Another Test series ended in defeat for England on Sunday, as the West Indies crushed them by ten wickets to take the series 1-0, with big changes seemingly needed to see them climb to the top of the red-ball game once more.
England actually fared well during the first two Tests in the Caribbean, with both matches ending in draws, but the shortfalls were starkly highlighted in Grenada.
A dismal third day saw England resume their second innings on 103-8, but the dismissal of the last two wickets presented the West Indies with a target of 28 – something they could have achieved blindfolded given the time left available.
It raised yet more questions about the whole red-ball set up in England, particularly on the back of the chastening 4-0 Ashes thumping by Australia over the winter.
One of the big points of contention is whether Joe Root should continue with the captaincy.
The Yorkshire batsman has had the armband since February 2017 but the time could be right to make a change.
He is still a phenomenally talented batter and has dug England out of numerous holes in the last few years, but there is definitely an argument that the captaincy is hindering his ability to make runs.
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What could save Root’s skin is the lack of an alternative – as vice-captain, Ben Stokes is perhaps the most obvious candidate, but given the Durham all-rounder has suffered with so many personal issues over the past year, burdening him with the captaincy may be unwise.
Stuart Broad has also been linked with the captaincy before and would no doubt bring a wealth of experience, but he would also need to work his way back into the squad after being dropped for the Windies tour.
A permanent coach is also required – interim boss Paul Collingwood has been open in his full-time interest, though the ECB may prefer to go with someone who has more experience in top-level coaching.
On the field, the top order has been woefully out of form and an extra injection of quality is needed.
Perhaps the elephant in the room is the Hundred? With so much of England’s resources being ploughed into limited-overs cricket, it should perhaps come as no surprise that Test cricket is suffering (England 3/1 to win 2023 World Cup).
England have won only one of their last 17 Tests dating back to February 2021 and the latest capitulation will do nothing to quell the general feeling of pessimism.
Home series’ against New Zealand and India are planned for the summer and England need to respond very quickly in order to try and stem the negative flow.
Ultimately though, this could require a long-term fix if England are to rule the roost in Test cricket once more.
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