Wednesday, 6 June 2012

What's gone wrong with Essex... again!

It seems like every season is the same for Essex fans, a squad is assembled that looks good on paper, which proceeds to start well then quickly go downhill for the rest of the season, as promotion stops looking like a possibility early on.

1) Something wrong in the dressing room
I don't have any inside line to the dressing room, but it stands to reason that there's something wrong. There are a lot of big characters in the dressing room, and the fact that so many players leave the club then go on and realise their potential at different clubs - from Chopra, to Middlebrook, Palladino and Wright - points to something poisonous at the club. This is compounded by things such as the spot fixing scandal which must have affected the dressing room, and things like Tsotsobe's belief that it was: "impossible to work in this environment" further illustrate the point. There's got to be something wrong there, and the players who are causing this need to be got rid of.

2) Inconsistency in selection
It's getting ridiculous. Essex started the season well with an innings win over Gloucestershire, mostly propelled by a hundred by Billy Godleman and second innings bowling from Graham Napier, but the Essex management for some reason seemed to think that 5-58 from Napier and a useful 28 wasn't enough to keep his place, with Tim Phillips coming in for the next match. Phillips himself only stayed in the team for one match in which his bowling wasn't used - indeed, despite being picked as a spin option, Tom Westley's part time off-spin was used and he wasn't. There are other examples to use, but I think this is the most blatant example of ridiculous selection. There seems to be no grand plan at all. 

3) No senior opener again
Godleman seems like a useful player, he has five first class hundreds, but there is still no senior experienced opener at the club. Bringing in Petersen was only ever going to be a stop gap solution, and we cannot rely on Cook being at the club ever now he is 50 over captain. So why did Essex pick up a fast bowler and an all-rounder in the winter? Those are positions the club is strong in, yet the openers continue to be picked from a mixture of Godleman, Pettini, Westley and Mickleburgh. All but one of them are young players, and only one of them is a specialist opener, and whichever one of them - hopefully not Mickleburgh - is the long term opening option, they need a senior partner.

4) Pettini up and down the order
Pettini has been one of the most consistent player Essex have had this season, so in many ways it would seem to make sense building the batting line-up around him in a stable position. Instead, Essex have shunted him up and down the order to accommodate star names like Shah and Bopara. Pettini has moved from four, down to six then back up to four, then opened. Stick in a position like number five, and trust him to make the runs there.

5) Foster batting too low
Foster, as the captain, should be able to command a higher place in the batting order, especially as the highest averaging player this season. Instead, he's spent most of the season batting at seven, and eight at times, rather than being the top order player making solid runs, he's the fire-fighter who rescues Essex from 50-5. Foster should bat above the all-rounders, not below them.

6) Owais Shah
There was a reason Middlesex let him go, while he is the most talented of players, he's just not committed and motivated enough to score the runs to justify batting at number three. Something that I think sums up Shah is watching him fielding at Leicestershire last season, on his heels, stopping balls with his feet, it just doesn't seem like he cares enough.

7) Where's Topley gone? Why is Willoughby here?
He started the season so well last year, yet even with nineteen players being used by Essex so far this season, his way has been blocked by the number of fast bowlers Essex have, which makes the signing of Charl Willoughby even more perplexing, you can only play maybe four - and normally three - frontline seamers, so why do we need so many?

8) Who's the number one spinner?
Essex don't seem to know. Phillips and Craddock have shared the spinning duties so far this season, with a mixture of Greg Smith and Tom Westley's occasional off-breaks. Phillips was even picked for a game and not given a single over. Pick one spinner in each format, Craddock for the County Championship and Phillips in the CB40 and T20.

9) Don't know how to win
Essex have been a team who draw a lot so long that they seem to have forgotten how to win. Against Gloucestershire at the beginning of the season they won by an innings without having to think much, but whenever in the last couple of seasons, some quick batting, declarations or any creative ways to secure a result have been needed, Essex have come up short.

This isn't a definitive list, I've barely touched upon the CB40, but there's something seriously wrong with Essex, a team with such talent should not be near the bottom of Division 2 in the County Championship, when  teams like Worcestershire battle above the sum of their parts to secure a place in Division 1.  Despite this, Essex have bowled fairly well - helped by the early season conditions, and hindered by the inconsistent selection. The first innings batting however, is not good enough, only once passing 400, and when there's so little platform, the bowlers are up against it. Big changes are needed, and soon. 

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