Jimmy Anderson wants English cricket to row back on its aggressive recent push towards the white-ball formats in recent years and has insisted it is now down to the senior players to lift a Test squad that is currently flat after its Ashes humbling.
A trip that began with Anderson believing his final tour of Australia might replace the memories of the 4-0 loss in 2017-18 has now moved into a zombified state, with England 3-0 down and the two remaining Tests in Sydney and Hobart now a case of playing for pride and World Test Championship points.
Chris Silverwood, a head coach few expect to remain in place after an error-strewn tour, will miss the first of these while isolating due to a positive Covid case among his family, while three members of his support staff – Jon Lewis (seam bowling), Jeetan Patel (spin) and Darren Veness (fitness) – have the virus.
As well as resulting in a lack of slingers in the nets, an outbreak that also has also seen three family members infected represents the latest headache for a side that trail 3-0 and has caused an eruption of opinions about English cricket’s priorities.
Speaking at training on Thursday, Anderson initially stressed the need for minds inside the camp not to dwell on the broader issues with two Tests remaining, only for the 39-year-old to then decide he wanted to get something off his chest.
“What I will say is, I think that there has been a big push with white ball cricket since the 2015 World Cup,” said Anderson “So I just would like to think that maybe [a better] balance between red- and white-ball cricket is there, going forward. At the minute, it’s tipped slightly towards white-ball. And it has been for the last few years.
“If you look at our performances in Test cricket over the last few years, they’ve been pretty inconsistent. So, from that point of view we can hopefully just redress that balance a little bit.”
Asked if the standard of County Championship cricket has dropped during his 20-year professional career, Anderson replied: “There’s a bit more cricket now, I guess. There are more competitions to think about. I think that the one thing for me is that potentially the wickets aren’t as good as they used to be. You see a lot more result pitches now in county cricket. So perhaps, with the bigger picture, that’s something we can think about in the future.”
One would hope the words of England’s record Test wicket-taker – now up to 639 victims after the immaculate four for 33 at the MCG that proved in vain – might resonate higher up at the England and Wales Cricket Board, so, too, captain Joe Root calling for a “reset” in red-ball cricket in the wake of defeat.
However, the governing body’s leadership is currently in flux, with headhunters having been dispatched to fill the currently vacant role of chair and a chief executive in Tom Harrison who presided over the past five years and may well leave after the end of the financial year when a £2.1m bonus pot matures and is split by senior executives.
Next summer’s domestic schedule is currently being devised and a third round of the County Championship may move into the middle of summer after last season’s shemozzle. But with the Hundred in place, and no competition in men’s cricket having made way, first-class cricket will still largely get second-class treatment.
Fresh leadership at the top cannot come quickly enough, although Root is likely to remain as captain of the Test team for the time being due to scant alternatives. “Everyone thinks so highly of him,” said Anderson. “Not just as a bloke but as a cricketer, and as a captain. So yes, hopefully he will continue.
“We’re aware we’ve got so much good support around the world, people getting up in the middle of the night to watch and we’re gutted we’re not performing for those people and giving them what they want to see.”
Asked about the motivation now, Anderson added: “The lads are pretty flat at the minute if I’m being brutally honest. It can be difficult, especially for guys experiencing the Ashes for the first time. That’s where the more senior players come in. We have to rally round, make sure everyone is in a good place and a good headspace to compete.
“I know I said it last time but I would be extremely surprised if I was here in four years time. Obviously I didn’t want [the 4-0 defeat in 2017-18] to be my last memory of Australia, so I came back here and this is going to be it. We’ve just not been at the races. We’ve now got two games to do something about that.”