The reality is the players who have just lost the Ashes are the best England have got and the majority of them will be needed to lead them out of this predicament.
They need support. There is no point badgering them. Being negative will only make things worse.
England will know they haven’t played well enough and need to get better. By the sounds of it there have been honest conversations in the camp since that loss in Melbourne. It’s not as if the captain and coach are not being tough with their players.
Chris Silverwood and Joe Root will be devastated with how England’s Ashes tour has gone
It has been miserable for Root (right) and his team, who have lost the first three Test matches
Joe Root and Chris Silverwood will be devastated by what has happened in Australia. They are proud men and good cricket people and I have every sympathy for them. They will be doing everything in their capabilities to put this right.
I would like to see England rally around them now because things are not going to improve overnight. It is the system above those in the firing line that needs to be looked at and it will take time to put processes in place to change things. It’s a collective rather than blaming one or two people.
It was only 12 months ago Australia were losing to India and questions were being asked. People were saying the Big Bash was bad for Test cricket, that sort of thing. Well, that argument has gone out of the window pretty quickly.
The Ashes remain as big as ever in Australia and people here are delighted to have won again. But real cricket lovers are crying out for a closer contest. World cricket needs a strong England side, particularly for the health of the Test game.
And there is no doubt England and the ECB have kept Test cricket alive during the pandemic by putting in so much hard work and expense to keep playing.
Former England coach Trevor Bayliss says Root and Silverwood need more support
Perhaps that has become part of England’s problem. They have played so much and spent so long in bubbles during Covid that they have appeared jaded here.
And when you are mentally fatigued it can affect your decision-making, such as in the footwork of the batters and knowing what balls to play at. By contrast Australia, who haven’t played much red-ball cricket, have looked fresh.
But you can keep looking for excuses left, right and centre. The Australian system is clearly preparing players for Test cricket and England’s is not. And that leaves the ECB with hard questions to answer.
I do not want to come across as an Australian telling England what to do and I have no definitive answers. When I was England coach I didn’t have time to see too much of what was going on in county cricket and underneath, and I’m sure there are lots of good people at that level working hard.
But I do have experience in both camps and the ECB have to accept that the English game is not producing enough Test cricketers. And it has been that way for some time now.
Australia have already won the series after three commanding victories over England
I worked closely with Paul Farbrace and I saw what he wrote here about the same things being said now that we were saying when we were beaten in Australia four years ago. He is right.
Notably, we were looking for top-order players capable of flourishing in Test cricket and that search goes on.
And I agree with Farby that the best coaches of technique should be employed at youth level if the English game is going to instil the correct methods and practices into its best young players. It’s very hard to make big changes to technique later in careers.
I also remember asking why first-class cricket did not take place at better times during the English summer, with more white-ball at the start of the season. Certainly that should be the case if Test cricket is going to be the priority now.
It would help to play on better wickets but one thing you can’t change is the English weather so there’s no guarantee those pitches even in peak summer would be firm and dry.
Another question that will be raised again is: are there too many clubs in the English first-class system? If you had fewer teams then players would have to work harder to get into them and have a better technique to be able to score runs.
The Ashes tour raises questions of how the County Championship helps the England side
How else can England close the gap? There are smaller things that might help. A couple of years ago the Australians experimented with using Dukes balls in state games ahead of an Ashes tour to get their bowlers and batsmen used to them.
Perhaps the Kookaburra could be used in the County Championship in the build-up to a series in Australia because it doesn’t move so much. Bowlers would have to work harder for their wickets even in English conditions.
I also found it surprising when I was in England to see Australian Test players being recruited by counties and effectively given perfect preparation in English conditions ahead of the Ashes.
Marcus Harris and Marnus Labuschagne seemed to have played more county cricket before the first Test in 2019 than any England batter, yet there is no way Australian states would even consider employing top English players in first-class cricket.
For now, England have pride to fight for, along with World Test Championship points. There are no dead rubbers now.
The players should be seeing these last two Tests as an opportunity. Imagine if one of the younger ones made one or two hundreds in Sydney and Hobart? They could set themselves up for a long run in the side. There is plenty to play for.