A gradual but inevitable descent into cricket-based loathing and bile.

For Pity’s Saker: The Many Victims Of England’s Bowling Coach

Posted on March 20, 2015 by in Opinion


One of the more simple yardsticks for judging what a coach has brought to a team is to answer one basic question: is the team in better shape when he (or she) left than when he (or she) arrived? If we apply this test to Duncan Fletcher’s England we can see that they started as a shambles and finished as a (mostly) very competitive unit. Of course, if we apply this test to England bowling coach David Saker, it implies that he might actually be the worst coach ever.

With the recent announcement that Saker was finally on his way out, heading back to Australia to attempt to revitalise the dismal Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash, thoughts finally turned to a bright new future for English cricket. Hopefully one in which the bowlers weren’t all regressing backwards to bowling at speeds more commonly associated with the likes of Gavin Hamilton.

Steve Finn's remodeled action allowed him to reach the heady heights of 'medium-fast'.

Steve Finn’s remodeled action allowed him to reach the heady heights of ‘medium-fast’.

We’ve coined a few phrases in our time. We definitely invented the concept of #Devereux (and here’s the Sydney Morning Herald article to back us up on that) and we reckon we might have been the first to use the term ‘Sakered’ to describe yet another quick bowler ruined by his time working with England’s bowling coach. When we actually sat down and thought about it, we ended up with a pretty impressive list of victims:

1. Steven Finn

Pre-Saker, Finn was the great white hope. He made his Test debut in the last series under Saker’s predecessor (Ottis Gibson), impressing all and sundry with his pace, bounce and willingness to run in hard on flat Bangladeshi wickets. Now he is basically a joke, a muddled mess of different ideas, actions and approaches to the crease. First he couldn’t stop falling over, then there was the whole ‘kicking the stumps’ shambles from which he seems to have never recovered, followed by him being ‘unselectable’ throughout the Ashes, before he turned up at the World Cup bowling at medium pace, culminating in figures of 0/49 from 2 overs against New Zealand.

Not everything is David Saker’s fault – we don’t blame him for the rise of global terrorism or all the DJs at the BBC turning out to be nonces, for example – but the train wreck of Steve Finn’s career has to sit firmly as the responsibility of the bowling coach for (almost) his entire international career.

The 51allout verdict: Sakered. Big time.

Despite the proclamations of Saker, it appeared that Steve Finn's issues hadn't quite been fixed just yet.

Despite the proclamations of Saker, it appeared that Steve Finn’s run-up issues hadn’t quite been fixed.

2. Ben Stokes

If ever a player needing some proper coaching, it’s Ben Stokes. The natural talent is there for all to see – he was England’s best player in two of his four games in the 2013/14 Ashes – but the application of it has gone horribly, horribly wrong. Some of that is definitely down to his batting – oh God, his batting! – but no-one seems to have figured out exactly what sort of bowler he’s even supposed to be, apart from one that concedes loads of runs. Of course it’s quite possible that England have worked it all out, but just forgotten to mention it to Binary Ben.

The 51allout verdict: Sakered.

3. Stuart Meaker

Remember Stuart Meaker? When England were on top of the world he represented the future, yet another genuine quick waiting in the wings. As Broad and Anderson aged gracefully, Meaker would rise to take their place. To quote from Cricinfo themselves:

“Meaker has attracted plenty of attention for the pace he generates and though rumours that he was clocked at 96mph may be overcooking it, he is certainly fast.”

It didn’t take Saker long to ruin that then. Aside from carrying drinks, Meaker was last seen in England colours back in 2012 when he played his second and last T20I, to go with his two ODI appearances. That 96mph pace is long gone, replaced by a Saker-esque lack of anything notable at all. 32 wickets in last season’s County Championship at 32 aren’t exactly the stuff of England recalls.

The 51allout verdict: Sakered.

We think this is a picture of Stuart Meaker. No-one can actually remember though.

We think this is a picture of Stuart Meaker. No-one can actually remember though.

4. Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan is a strange one. At times during the World Cup he looked like the only one who had ever bowled at the death before. Other times he approaches the crease like a blindfolded child nervously trying to pin the tail on the donkey. Has he really been Sakered or he just that sort of bowler, one with no apparent rhythm whatsoever? In the spirit of this particular character assassination, we’ll just say…

The 51allout verdict: Sakered.

5. Harry Gurney

England were desperate for a left arm quick, hence Gurney getting 10 ODIs in the second half of 2014. And yet, he still didn’t make the cut for the World Cup squad. It could be that there wasn’t all that much to work with in terms of the raw materials – Gurney is 28 years old, hardly a promising youngster – but the inability of England to make the most of what there was, perhaps in the context of some sort of ‘bowling plans’, is yet another black mark for the coaching staff.

The 51allout verdict: Sakered. Probably.

Although it's possible he was only selected because someone thought he was Liam Plunkett.

Although it’s possible he was only selected because someone thought he was Liam Plunkett.

6. James Anderson and Stuart Broad

Now we’re getting a bit controversial. In many ways Broad and Anderson have enjoyed some of their best years under Saker, with (according to our calculations) 405 Test wickets between them at an average around 26. That’s an impressive stat, even if we did probably forget to carry a one somewhere. But the concern around these two is more to do with their continuing misuse in the limited overs formats. It’s obvious to all and sundry that they’re creaking at the knees. And that Anderson really isn’t much of a white ball bowler, especially in flat non-swinging conditions such as those found in Australia. And yet England seem to have built a strategy around them, despite knowing where this particular World Cup would be for nearly a decade before it started.

The 51allout verdict: Mostly Sakered.

7. Chris Woakes

The one that got away. Woakes has somehow increased his pace under Saker, to the extent that he’s now looking like an actual quick bowler. He’s probably just as surprised about it as we are.

The 51allout verdict: Not Sakered. Yet.

It needed two men to truly get across just how wide Finn was bowling.

It needed two men to truly get across just how wide Finn was bowling.

8. Boyd Rankin and Chris Tremlett

To be fair, this might not entirely be Saker’s fault. However, to simplify matters we’re going to work on the theory that it is, in fact, all his fault. Tremlett was picked in last winter’s Ashes squad seemingly on the basis that he did quite well last time down under; Rankin was picked just in case Tremlett might turn out to not be very good any more, hence they’d need a reserve. Of course, everyone in the country knew that Tremlett was far from the bowler he’d been three years ago even as the squad was chosen. After having months to check this out, and playing him in the first Test just to make sure, Saker decided that yes, he was far from the bowler he’d been three years ago. Neither Tremlett or Rankin played in Perth and then the latter was picked in Sydney despite being horrifically unfit, essentially destroying his international career. Nice one Dave.

The 51allout verdict: Sakered.

9. Liam Plunkett

We’re not big on conspiracy theories but it makes perfect sense to us that 51allout favourite Liam Plunkett deliberately injured himself to get away from Saker. Think Escape To Victory, but with even better facial hair than John Wark.

The 51allout verdict: Not Sakered.

Plunkett's complaints about Saker's methods had gone too far this time.

Plunkett’s complaints about Saker’s methods had gone too far this time.

10. Jade Dernbach

Even we can’t blame Saker for this.

The 51allout verdict: unSakerable.


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Matt Larnach

21 Mar 2015 02:18

As an Aussie am just praying James Pattinson can find a new Big Bash team to play for before next season starts.



20 Mar 2015 12:21

Woakes may have, uniquely, increased his pace under Saker, but he’s also lost the outswinger that was his primary weapon as well. Sakered? Yep!