Don Topley: Why England failed in the Ashes, the favourite for the top job and farewell to three legends
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In his latest cricket column, Don Topley reveals his reasons why England lost the Ashes, suggests who will be their new head coach and bids farewell to three icons of the game..
As the final Ashes Test is being played out at The Oval, it is a sign that the cricket season is on the final straight.
There are just two rounds of County Championship matches left with the Vitality t20 Blast Finals sandwiched between them. So, at this time of the season we always have to say some goodbyes.
Trevor Bayliss, England's Australian Head Coach, who was hired by Sir Andrew Strauss four years ago, has done an excellent job. Together with Eoin Morgan, he has taken a poor England white ball side and become World Cup winners in the 50 Over World Cup. He changed the thinking behind the white ball game, be it 50 over or t20.
Bayliss has given all the modern England players confidence and freedom to express themselves on the park. I really feel England will miss him and his quiet manner working behind the scenes. He was never one to take the limelight, but always fronted up to the media after a bad day.
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My own son, Reece, has played under him and been on England tours with him. Reece has always been impressed and enthused by Bayliss. Reece told me: "Trevor didn't talk too much really, but when he did, it was very poignant."
He added: "He was always calm which is terrific for a coach - you would look at him and you could never tell the state of the game. He really is a great coach."
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England are still searching for his replacement. There have been rumours of Mickey Arthur, who has coached South Africa, Australia, and most recently Pakistan.
Others include Ottis Gibson, who was once England's bowling coach and who has also experienced South Africa as their supremo.
Gary Kirsten showed some interest but has now become one of 'The Hundred' coaches. The current England assistants, Chris Silverwood, Graham Thorpe and Paul Collingwood are all interested and should be, but the favourite I am hearing is Surrey's Director of Cricket, Alec Stewart.
England have a hugely challenging and busy winter with full tours to New Zealand (October-December: Two Tests & five t20s), South Africa (December-February: Four Tests, three ODIs & three t20s) and Sri Lanka (March-April: Two Tests & three t20s).
Our better international players will then have an opportunity to play a full part in the Indian Premier League in April and May, before commencing an incredibly hectic 2020 English season.
The West Indies and Pakistan come to the UK on tour for six Test Matches. Australia return for an important mid-season white ball series, together with more white ball with Pakistan and Ireland. Ireland close the international season in mid September 2020.
England's players will probably not be seen in the domestic game except for the occasional game of new 'The Hundred' competition.
I have been very critical of international cricket being overly busy. There will be burn-out. These athletes are playing close to 12 months a year and its draining, especially for bowlers. Batsmen, when in form, are happy to play everyday. Clearly, when out of form, it then preys on their mind.
Which brings me back to the Ashes. Congratulations Australia, you deserved to retain and were by far the better team. People have suggested the difference between the two sides is just Steve Smith. Absolute rubbish!
Their seam bowling unit, including their reserves, are significantly better than ours and probably, their spin bowler too. Whilst England planned expertly to win the World Cup for the last four years, Australia - whilst getting to the World Cup semi-final - have planned and prepared to win the greatest and most historic battle in cricket, something they have not won here for 18 years. They stopped some of their bowlers taking part in the IPL, even protected their bowlers in their own domestic Australian season.
Meanwhile our England players only had last December off - away from cricket - touring Sri Lanka and the Caribbean before taking part in the 2019 IPL. This was followed then by the highest-profile international summer with the World Cup and then The Ashes, just three weeks later - there is a consequence to all of this.
Not only burn-out but the lack of preparation for The Ashes. Modern cricket is loaded in favour of the white ball, but the world over is struggling for the old fashioned traditional batsmen: Michael Atherton, Sir Alastair Cook or Sir Geoffrey Boycott - men whose art was to bat beligerently all day, a skill slowly being lost today.
Young cricketers are excited to be a glamorous batsman, ramping, hooking and reverse-lapping. Playing the leave and shouldering arms, is not fashionable in modern cricket sadly.
As much as there are the physical and technical issues, it is firstly played and negotiated in the mind. It really starts with mental preparation, being patient, disciplined, brave and with incredible concentration for five hours or more.
Whilst we bid thanks to Trevor Bayliss, we also bid farewell to two cricket icons: David Gower and Ian Botham. These two giants of the game have been fronting English cricket since 1978.
I can remember both making their way in international cricket whilst I was still at school. Both were my heroes: Gower, the young blonde profilic batsman, easy on the eye and just sheer class - he made everything look so easy.
Botham - slightly different in character - made his England debut a year earlier and had a profound effect on the game.
Upon retirement both left the dressing room and moved down the corridor to the cricket commentary box. Sky Sports Cricket has been extremely lucky to have these two personable, knowledgeable and charismatic presenters and analysts.
The viewer has been given an in depth insight into all aspects of the game, both on and off the field - they had fun too and that's how they both played the game.
Annually, the historic Oval Cricket Ground has witnessed many goodbyes and now it's the turn of David Gower, Ian Botham and Trevor Bayliss - I'll be sad!