The Gabba, Pat Cummins about to start his 3rd Test in 2021, Joe Root his 13th, leading an England team that were, in the words of Gideon Haigh, over managed and under prepared. It seemed like a reasonable explanation of things when I read it.
Numbers on the cricket played by those appearing for both sides in 2021 are here. Despite white ball priority since 2015 England have continued to play more Test cricket, 96 matches 2015-21 to 73 by both Australia and by India; the Ashes coming at the end of calendar year in which Australia last played a Test v India in January.
So is Test cricket now being played to the point that its followers in England are not switching on, greed at the ECB turning in on itself? Maybe so, the possibility of simply too much a blind spot for those in media centres with a liking for world travel, and for those who complain 18 is too many counties?
In the year of a T20 World Cup both sides had similar amounts of short-form cricket in their players. The Australians played rather more in their domestic 50 over competition in 2021, the Marsh One Day Cup, which might have helped them to an extent, but players meeting commitments to the IPL, were Warner, Smith, Cummins, Hazlewood and Richardson on one side and Malan, Buttler, Stokes Bairstow and Woakes the other. Something similar could be said in relation to the other T20 leagues around the world.
A match-up then between the Sheffield Shield and the County Championship, with the later guilty as charged? One look at what the players do points as much as anything to the fundamental of the playing talent: the generational effects of taking cricket behind a TV paywall and the prominence of London 2012, and a line of ‘South Africans with Scottish grannies’ that had given England’s batting backbone, and brilliance, over the decades drying up. A message from Ashes 2021 to English cricket not to understate its diversity problems.