Reviewing ‘The Reset’

As Day One of the Test against the West Indies drew to a close, England fans went to bed with ‘the reset’ ringing in their ears. If one had taken a shot every time the commentators mentioned it, they would have been paralytic by the first drinks break. Indeed, the Ashes post-mortem has brought about the umpteenth shake up of the England Mens Team. A fresh start. A new leaf. All the clichés in the book. The problem is that this does not match the reality. It would be difficult to look at England and see a team embarking on a ground-up project.

Quite obviously, much annoyance with the reset has come in respect to the binning off of James Anderson and Stuart Broad. In an effort to look radical, England have jettisoned two all-time greats. In saying that, one must be careful not to dwell on the past. The problem is not that England have dropped two of the best ever, the problem is that they have dropped two of their best right now.

On this point, one must do the unspoken thing and separate ‘Broaderson’. Focusing first on Jimmy Anderson one can be very brief. Anderson is England’s best bowler in the here and now. Miserly, threatening, consistent, Anderson at 39 is still the man to lead England’s bowling attack. Quite frankly, dropping him is unacceptable.

On Broad one might have to be more nuanced. After a bumper year in 2020, injury and form have hampered Stuart Broad recently. With the rise of Ollie Robinson and desire to fit Mark Wood’s blistering pace into the starting XI, one can rationalise how Broad may start to find himself carrying the drinks some time soon. What one cannot understand, is not to have Stuart Broad in the team full stop. The reality is that Broad is still probably one of the best, and England have willingly left him in the cold.

The reasoning for Broad and Anderson’s absence makes a mockery of the idea of a reset. One only has to look at their replacements to see the funny side. The narrative seems to be that England are trying to look beyond the duo, to find ways to live after them. Their current solution is 33 year-old Chris ‘averages 50 overseas’ Woakes and perhaps the most offensively average seam bowler in the country Craig Overton.

England have made no effort to look towards youth, nor even a different skillset. Woakes is one of the most valuable players to have in England, but simply cannot threaten when taken outside of the British Isles. Overton meanwhile seems to have no remarkable characteristics, lacking notable pace, accuracy, or movement.

The fear of new faces in the bowling extends to the spin department. After a summer of being overlooked, Jack Leach was given a chance in The Ashes, much to the delight of Australians everywhere. Again, Leach is a player who often looks unremarkable. Instead of trying out leg-spinner Matt Parkinson, England have once again gone with what they know.

In the bowling department, ‘the reset’ is laughable. England have willingly weakened themselves, and have not even managed to do it in the name of blooding the youth.

The batting department is somewhat less clear cut. Indeed, Alex Lees has drawn the short straw and gets to be this month’s opener, following in the footsteps of previous lucky winners Rory Burns, Dominic Sibley, and Haseeb Hameed. Whilst it is plainly too early to make any sweeping conclusions, Lees lived up to the reputation that being an England opener brings, falling early to an LBW and sending up a futile review.

Where it gets confusing is with Ollie Pope. When one imagines a reset, one has visions of a project or process, shaped at building a longer-term success. England’s reset has chosen not to involve the young man seen as England’s great batting hope. Yes, Pope has struggled in the last year for form, but let us not pretend that this matters when it comes to selection. Zak Crawley had a dismal 2021 but has found himself securely back in the team. It jumps out as strange that Pope has lost his place in a team that is supposedly looking to the future.

Perhaps the funniest part of ‘the reset’ is the success of Jonny Bairstow. With centuries in successive Tests, the new and improved Jonny Bairstow has looked at home in the middle order. Having remodelled his action last summer, Bairstow showed glimpses of having gained some stability and security against the ball angled in. Of course, Bairstow finding success is good for England, but there is great humour in ‘the reset’ so far being led by a man who peaked in the Test arena in 2016. To move forward England have had to look backwards, and try something that brought them success in the past.

The idea of a reset is not necessarily a bad one, but in its current state it is just a pretence. Maybe we’ll never know why England have actually decided to cut off James Anderson and Stuart Broad, but it is certainly not in the name of youth or opportunity.

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