Cow Corner

Time England shuffled the deckchairs on the Titanic

Cow Corner

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It's just as well that England have taken an 18-man squad to India for this four-match series, because having suffered a comprehensive defeat, there is a public appetite to see some new faces in the team.

Happily, the seven players who were deemed not good enough to make the starting XI for the Ahmedabad thrashing have, according to the critics on social networking sites, become considerably better cricketers in the past week. They are not only untainted by the loss, but - unlike the players that did feature - they would also have had the answers to the questions posed by India.

England in need of a second spinner? Bingo — there's Monty Panesar waiting on the sidelines.

The seam bowling is all too samey? Not a problem — here's the man with the extra pace and bounce (Steven Finn); or the upstart who can get skiddy reverse swing when the ball wears (Stuart Meaker); or even the fellow who can bowl accurately and to a plan when there's little assistance from the pitch (Graham Onions).

What about a change in the batting? Just call in young bucks Jonny Bairstow or Joe Root, who are not burdened by previous failures in India — or even Eoin Morgan, who has the ability to attack the spinners and shake them out of their rhythm.

Seven cricketing geniuses are waiting on the sidelines, some of which will, in three days' time, transform England from under-performing subcontinental misfits into a team of bulldog-spirited and keenly-skilled winners.

The trouble, of course, is that England may well be merely shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic if they make changes. You can put them in any order you like, but either way the boat is sinking.

As Stuart Broad put it curtly on Twitter after the match, playing India is hard, and a generation or two of England cricketers have little in the way of personal triumphs here to point to when they criticise.

"India outplayed us," said Broad. "A few positives but on the whole poor so sorry for that. Onwards and upwards. And before you listen to too many ex-playing 'experts' being negative, ask them if they ever won a Test series in India....#28years" (it has been that long since England's last series win there, and came before Broad himself was born).

That said, when only three (arguably four) players in the team emerged from the first Test with any credit, you can understand the clamour for changes.

Alastair Cook and Matt Prior in effect scored 356-4 between them in this Test, meaning the rest of the team managed 241-16. That's 60% of the runs scored by two players, while one (Graeme Swann) took two-thirds of the nine wickets to fall.

The fourth player to acquit himself well was Nick Compton on debut. He may not have the score to back that up, but batted with application over the course of 181 balls in two innings.

One change is the minimum we will see in Mumbai — Ian Bell is returning to England for the birth of his child. In fact, he's already on his way, having left the ground ahead of the fourth innings to make his way to the airport for an earlier flight. Yes, the match was all but over and he was not needed to bowl any overs, but it was an unfortunate piece of symbolism. And you could take a wild guess as to what the reaction might have been if Kevin Pietersen had departed at the same time for the same reasons.

Donning its selectorial hat, Cowers reckons Bairstow is the logical replacement for Bell, a player who might consider himself unlucky to have been usurped by Samit Patel because Patel balances the side by offering a bit of spin. Judgements cannot be made on Patel the batsman after two rough decisions in this Test, but a judgement can be made on his bowling: it is not good enough at this level. India would have feasted on it even if he had not thrown in a generous selection of gut-high pies.

If Patel's bowling is not up to scratch, that makes a second spinner essential for Mumbai, so Panesar must come in. But at whose expense? If England persist with six batsmen and four bowlers, as they have done throughout the tenure of coach Andy Flower, it must be Tim Bresnan. But Bresnan himself was only playing as cover for Steven Finn, who was recovering from injury. Assuming he's ready to come back in, does that mean that the under-performing Broad needs to make way?

Just as you pencil in those changes, you realise you may have tied yourself in another knot. Your tail of Swann, Finn, Anderson and Panesar is suddenly very, very fragile;  and should you rely on the top six to score highly enough to not need rescuing with the willow by the bowlers, three of those batsmen have a total of eight Test caps between them. How do you balance that out?

Therein lies the dilemma for those selecting the next XI. The line-up in Ahmedabad was ultimately proven wrong, but the game was just about decided once Cook had lost the toss. England could make two, three, maybe even four changes on the back of that match, they could all be the right ones, and England could still lose. There appears to be that large a gulf between the sides in these conditions, just as there was when India sent their touring party over to our shores a year ago as the world's top-rated team, only to receive a 4-0 mauling.

Rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic is a fitting problem for a man whose title is now Captain Cook, but it's a cruel one as he continues to learn the job.

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