Focus on England

Trevor Bayliss, the England coach.-GETTY IMAGES

There is much happening in English cricket. James Anderson and Alastair Cook have set milestones and Trevor Bayliss has taken over as the coach. Kevin Pietersen, of course, is still being kept out.

Much before the ICC was formed and the future tours programme came into being, all the attention was focused around England during the summer. Cricket was played only in England as all other countries either were going through their winters or scorching summers. It seemed like old times as a lot of attention was centred on English cricket this summer. The fans of Pietersen were hoping that Andrew Strauss, the new director of England cricket, would see things differently and recall the swashbuckling batsman. However, much to the disappointment of Pietersen’s fans and to his chagrin, Strauss made it clear that the prolific batsman was not likely to figure in the scheme of things.

Quite obviously, the public took sides, but at the end of the day one cannot help but wonder if Strauss only happened to be the messenger of the ECB. The top echelons of the ECB had suggested to Pietersen to churn out runs if he desired to return to the English dressing room. He did score a lot of runs, but the important point was that Pietersen’s batting ability or the lack of it was never the reason for his being shunted out. The administrators will make the customary statements but stay out of selection matters, unless it has to do something with discipline or policy-based issues. It is quite clear that the authorities are not prepared to take a magnanimous view of the past blunders of Pietersen, the person.

The decision to keep Pietersen out might have not won laurels for the ECB, but the milestones achieved by James Anderson and Alastair Cook most definitely have done so. Anderson has been the spearhead of England for years now and his ability to produce wickets in clusters when required has swung many matches in England’s favour. His psychological hold on the Indian batsmen was apparent last summer when he along with Stuart Broad turned things in the blink of an eye. His influence on the younger fast bowlers has been immense, which proved to be the motivating factor for him as apparently they kept “pushing him”.

Being the lone England bowler to get 400 wickets will no doubt make him one of the English greats, but the bigger challenge of contributing towards an Ashes win is around the corner. He will be keen to leave his stamp of authority in that big series as would Cook.

The left-hander has surpassed his “guru” Graham Gooch but the one big difference between Gooch and Cook is that the latter won a series in India almost on his own. He countered the Indian spinners on his last tour with such aplomb that Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s tactics of playing on turners backfired on him. Cook’s presence at the top has provided a sense of security on which the younger lot like Joe Root, Gary Ballance and others built their careers. Cook has had his share of turmoil, but he never sought sympathy or played the dirty games some others before have done. He may not be regarded as the best of captains, but he is still trying to improve on that score with the same tenacity with which he got his runs. The series against New Zealand will provide him with some opportunities to improve upon his leadership skills, which will come in handy during the Ashes.

The recent appointment of Trevor Bayliss as the England coach will be a big advantage for Cook as the Australian will serve to be the “gap filler” for Cook. But for now, England cricket has enough reasons to be happy and Bayliss could not have got into the English set up at a much better time.

But will Strauss continue to ignore Pietersen in the Ashes series is the question that will be on everyone’s mind.