find players who could score big.

Even though this downtrend in red-ball cricket was becoming apparent, the ECB went ahead with their project of the Hundred and that became their biggest agenda. All their efforts went towards promoting the Hundred and domestic red-ball cricket kept taking the backseat. Along with the Hundred, there’s the T20 Vitality Blast, which is also a premier white-ball competition for the ECB so the County Championship has been pushed to months that aren’t conducive for cricket.



The County Championship has been under scrutiny for quite some time now. The pitches on offer in the competition are substandard and because of the quality of the matches, the red-ball team is struggling to produce batters and bowlers who are ready for Test cricket.

The pitches are tough to bat on and batters get nicked off for fun. The bowlers restrict themselves to a diddly-doodly pace with the ball doing enough from the surface. The matches usually get over within three days and spinners don’t come into play.

It’s simple, good pitches create good cricketers, be it a batter or a bowler. With the current crop of cricketers coming through the County system, none of them has the long game meaning that batters aren’t used to batting for long hours and bowlers aren’t used to setting batters up. No wonder the players who are promoted to the Test arena seem inept at handling the pressure of the international game.



With Ed Smith’s termination from the chief selector role, Chris Silverwood, who was the captain of the England team in all three formats, was also given the responsibility of being the chief selector. Such a structure is unusual, to say the least. Some coaches previously have taken up the responsibility of being the selector but usually have a team around them but in this case, it’s Silverwood all alone. This is his first stint as an international coach and handing him the selectors job as well made matters confusing. Ashley Giles, the Managing Director of English Men’s cricket made Silverwood the most powerful English coach of the 21st century to have more accountability. So in situations where the team has had such a horrendous year, the person who is accountable should end up losing their job.



For more than a year now, the English cricket team has been talking about doing well in the Ashes series. Most decisions they took in the lead up to the series were based on having their best players ready for the high-octane series against Australia. But interestingly, they went into the series as an underprepared team. The batting lineup wasn’t a settled unit and most of their key bowlers were struggling with injuries. The team hadn’t found a spinner who they could trust and all the planning faltered as they got into the Ashes series.

They overcomplicated the matter and paid the price with a dull fest at the Ashes, dominated by the Australians. Basic cricketing knowledge wasn’t implemented and the rotation policy adopted in the build-up backfired massively.




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