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PAUL FARBRACE: How we rescue England Test cricket team after Ashes debacle

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Four years ago, when I was with England, we came away from Australia after a 4-0 Ashes defeat believing we knew exactly what was needed to put things right next time.

We talked about finding bowlers who could get the ball to bounce off a decent length, a spinner to give us control in the first innings and then come into the game in the second, and batsmen capable of giving us big first innings runs.

Now Joe Root and Chris Silverwood are saying exactly the same things as Trevor Bayliss, Joe and myself did back then and that is the most frustrating thing about another lost Ashes series. Clearly lessons have not been learned.

England have endured a disastrous Ashes tour, losing the series in the first three Test matches

England have endured a disastrous Ashes tour, losing the series in the first three Test matches

Paul Farbrace, a former England coach, has offered his views on where things must change

Paul Farbrace, a former England coach, has offered his views on where things must change

I am not saying this is all down to Silverwood, Root and managing director Ashley Giles. Mistakes have been made but I’m not pinning the blame on them. I’m just as culpable, as is everyone who works in our game. We are not giving the England team the best chance to succeed.

We are all responsible for the same mistakes being made time and again and we all have a responsibility to do something about it, because I’m just as embarrassed about what’s happened now as when I was directly involved.

I feel for Spoons (Silverwood). I don’t think you can have one person in charge of everything. Trevor never wanted to be the sole selector because he liked having strong, robust discussion with a panel and there is enough on Silverwood’s plate as head coach.

He’s a very good man, he works incredibly hard and does plenty of good things, but unfortunately they are being overlooked because he is responsible for everything.

I want an Englishman to succeed as the England coach. I’m not against foreign ones because I benefited hugely from working with Bayliss and I myself worked with Sri Lanka. But I want English coaches to succeed. I want them to know they can be coach of the national team.

Our issues are deeper than the personnel in Australia. For example, we can’t agree within the game on our best format for the Championship. We can’t agree what our limited-overs competitions should be and when they should be played.

We play too much cricket but we don’t play enough high-quality cricket. And we know our game is not producing opening batsmen with sound techniques and red-ball spinners because of the time of year Championship cricket is played. It is well-documented that in 2015 a decision was taken to work much harder at our white-ball game. It was successful, culminating in that World Cup win in 2019, and we have an abundance of exciting white-ball talent now.

What we never did, and I was very much involved in those meetings, was forget about Test cricket. But we did struggle and have continued to struggle to find batsmen with the technique or temperament to score Test runs.

Our groundsmen are more than capable of producing good pitches, but we don’t give them the best chance to do it. We ask them to produce a four-day county surface for matches starting in early April.

So let’s not be surprised when all you have to do is bowl at 70-75 miles per hour and land the ball on that great big Dukes seam to get it moving all over the place.

Our schedule encourages medium pacers to take all the wickets and batters to have a dart to get to 30 or 40 before a ball arrives with their name on it.

There are some emerging batters who stand out. Josh Bohannon of Lancashire batted for a day and a half against Warwickshire last summer by playing forward when the ball was pitched up and back when it was short. 

He watched the ball carefully, played under his eyes and seemed to have a good temperament. There are others, such as Harry Brook at Yorkshire and Rob Yates, who plays with us at Warwickshire. But I don’t see enough of them coming through.

We have gone away from the basics in our coaching. We have moved away from grooving technique. Coaching in England has become lazy. I don’t mean people are not bothered, but they are encouraging batters to play big shots and hit it round the ground. They want to be the batsman’s friend and I’ve been as guilty of that as anyone.

It is easy to say ‘well played’ as a coach when that happens in practice instead of saying, ‘Come on, the best players in the world have got the best techniques which means you’ve got to keep your bat as straight as you can when you pick it up’. Coaches should be saying, ‘Rather than whack every ball, let’s have a session where you defend every one’.

Josh Bohannon is one of the few batsmen England can pin some home on for the future

Josh Bohannon is one of the few batsmen England can pin some home on for the future

Even in the England set-up I saw too many batsmen the day before a Test when it was doing a bit trying to play too many shots or walking out of the net and saying, ‘I don’t want to face our bowlers today. It’s doing too much. I just want some under-arms.’ It used to frustrate us. How are they going to get better if they do that?

Mark Ramprakash used to have a saying: Practise hard, play easy. He was someone who would throw balls for hours on end at batsmen, but he was also very tough on them. He knew they needed to have a sound technique to play at the highest level and would stress that. Perhaps some players didn’t like to hear it.

The hard work starts with young players. All the money in coaching is at the top end of the game. It’s in the wrong place. It should be invested in instilling good technique and practices into our best young players.

So, recovering from this Ashes will come down to better scheduling, better coaching and county clubs wanting England to be successful. I’m not sure they all do.

The world's elite players have elite technique and that is what coaches need to drill home

The world’s elite players have elite technique and that is what coaches need to drill home  

I hear county coaches saying, ‘We’ve lost another two players to England’. They should be proud of that. The whole game should be about producing international cricketers.

I’m not saying all this because I want to be the next England coach. I had my chance three years ago when Spoons got the job.

I had the opportunity to put my name in the hat but I didn’t because I decided the time was right for me to have a break from international cricket. And I’m thoroughly enjoying my job at Warwickshire.

But I am passionate about English cricket and I want to help. If that means sitting round a table moving the game forward, then fantastic. There has never been a more urgent time to put things right. We did it in white-ball cricket and now we’ve got to do it in Test cricket. We need to get a balance between the two.

Pressure is mounting on Joe Root but the problems run far deeper than his captaincy

Pressure is mounting on Joe Root but the problems run far deeper than his captaincy

If we keep passing the buck, we will be going to Australia in four years and will be embarrassed again. It needs a complete overhaul to make sure we are doing the best things in the right way to give our players the best chance.

Let’s get together and sort it out. Let’s agree when we play our county red-ball cricket. Let’s agree how many competitions we play and, if we have to lose one, so be it.

Let’s create opportunities for our players to get better and improve our coaches.

Let’s create an England Test team we’re proud of again.

We’ve been saying the same things for too long. Let’s stop talking and do something about it.

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