Ashes: Ashley Giles insists England problems WON'T be solved by sackings after Australia loss

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Ashley Giles has apologised for England’s Ashes debacle, but insisted that a raft of post-series sackings will do little more than ‘set up future leaders for failure’. 

In his first public pronouncements since Joe Root’s team were bowled out for 68 at Melbourne to ensure the urn remains with Australia at least until 2023, the managing director of the England men’s team admitted that the domestic game was not preparing players for the rigours of an Ashes tour, but also pleaded for allowances to be made for the effects of the pandemic.

Giles arrived in Sydney on New Year’s Day, having brought forward his flight because of the growing chaos on England’s tour, with four members of the back-room staff isolating with Covid, Root facing the possibility of a 5-0 whitewash, and the dressing-room losing faith in head coach Chris Silverwood.

England managing director Ashley Giles has flown to Sydney for the fourth Test and lead a post-Ashes debrief with the team staring down the barrel of a 5-0 whitewash in Australia

England managing director Ashley Giles has flown to Sydney for the fourth Test and lead a post-Ashes debrief with the team staring down the barrel of a 5-0 whitewash in Australia

Joe Root and his England team have been thoroughly outclassed by Australia during the series

Joe Root and his England team have been thoroughly outclassed by Australia during the series

And while Giles said everything would be ‘on the table’ when he presides over the end-of-tour review, he also acknowledged his part in the disappointment.

‘In 34 years, we’ve come here and won once,’ he said. ‘But being here now, I absolutely feel the responsibility of losing this Ashes series. 

‘We all do, and we can only apologise. I know there will be a lot of emotion, a lot of anger, about how we’ve lost it, but we know it’s not an easy place to come.’

It seems inconceivable that Silverwood – to whom Giles handed full selectorial responsibility when Ed Smith was sacked as national selector last April – can survive the fallout after a year in which England lost a record nine Tests.

As for Root’s captaincy, Giles would only say: ‘We will have those conversations. I will not be drawn on it now. I want Joe to concentrate on the Test.’

Coach Chris Silverwood is unlikely to remain in post following a dreadful 12 months of results

Coach Chris Silverwood is unlikely to remain in post following a dreadful 12 months of results

The Aussies have already wrapped the series up with three wins in the first three Tests

The Aussies have already wrapped the series up with three wins in the first three Tests

But he argued that heads on plates would not be a solution to England’s long-term problem of struggling on the toughest of tours. 

Since winning in India in 2012-13, their record in Australia, India and New Zealand – the three teams currently ranked above them in Test cricket – is dismal: one win in 29, and 21 defeats.

‘Unless we look at more systemic change and a collective responsibility and solutions, we can make whatever changes we want,’ he said. 

‘You can change me, change the head coach, change the captain. But we’re only setting up future leaders for failure. That’s all we’re doing. We’re only pushing it down the road.’

Top of the wishlist Giles may take back to the counties is the need to produce a varied attack capable of taking 20 wickets in overseas Tests, including more fast bowlers and top-class spinners, as well as batsmen who can score consistent runs ‘when pitches allow’ – a possible dig at the surfaces Root’s team encountered in India early last year.

Giles believes the county game must do more to prepare players for the rigours of the Ashes

Giles believes the county game must do more to prepare players for the rigours of the Ashes

There is also a worrying lack of potential leaders among the 18 first-class counties: one of the main arguments for keeping Root on as captain has been the absence of credible alternatives.

‘Have we been able to fill those gaps?’ said Giles. ‘No, we haven’t. But if that’s a failing of this leadership, that’s been a failing of many leaderships before us. 

‘Are we creating the conditions that will allow us to better prepare our cricketers for playing in the conditions out here? I’m not sure we are at the moment.’

But he also called for leeway at a time when England have played more Test cricket than anyone: by the end of this series, they will have played 17 games since the start of last year. Or, as Giles put it, ‘a hell of a lot of Test cricket’.

He added: ‘Over that period, it was as three times as much as Australia, 50 per cent more than India. It’s a huge amount of cricket we’re playing, and in a time of Covid it’s been pretty horrendous at times.

Opener Zak Crawley walks off after being dismissed during the third Test at Melbourne

Opener Zak Crawley walks off after being dismissed during the third Test at Melbourne

‘We can’t kid ourselves. There’s been a lot more going on in the last two years than just performance.

‘So while my responsibility is the performance of the team, I feel very much it’s also been keeping the game on, getting the team on a plane, making sure the India series happens, the South Africa situation, the Pakistan situation, discrimination in sport.

‘It’s been an extraordinary year. We can look at the cricket-specific stuff, but we also need to look at the other stuff.’

Giles, who wants to continue in the job, denied he had any sway over the absurdly crowded fixture list, saying that was the task of executives above him. 

And he defended the decision to place his players’ mental wellbeing in the age of biosecure bubbles at the top of his priority list.

Ben Stokes has struggled to get going on the Ashes tour having returned to the Test side

Ben Stokes has struggled to get going on the Ashes tour having returned to the Test side

But he reiterated his belief that cosmetic change will do nothing to solve English cricket’s more deep-seated issues.

‘We’ve struggled against the sides above us,’ he said. ‘What’s important is that we don’t try to paper over the cracks. We could easily go to the West Indies and win, and then win this summer, and everything’s all right, rah, rah, rah.

‘But I think we still need to be truly focused on finding a way we can compete out here and in India. 

‘That is difficult. If it was a failing of this leadership, then fine, I’d take that, I’m at peace with that accountability. But I’m not the first and I won’t be the last, unless we make some change.’

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