ENGLAND recently appointed Ed Smith as national selector, but, in reality, they could probably have appointed Delia Smith for all the good it might do.
As Delia herself would no doubt admit, you cannot do much without the right ingredients, and England’s kitchen cupboard looks pretty bare as they seek to turn things around at the Headingley Test.
So much so that after no wins and six defeats in their last eight Tests, and with their batsmen suffering more collapses than the topping on a hundreds and thousands cake, England can no longer be considered to be playing below their potential as they constantly claim.
Rather they are a mediocre side that, on occasions, produces a good or better-than-good performance, more functional waiters than first-rate head chefs.
Indeed, as they attempt to level the two-match series against Pakistan after the embarrassing nine-wicket defeat at Lord’s you half-wonder what was the point in appointing Ed Smith at all.
For no money whatsoever plus the time saved on a job interview I could have worked out that it might have been a good idea to recall Jos Buttler for Lord’s and to drop Mark Stoneman for Headingley, as you no doubt could too.
For, levity aside, this England Test team is what it is.
They simply do not have an abundance of outstanding players and people hammering down the door in county cricket.
I asked one Yorkshire player recently who he felt was putting his hand up for selection around the shires and, after much deliberation, he could offer no suggestion.
This is the reality of our Test cricket today.
Of course, that is not to say that improvements cannot be made.
Clearly, Joe Root could start converting more of his fifties into hundreds, for example.
Alastair Cook could get back to scoring the consistent hundreds of which he is capable.
Others need to start scoring hundreds full stop. Players have not been performing to the capabilities that they do possess.
But England’s failings are as much a failing of the English system as those of the players, or of coach Trevor Bayliss, who admits that he is almost at a loss to know what to do.
This is hardly surprising, for how can we expect to produce a consistently good Test team, or batsmen capable of grinding out big hundreds if the main emphasis is on white-ball and an aggressive brand of cricket?
How can we expect to produce a consistently good Test team when the County Championship – the very pathway to Test level – is slashed and shoved into the margins of the season, to make way for more money-spinning T20 and, from 2020 onwards, the wretched 100-ball competition?
If red-ball does not occupy at least an equal footing to white-ball, what is there for the likes of Ed Smith and his band of boy scouts to go and look at exactly?
They might as well go around the county grounds with a metal detector trying to unearth gold as attempt to unearth young English spinners or young English pace bowlers, neither of which are encouraged by playing Championship cricket on the seamer-friendly surfaces in April, for example.
If red-ball/Test cricket was really the priority, how would our system allow the likes of Liam Plunkett and David Willey to leave Yorkshire one week before the start of the Championship season to go and take part in the Indian Premier League, consequently throwing Yorkshire’s plans into turmoil?
If red-ball/Test cricket was really the priority, why would someone like Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid turn his back on it in pursuit of more white-ball opportunities, one of the great wasted talents of modern times?
If red-ball/Test cricket was really the priority, why would our administrators champion the 100-ball competition as cricket’s answer to the coming of the messiah?
Those administrators should be standing up for the Championship/Test cricket with all of their might as opposed to effectively apologising for the sport as they seek to draw in an apparently mythical audience of mothers and children.
If England lose at Headingley it would hardly be a surprise.
Ditto if they turn in one of those good or better-than-good performances that come along from time to time.
If they win, however, it would solve absolutely nothing.
And, if they lose, it would prove only what is already blindingly obvious.
Even Delia Smith could have told us that.