It is not just the enormous defeat for the world champion by South Africa that has set cricket jaws wagging in England over the past few days. We have also begun to ask why — if India can lead the way in IPL and Australia can have a Big Bash — we cannot also have a star spangled biff-bang-wallop event too.
There is also, curiously enough, a major debate about the state of Lord’s cricket ground, scene of the third and final Test. In this country it is taken for granted that Lord’s equals cricket perfection but, as it is prepared for Olympic archery, I hear murmurings that the old ground is in turmoil.
A spokesman has said he is “very relaxed” about it being ready for what might be the most important Test but someone who works and has played half a lifetime at the headquarters of cricket says: “As it is at the moment, you have to wonder how they can stage the third Test. The ground is a mess.”
Just like England whose loss by an innings and 12 runs at the Oval was a serious jolt. The side believed it was untouchable and after the first day the players wore a smug look as if it had found South Africa was under-cooked and over-valued. Two days of destruction followed as wickets fell in handfuls on the same pitch that enabled Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis to collect records by the fistful as they added 377.
When England was all out a second time, coach Andy Flower interviewed every member of the side and then slipped quietly off for a five-day family holiday. No doubt his short break was as carefully planned as the rest of his life, but, while he will have spent some time relaxing, he must also be concerned about his stricken heroes.
The plan that seems to have evolved is for either Graham Onions or Steven Finn to be brought in. The batsmen have had most of the blame but it was the tired bowling of Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann that was so worrying. I wonder if both Finn and Onions might get the nod but that will be decided in the next few days when Finn’s county Middlesex meet Onions’ Durham.
Flower finds for the first time that his own job has a worthy rival. South Africa is organised by the man it is easy to forget. Gary Kirsten, who propelled India to the top of the rankings and then took the reins of the country where he was an opening batsman of outstanding quality, even if he, then as now, always hid in the shadows.
He thinks; such men are dangerous as Shakespeare said and whatever Flower has planned for the second Test at Leeds next weekend, Kirsten will have an answer which is why even the most short-sighted of England admirers has the feeling that it will be South Africa which leads the Test pack by the end of this summer.
As for Twenty20, if you can beg, borrow or steal a video of the Yorkshire-Worcestershire quarterfinal, scroll through until you find a combined catch between the promising Yorkshire batsman Joe Root — he looks 12 but in truth he is old enough to vote, fight for his country or keep a Test place — and South African David Miller.
That superb moment alone ought to sell the idea of an international T20 to the authorities, but England, the home of cricket, hesitates. Why? Don’t ask, but, if there is any common sense remaining among our planners, change must come soon.