This Ashes defeat will be the making of Joe Root if he uses the experience in the right way. He has to reflect on the past seven weeks and see it as the moment he learned about captaincy, the characters in his own team and how he wants to take this side forward.
There will be a lot of negative stuff thrown at him and comments about his team. There will be questions about the state of the game in general back home. He has very little say over structural changes but the one thing he can control is his mindset and vision for the team by sitting down and working out what he believes in.
We have not seen Joe Root’s team yet. It takes a year or two and he has only captained 12 Tests. But this tour should be a massive learning curve for him, watching how individuals coped with the pressure, and changes that need to be made to his side.
There is one thing Joe and Trevor Bayliss can take credit for and that is the attitude and energy the team has shown throughout. Four years ago the white towel was thrown in. We have not seen that with this team. Not for one minute while I was commentating did I think they had given up. You generally get factions and fallings out on losing Ashes tours. Not this time. The fact is England were just not good enough. You can talk about concentration and discipline but England just did not have enough good cricketers to win here.
I liked the way Paul Farbrace spoke on Sunday night. He was honest about England’s mental failings and said the planning for four years’ time starts now. The question is, why has there not been enough planning for this tour?
Look at Australia. They rested their quicks for the one-day series in South Africa. They wanted them fit for this series. It worked. Now they are planning for the 2019 Ashes by using the Duke ball in their system here. Steve Smith wants to play county cricket. The Marsh brothers have signed county deals to improve their red ball games in England. They recruited David Saker as bowling coach and he knows our system and pitches. They have a real eye on winning in 2019.
I question the management at the England & Wales Cricket Board. They have taken their eye off the ball. There has been too much focus on white ball cricket to the detriment of the Test game. If the ECB management are honest with themselves will they admit they spent too much time on the new league, negotiating a new television deal and preparing for the 2019 World Cup? All those issues are very important but it meant Test cricket was no longer top of the list.
Last summer England missed an opportunity to give Mason Crane experience of Test cricket in the series against West Indies. Instead he was thrown into an Ashes match with no experience. Not allowing him to play club cricket while this tour was going on was also an oversight. He would have been better off playing club cricket in Sydney than following the team around at the start of the tour when he had no chance of playing. These are just little points but signs England are not that smart at times.
The one thing that concerns me with this team is that James Anderson took 17 wickets at 27 and was streets ahead of all the other bowlers. In four years’ time there will be no Anderson and Stuart Broad. Where are they going to find enough quality bowling to compete? When they pick four seamers at home this summer they have to ensure one is different. It is obvious to select Anderson, Broad, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes. But they are all very similar. I would like to see them pick a fast bowler who is a bit different whether it is George Garton, Josh Tongue or Mark Wood. If they need to leave out a senior bowler to pick a frontline spinner then so be it. It is important to nurture one or two bowlers and start finding some pace. England have around 60 Tests between now and playing in Australia again. It is enough time to find some new bowlers.
As for the structure of the game in England, I have said for a few years we could play a couple of championship matches overseas. I love county cricket. I used to have a bit of a downer on it but I have seen state cricket in Australia, South Africa and India and realised we have a great system and product. But don’t be scared of trying something new. Maybe play two first-class matches overseas in March giving players experience of using the Kookaburra ball on flat pitches. The members still get 12 matches at home. It allows the season to be more spread out, it gives a few more days to work on skills and recuperation. Trying to develop skills is always difficult when Championship games are played in early April, May and September. It could be a commercial success. Supporters might fancy a trip overseas.
I am not a massive fan of the Lions. I did not like it when I played. I thought it was a pampering service. You think you are better than you are. You go overseas, play opposition that is not very good and think you are an England player. I would rather players went away as overseas pros in Australia, if possible, or New Zealand like Ben Stokes did recently. Why do our young spinners not go and play club cricket or state cricket in the sub-continent? These are little tweaks but it is just about thinking a little bit smarter and always looking ahead.