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Time ECB listened to Root, Cook over county pitches not being good enough: Rob Key

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Former England batter Rob Key has urged the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to pay serious attention to Joe Root and Alastair Cook’s views of county pitches not being good enough. Key also raised questions over the quality of cricket in the County Championship, pointing out England’s woes in the Test format in recent years.

England head into the third Test against India at Headingley 0-1 down, with severe doubts over their batters barring skipper Joe Root.

Writing in his column for standard.co.uk, Key opined that the ECB must take a serious look at the way the County Championship is being conducted. He stated:

“It is time the ECB listened to players such as Root and Alastair Cook — the last two world-class batters we have produced — who say that county pitches are not good enough. For too long, Championship cricket has rewarded the trundler, and the wrong type of cricket. The players who thrive are seamers whose age (forties) and bowling speed (sixties) are far too close together. It does not resemble Test cricket in the slightest.”

“…If I had the choice of listening to Root and Cook or some gin-soaked county committee member who has never had to bat on these pitches and worries only about the performance of his team… well, yeah, I know which way I’m heading,” Key added.

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The 42-year-old, who played 15 Tests and five ODIs for England, but scored over 19,000 runs in first-class cricket, also wondered whether playing county cricket is proving detrimental to players’ careers. He pointed out:

“Look at the state of England’s batting line-up. For two years, they have invested in players like Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope, and now none of them are in the side. Only Rory Burns remains, and his position is becoming less certain. Instead, they are turning to players who have not played any Championship cricket, and are finding they shape up better for it. Jonny Bairstow is looking good, so too Moeen Ali and Jos Buttler at Lord’s.”

“I think playing Championship cricket can actually have a detrimental effect. Based purely on County form in recent years, Sibley and Rory Burns are the right opening pair for England. But look what happens when they get to Test level: 37 per cent of their partnerships have not made it beyond the second over. They have shared nine ducks this year. Their techniques get picked apart by bowlers as quickly as they do by pundits. So at the moment I’m not sure it actually matters what format is played in domestic cricket in July, or around the Test matches, because Championship cricket won’t help anyway,” Key went on to add.

Sibley scored 57 runs in the first two Tests against India at an average of 14.25 while Burns managed 67 at an average of 16.75. Both registered ducks in the second innings of the Lord’s Test.

Some poor decisions made regarding county cricket: Rob Key

According to Key, when England reached the No. 1 rankings in Tests a decade ago, county cricket and Test cricket were in sync. The former cricketer feels the case is not the same anymore. Writing in the same column, he reckoned:

“There have been some poor decisions made regarding first-class cricket since. It is possible for the Championship to be strong and for other formats to thrive. It is not one or the other. I fear that the uncertainty this creates means England are going back to the bad old days of picking a team for the next game, with little long-term vision. They seem like a team that listens to everything outside the camp, in the papers or on Twitter.”

“Duncan Fletcher and I did not see eye to eye on everything, but his gut instinct was outstanding and he was stubborn. Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick were his headline selections, but Steve Harmison was far from the finished article when he first picked him, but Fletcher knew a world-class quick lay within. There remains so much talent in the English game. Can Chris Silverwood — now coaching and selecting — be smart and ruthless enough to find it with the county game in its current state? His job depends on it,” Key concluded.

The third Test of the five-match India-England series begins at Headingley on Wednesday. India haven’t lost a Test at the venue since 1967, winning their last two Tests here – 1986 and 2002.


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