MICHAEL PEARLMAN SAYS: Time to stand behind captain Cook and coach Flower (but not Piers Morgan)
10:02am Tuesday 7th January 2014 in Sport
ALL good things must come to an end, as proved categorically by England's abject humiliation in the Ashes.
I grew up in probably the biggest era of Australian dominance over England in history, with few things in the UK matching the Test team for regular and habitual defeat, derision and humiliation.
Then along came Duncan Fletcher, consistency of selection, a talented crop of players with more to follow and even, perish the thought, a properly world class spinner.
Much like with the Ryder Cup, another favourite of mine, watching England play Test cricket, like watching Europe, went from being torturous to a constant source of pleasure and pride.
Which is why I'm firmly in the camp of not wielding an axe like a drunk lumberjack in regard to all the calls for English cricket to essentially be dismantled and revised from scratch.
Even in spite of the worst series defeat I've ever seen and possibly the worst sporting defeat for England in the modern era, now is the time for evolution, not devolution.
It's easy to call for sackings, and very British, but coach Andy Flower, batting coach Graham Gooch and especially captain Alastair Cook haven't reached the end of their shelf lives just because of the disastrous tour to top all disastrous tours.
Cook is only 29 and will probably end his Test career as England's greatest and most prolific run scorer in history.
The youngest player to score 8000 Test runs, faster even than Sachin Tendulkar, eight series victories as captain, including an Ashes and a first win in India since the mid-80s and not even 30-years old. Perhaps I imagined England's last Ashes success being as a direct result of Cook's captaincy being superior to Michael Clarke's, especially in use of the DRS.
And where exactly is the natural successor? Stuart Broad is still too spiky and crucial to the England bowling attack and aside from Ian Bell, there simply isn't another candidate.
Similarly, Flower's phenomenal record since becoming coach isn't to be sniffed at, you can't merely forget everything that has gone previously because of an abject disaster.
And from start to finish, this tour has been a disaster, even featuring the nadir of all sporting 'interval entertainment' spectacles with the Piers Morgan debacle.
England's utter failure to cope with the express pace of Mitchell Johnson has been staggering and there is also no fathomable reason why Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris have ripped the England top order to shreds time after time.
England's bowlers haven't been nearly as bad as some would suggest, time and again in this series having Australia in genuine bother at five down, only for Brad Haddin to come to the rescue.
The worst thing of all, is that England have been annihilated by a distinctly average Australia, incomparable to the great side who last won with a whitewash.
Every Test was lost with the bat and England never recovered from Jonathan Trott being forced to leave the tour and Bell, Cook and Kevin Pietersen being woefully below their best.
It was almost farcical to hear pundits such as Jack Bannister trying to lay the blame with Pietersen, as if he should be held to a standard separate to every other player, and opining that England must jettison him.
To what aim? For whose benefit? England without Pietersen is unthinkable. He's more necessary now than ever before because class is permanent and he is one of the most destructive and talented batsman in the world, in this and most other eras.
Indeed, Pietersen might hold the key to England moving forward. With Matt Prior possibly finished as a Test player, Pietersen would be a brave choice to replace him as vice captain.
Pietersen seems to rub nearly everyone up the wrong way in the England hierarchy, but maybe that's no bad thing with soul searching and analysis very much required.
The Ashes have been a slow and painful experience for weeks and it'll live long in the memory for being so humiliating, but we would do well to remember how good things have been for the past decade.
Finally, a word again on the horror show that was Brett Lee bowling at Piers Morgan.
Morgan was once a fearless and talented journalist now seemingly so infatuated with himself that publicity by any means is a bonus.
If that means humiliating himself - with his actions by being useless and cowardly when at the crease despite his rhetoric and with his words by making outrageous comments about mental illness, insinuating Trott had been "cowering away," - so be it.
There is little more nauseating than a journalist making himself the story and despite wearing an official England shirt he has and never will have any business wearing, Morgan insisted he was doing it all "for his country."
But a podgy, rightly frightened middle-aged man being hit four times by a cricket ball that could've killed him didn't really boost morale and Sir Richard Hadlee called it a farce quite rightly.
Some have called Morgan brave, like it was a necessary action, but it was just the idiocy of an ego-maniac being given a grand platform. He had no business being there.
Jonathan Trott is brave. Marcus Trescothick is brave. Piers Morgan is just a TV presenter whose ego is out of control.
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