Fletcher Must Go

Typical. You take a few days off from the blog to get ready for Christmas and let the dust settle after the end of the Ashes and, far from settling, it continues to swirl around you like the fog that's been blanketing much of Britain this week. The past, present and future of English cricket is debated to death, and, just by way of variety, another crackpot squad emerges from the brains of the England selectors. Oh, and Shane Warne retires.

Virtually everything you can think of (and a few things which you can't) has been said about England after Perth. And most of it carries a fair bit of truth. They were under-prepared, the Brisbane and Adelaide teams were badly selected, Australia have wanted to regain the Ashes more than England have wanted to retain them, and Fletcher has reached his sell-by date. All that and a one-day squad with Paul Nixon in it.

One of the better analyses of England's situation came from Christopher Martin-Jenkins in The Times earlier in the week, which allowed for the fact that England have played some good cricket at times by pointing out that the genesis of England's defeat lay in one really bad day in each game - the first in Brisbane, the last in Adelaide and the second in Perth - but also mentioned the older but more far-reaching errors which conspired to put England in a position from which retention was going to be much more difficult than redemption. The loss of Troy Cooley to his native Australia, the failure to prepare properly, errant selection, going back to the inclusion of Giles and Trescothick in the original squad ('an element of trying to recreate the old rather than trusting the new'), the decision to make Flintoff captain 'just as Strauss had grown into the job'.

It was a balanced critique and I agreed with most of it. It appeared to stop short, however, of calling for Fletcher's head, as most of the British tabloids have been doing, and, having thought over the series, while not denying how well England have played in parts or Fletcher's seminal influence on the improvements shown by the England side since 1999, I'm inclined to feel that we need to look elsewhere when the dust really has settled after this winter.

Justification? Well, we'll leave Monty out of it and return to the old Jones-Read debate. Thanks to Fletcher's misplaced confidence in the increasingly hapless Jones, we're now left with a situation where, if Read returns to the side in Melbourne (and, such is Fletcher's apparent obsession with Jones, I'm still not convinced that he will), he will do so in the knowledge that his own coach doesn't rate him at all, which can only have a negative effect on his confidence. So, we'll be left with two keepers who know that they're not first choice, a fact which was emphasized further yesterday when England's squad for the post-Christmas ODI series was announced. It contained the name of Paul Nixon, the elderly Leicestershire keeper who went on an England tour a few years ago but was generally felt to have dropped off the radar. I'll leave my favourite, Steven Davies, out of it for once; he's been with the academy in Perth and may not have done as well as was hoped. But what about James Foster? He was looking absolutely excellent late last season and is a hell of a lot younger than Nixon. Madness.

And then you have the inclusion of Vaughan. Okay, he's standing up, but he's only got three failures against Western Australia seconds behind him and his record in one-day cricket isn't very good anyway. Another example of trying to clutch at the straws of 2005 rather than moving on.

Past readers of this blog will know right well that, although I've known about and watched Chris Read for a long time, I'm not one of those people (most of whom live in Nottingham, I find) who think that he's the best keeper who ever drew breath. I even sought to try to understand Fletcher's selection of Jones at the start of the series (mainly because I just wasn't suprised), but, with hindsight, I was wrong.

With everything else left aside (Giles v Panesar is history), for his utterly shameful treatment of Read and his clumsily mistaken faith in Jones alone, Fletcher must go.

We'll look at this again when it's 3-2...

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