Chris Silverwood has insisted he wants to stay on as England head coach, despite his team’s 4-0 Ashes drubbing – but admitted he could have shown his teeth more to the players amid accusations of dressing-room coziness.
Since beating India at Chennai last February, England has lost 10 Tests out of 14 and won only one – their worst sequence for 25 years. That has left Chris Silverwood’s fate dependent both on the post-series report by team managing director Ashley Giles and the views of ECB chief executive Tom Harrison and other members of the performance cricket committee, chaired by Andrew Strauss.
Chris Silverwood Admits That His Job Is Going To Be Under Scrutiny After Abject 2021/22 Ashes Loss
Tom Harrison is believed to have been unimpressed by what he has found during his three weeks in Australia, with England’s worst Ashes batting display since the 1950s compounded by a loss of confidence among the players in Chris Silverwood’s ability, and poor levels of communication. Before one Test, the coach sat down to tell a player he had been dropped, only for the player to say he had already read of his demise in a newspaper.
But Chris Silverwood is adamant that, with the help of a reformed domestic structure that places more emphasis on the red-ball game, he can help turn England’s fortunes around.
‘My job is going to be under scrutiny,’ Chris Silverwood said. ‘But I would love to help effect those changes within the county structures, and I would like to put some of this right. I think I’m a good coach and I would love to be given that opportunity, but there are certain things that are out of my hands at the moment.’
With less than six weeks before England flies to the Caribbean for a three-Test series, Tom Harrison and Andrew Strauss have little time to make their recommendations to the ECB board.
But whoever emerges as head coach may find their powers diluted, with Chris Silverwood struggling to balance day-to-day coaching with the dual demands of the Test and white-ball teams, plus the role of the chief selector. Assistant coaches such as Paul Collingwood, who is in charge of the T20 team’s forthcoming tour of the Caribbean, and Graham Thorpe may be asked to take on greater responsibility.
The hierarchy must also decide whether a combination of Joe Root and Chris Silverwood lacks a bad-cop figure to tell the players to home truths, with Joe Root admitting after England lost at Hobart inside three days that there might be times where we need to get a little bit harder.
Chris Silverwood said: ‘With the situation we’ve been living in, I try to work through things with them, rather than shout or growl. But there will be aspects I’ve got to reflect on, because I’m not a finished article as a coach and I want to get better all the time. I’m not afraid to show my teeth, but you sometimes wonder in hindsight whether I should do it more. But then does it make it less effective? I don’t know.’
The farcical conclusion to the fifth Test on Sunday may not work in his favour. England’s last five wickets fell amid a flurry of slogs, misjudgments, and apathy, typified by last man Ollie Robinson, who backed away the first ball to Pat Cummins and lost his middle stump. Chris Silverwood, though, put the surrender down to tiredness.
‘I believe they’re still playing for us,’ Chris Silverwood said. ‘I think what we saw was players that are tired. It was hard to watch. At times, you were thinking, just get stuck in. Let’s show that fight, but we didn’t have that. And there is no point saying we did, because we clearly didn’t. We’ve got to get to the bottom of why that is, and try to make a difference.’
For the time being, Chris Silverwood said he would ‘start planning for the West Indies’ which means considering options outside the 16 who played at least one Test in Australia, where perhaps only Mark Wood and to a lesser extent Zak Crawley emerged with their reputations enhanced.
‘We’ve certainly got to look at what is out there as well,’ said Silverwood. ‘One of the things I will be doing is speaking to the scouts, the performance director. What have we got out there? Do we need to make changes?’
England knew they could not sink any lower when they were demolished for 51 by West Indies in Jamaica in 2009. They vowed to put things right and two years later were crowned the best Test team in the world.
Nasser Hussain and Duncan Fletcher came together in 1999 with England ranked the worst of the lot and began the recovery that was to culminate with the fabled 2005 Ashes victory under Duncan Fletcher and Michael Vaughan. The board has been asleep at the wheel while England is facing up to a year when they will play more international cricket than ever before with their players in the mood to rebel against any further Covid bubbles and restrictions.
Joe Root’s captaincy race is run, Chris Silverwood has to pay the price for being given too much responsibility for coaching and selection. Joe Root cannot survive simply because there is no one else. He has overseen three Ashes without success after admitting before this series that his legacy would be judged by this one. He needs to go back to the ranks and concentrate on restoring the very high batting levels misplaced during this series.
The one outstanding candidate to replace Joe Root is Ben Stokes. For all the reservations many, including this observer, have about overloading such an important player, Ben Stokes could do the job with one important proviso — he would have to give up T20s, the one format where he has never fulfilled his potential which includes the IPL.
If England’s top players are serious about rescuing Test cricket, they must give up a franchise tournament that in itself undermines first-class cricket by taking players away from the red-ball game at the start of each season. There should be a new coach in place by the time England plays their next Test in Antigua in March too.
Duncan Fletcher is the obvious man for the Test job. Paul Collingwood can take charge of a white-ball machine that shows no signs of malfunctioning under captain Eoin Morgan. That move led to the huge success of the 2019 World Cup but it has gone too far now.
Andrew Strauss, who has made a part-time return to administration as chair of the ECB cricket committee, is the best person to redress the balance. He should return to his old job at Ashley Giles’ expense or even replace Tom Harrison. England is missing the leadership of a character like Nasser Hussain to lead them into Tests.
Joe Root Questions How To Provide Incentives In County
Joe Root articulated what has to happen in the short term to ignite that red-ball reset while at his lowest ebb in the aftermath of the pitiful Hobart batting collapse and a three-day last Test defeat.
“What incentives are there in the County Championship to open the batting?’ he asked. ‘What incentives are there to be a spinner or to bowl fast? Anyone coming into Test cricket is doing it in spite of county cricket, not because of it.”
“How do we provide those incentives? We could produce better wickets, hopefully by playing at a better time of year. We could flatten the seam on the ball, maybe by giving our seamers a Kookaburra to work with. That would nullify running in and bowling at 70 miles per hour while encouraging bowlers to create new angles and find different ways to take wickets. And give spinners the chance to bowl in the first half of the season.”
Joe Root understands the need for changes but it looks like he won’t be the one making them.
“Then we could double the batting points in a Championship game and incentivise first innings leads above 400. When do our young batters ever go out under the pressure of replying to 450-500? When do they have to save a match in spinning conditions? There are lots of things we could change quite quickly but for now it’s how we react to this Ashes. Can we use this experience when we’re hurting to grow and come back as better players?”
England lost the first match by 9 wickets at the Gabba, the second game by 275 runs at Adelaide Oval, and the third game by an innings and 14 runs at Melbourne Cricket Ground. However, they managed to avoid the 5-0 whitewash with a hard-fought draw in the fourth Test at Sydney Cricket Ground. Also, England lost the last match of the series by 146 runs at the Bellerive Oval, Hobart