Thursday, December 07, 2006

Why England are losing in Australia

Well, one reason anyway.

Two-nil down, England must think about changing their team. Yet their next match is little better than a beer match - a two-day game in which an England Invitation XI will play another invitation team. And the England side will include three retired players: Alec Stewart, Robin Smith and Adam Hollioake. This is hardly a fixture calculated to give England's fringe players serious practice. And the picture was hardly better before the first test.

It didn't used to be like this. I have in front of me Mike Brearley's book on his 1978-9 tour of Australia when his side beat a weakened Australia 5-1. Before the first test that year England played four four-day matches and there were more later in the tour, including one against Western Australia in which England were bowled out for 144 and 126 but still won by 140 runs.

A few years later this was still the norm. Someone told the young Phil DeFreitas not to go on the tour simply for the experience but to try to force his way into the test team. He did try and succeeded, forming part of England's opening attack last time we won in Australia.

Quite how someone like Liam Plunkett could set himself to make the test team is hard to see. There are simply no serious matches for him to play in.

This is not a sinister Australian plot. It is just one more way in which commercialisation threatens to ruin sport. Which TV station wants to show England vs New South Wales when they could be televising another one-day international?

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