“It’s over. There’s no need to tell me.
I hope you’re with someone who makes you safe in your sleep. I won’t kill myself trying to stay in your life.
I got no distance left to run.”
Should Alastair Cook and his England team find themselves in a karaoke bar tonight – an odd situation, but stranger things have happened – this weary heartfelt song by Blur might be an appropriate choice for the captain and ex-choirboy to sing. The Ashes are over; they’ve gone. It was a great time having them for more than four years, but they’ve been lost. Ask Nasser and Mike and Alec and all the other players from 1989 to 2003 and they’ll no doubt say it’s better to have won and lost than never won at all. Is that what England’s current squad think? Or do they think the pain of defeat – to the Australians at least – is unbearable? Certainly Australia’s victory was partially stirred in the anguished cauldron of three consecutive defeats. Now England look lost. They literally look like they’ve no distance left to run.
Of course, there are two games still to go. There ought not to be such a thing as a dead rubber in any Test match series, let alone The Ashes. But can England resurrect themselves for the final two games? Judging by body language they’ll be dragging themselves to Melbourne with all the vivaciousness of Peter Siddle attending the opening barbecue extravaganza at the local abattoir. Mentally shot and physically knackered, but the post-match message from captain and coach was to keep on trying. Apparently, England are as hungry for these two final games as Siddle after the aforementioned barbie.
Well we don’t go along with that. Three humungous defeats so far, in a series in which the only proper green shoots of promise have come from a man of 22 years and two Tests. Any other plus points (Carberry’s technique, Root’s temperament, Broad’s wickets at Brisbane) have been negated by silly shots and injury. There will be talk of change – and there will be valid counter-arguments that change for change’s sake is pointless. Nevertheless, players don’t continue forever and England run the risk of having to make further enforced changes next year or in 2015 with little idea of what the replacements can do in the environment of a Test match. England have a squad – a squad of players presumably considered by the selectors to be the best in the country. When most incumbents are not performing and are psychologically battered, could someone else not do better? We’re not going to mention names (yet), but when one youngster has already done well despite the pressure, don’t one or two others deserve to get their chance in these two games?
This should be caveated that any changes should not mean the end of careers. As has been documented, this England team have some of their best players of the past two generations. They should not be discarded like a cigarette butt from a dickhead’s car window. But when they are struggling – really struggling – then it’s time to assess how others do in their stead. Not wholesale changes – that would be fucking ridiculous – but enough to change the attitude, to change the atmosphere, to alter the performance.
Anyway, if England are in Perth’s best karaoke club this evening, there’s one more song that seems appropriate. Take it away, Kevin. Or Matt. Or Jimmy and Swanny:
“Oh mother, I can feel, the soil falling over my head…I know it’s over, but still I cling…I know it’s over, and it never really began, but in my heart it was so real. And you even spoke to me, and said, if you’re so clever, then why are you on your own tonight? If you’re so very entertaining, then why are you on your own tonight?”