COUNTY cricket legend Jack Russell has blasted England for playing ‘dumb cricket’ Down Under – but has urged the ECB to stand by Alastair Cook and Andy Flower.
The former Gloucestershire wicketkeeper, who played 54 Tests for England between 1988 and 1996, has watched in horror as the Ashes urn has been surrendered this winter.
The futures of both captain Cook and coach Flower have been called into question as the inquest into the 5-0 whitewash intensifies, but Russell lays the blame for a disastrous tour squarely with the senior players.
He said: “I think this winter has been a wake-up call that’s been coming for about a year and a half.
“Our bowlers have got the batsmen out of jail for far too long, even last summer when we were massively flattered to beat the Aussies 3-0.
“I’ve been trying to work out what’s gone wrong and I can only put it down to people not being mentally prepared, because our decision-making has been dumb.
“Australia have one genuinely fast bowler in Mitchell Johnson and we’ve not shown any brain power against him, hooking and pulling with men out and showing no patience.
“People are having a go at Andy Flower and (batting coach) Graham Gooch but international batters should know when to leave the ball, and the only two I saw leaving Johnson were Michael Carberry and Monty Panesar.
“Where was the longevity in our batting? Kevin Pietersen got 70-odd in Melbourne but came back the next morning and tried to smack the ball out of the park.
“That’s only doing half your job as a top-order player, and you can’t always fight fire with fire by hitting sixes.
“England have got this obsession with being dominant and showing intent, but you have to adapt and we’ve been found out badly.
“Even our bowlers seemed to lose plot, bowling far too short, and I can only think their brains were not in the right place.”
Flower succeeded Peter Moores as England coach in 2009 and has overseen three Ashes series victories, a Twenty20 World Cup win, a 4-0 home series win over India that put England to the top of the world Test rankings and the first away series win in India for 28 years.
The Zimbabwean has vowed to stay on and mastermind a “renewal of English cricket” alongside Cook, and Russell hopes there will be no knee-jerk reactions to this winter’s debacle.
“We’re not in the football game and we don’t need to go down the route of hiring and firing,” said Russell.
“Andy Flower knows what he’s doing and he’s too good a coach to just dispense with after one bad series.
“I felt for Cook because he played all right at times, but some of his field placings were illogical and a few dropped catches affected his confidence.
“He still has a lot to learn but he’s a strong character and I think he’ll emerge from this as a better captain.”
Of greater concern to Russell is his old wicketkeeping berth, with Matt Prior badly out of form and replacement Jonny Bairstow unimpressive as his replacement.
Russell added: “I think the selectors will go back to Prior but he is another one who didn’t adapt his game and I’m not sure he is the long-term solution.”