Ashes: Graham Thorpe gives stark assessment of ‘wake-up call’ handed to England batters in need of ‘education’

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  • Graham Thorpe
    Cricket player of England. (born 1969)
Rory Burns with England batting coach Graham Thorpe (Getty Images)
Rory Burns with England batting coach Graham Thorpe (Getty Images)

Graham Thorpe believes England’s callow batting lineup have received a “wake-up call” and an “education” in Australia over the rigours of Test cricket, which he believes is “10 times harder” than the county game that produced their faltering techniques.

England lost the Ashes in 12 days and their batters, Joe Root aside, have ended a dismal year with a desperate tour of Australia. None of their first six innings have reached 300, and the most recent, the second innings in Melbourne, saw them bowled out for 68 - their lowest total in Australia since 1904.

Thorpe, the batting coach who played 100 Tests for England until 2005, will stand in for the isolating England head coach Chris Silverwood in Sydney this week.

He has not spared his under-performing batters – including sending a warning to dropped open Rory Burns that a recall will only come when “little adjustments” have been made to his unorthodox method.

Thorpe, who averaged 48 in Australia and coached with New South Wales, does not believe the batters have followed the simple blueprint he put in place for the tour, which he described as: “leave the ball well, defend straight, cut and pull really well up or down”.

“We are trying to still educate some of the younger guys into the rhythm of Test match batting, playing situations in the game, doing it for long periods of time,” he said. “Some of them haven’t been able to do it yet.

“Some of our young players are getting an education and if they didn’t know before, they understand how tough Test cricket is. Not just on the field, but off it.

“With some players it’s a wake-up call and could actually kickstart their careers because they’ve started training a very, very different way. They actually really start to train smart, they don’t waste time fluffing , hitting half-volleys.

“I don’t mean that in a bad way but they actually deal with the nitty gritty side of international cricket; playing high-quality spin, high-quality pace bowling, learning how to put pressure back on, and learning situations.”

Thorpe believes that county cricket is not preparing players for the top level.

“Confidence gets hit when you don’t perform, and we haven’t got enough runs on the board,” he said. “Collectively, we’ve not performed the way we want to. We can throw excuses around as much as we want. It would have been lovely to have had state matches, or for the weather to have been ideal.

“You put this in context: do England come here and win series consistently in Australia? No we don’t. So everything has to be quite well aligned for us to do well and to compete and really be in the game.

“They’re trying to learn it in county cricket, but the truth is when they come out of county cricket, they have to learn it again, because Test cricket is 10 times harder.

“We are trying to still educate some of the younger guys into the rhythm of Test match batting, playing situations in the game, doing it for long periods of time. Some of them haven’t been able to do it yet.

“They have done some good things in Test cricket, then been bumped with playing three of the best teams in the world – India, New Zealand, Australia – in their home environments.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

On Burns, who was bowled behind the legs by Mitchell Starc off the first ball of the series and dropped after the Adelaide Test, Thorpe was straightforward. The pair shared lengthy conversations and net sessions around the Melbourne Test, and Thorpe was clear that, aged 31 and having played 31 Tests, Burns must improve on his average of 31 by adjusting his technique.

It appears unlikely that he will get another shot in this series, assuming it follows its natural course.

“Like any player they get to a point and I said you’ve played 30 Test matches and you average 30,” he said. “So we want you to be doing more, to be better than that as a player. So we’ve had discussions with him – does he need a major overhaul of his technique or just to tinker with things?

“He needs to do the simple things better. So can he calm things down with his movements and everything? We’ve been talking him through that. It’s tough in competition. Everyone says do you work with them? Yes you do, but you can’t pick away at people’s brains too much walking into Test matches. Sometimes they have to come out and then you can reset a little bit.

Burns has a good fighting character - but at the same time you need technique and temperament.

“When players get a little bit of success they then think my way is the right way. And there’s a balance to it. You can see certain things. I said to him, ‘The best bowlers in the world are going to analyse your technique and the right-hand column is going to tell you whether you’re getting it right or not’.

“Now we’ve seen he’s got a good fighting character, so I know that. But at the same time you need a technique and temperament at the highest level.”

Asked if Burns had a future at Test level, Thorpe said: “I think he can come back again and play for England definitely but he’s very clear those little adjustments are going to help him to stay at the crease longer.”

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