Caught in Back of Beyond

Article excerpt

One word kept cropping up in conversations that buzzed around the MCG at high noon yesterday. One word, that is, apart from abysmal, appalling and so on. The word was "back". Back to square one. Back in the old routine. Back to the dark ages. Back where they were when Gooch resigned.

Back to Port of Spain '94, Lord's '94, and everywhere but The Oval '93. Back when he should have been forward. And worst of all, back-to-back Tests.

Something, everybody was saying, must be done. But what? In two days' time, another Test begins. By the standards of modern Australian itineraries, this is not especially cruel. Even so, it should be banned under the Geneva Convention.

Somewhere in the middle of the lengthy, undignified scrum that passes for a post-match press conference, Ian McDonald, the Australian Cricket Board's media manager, shouted out the news that their XII for Sydney was the same as here. Nobody took much notice. Australia's selectors, like the West Indies', understand that if you want consistent performances, you need to make consistent selections.

England, for once, have a settled side, too, but for all the wrong reasons. If this were a home series, the papers would now be calling for heads to roll. And the selectors would see that they were right.

Gooch and Gatting would be put out to pasture. DeFreitas and Rhodes would be the subject of heated discussion.

As it is, it will be more or less as you were. Stewart's injury, and the bizarre decision to summon cover only for the least important of his roles, have left England with only six fit batsmen. …