PAUL NEWMAN: No one begrudges England players a drink at the end of a long, difficult Ashes tour… but could they not find better company than Nathan Lyon?
- Players boozing until 6am was the one thing missing from a dismal Ashes
- The worst thing is assistant coach Graham Thorpe took the damning pictures
- Incident makes a mockery of Chris Silverwood’s aim to be ‘fitter and sharper’
- The next coach of England will be a disciplinarian and quite right, too
We should have known this Ashes tour would all end with England supping in the last-chance saloon.
The sight of players staggering off into the night, or just before breakfast this time at Hobart’s Crowne Plaza Hotel with police hovering all around them, has been just about the only embarrassment missing before now from the worst of all Ashes tours.
The only difference with this drinking controversy from the many to have blighted English cricket over the years — and we have seen a few — is that one of their own coaches took the pictures that brought their shame into the public domain.
News of England players boozing with Australia was the one thing missing from a dismal Ashes
Astonishing footage captured the moment Australia and England’s cricket stars were kicked out of a rooftop bar by police (pic left: Nathan Lyon, pic right: Joe Root)
The ‘mortified’ captain, Joe Root, and senior bowler Jimmy Anderson, who always seems to be there when drinking stories emerge, can’t even blame it on an opportunistic member of the public.
Only on the assistant coach, Graham Thorpe, who looks sure to be the first out of what will become a fast-revolving England exit door.
Let us make one thing clear. No one begrudges the players a drink at the end of a long, difficult tour, particularly one that has seen them facing the full force of Australia’s draconian methods in dealing with Covid.
It is just their choice of Nathan Lyon as one of their drinking buddies that can be held against them. Could they not find better company than him? That, together with the sight of old foes Jonny Bairstow and David Warner in a warm embrace when the players shook hands at the end of the last Test, really is evidence of an unusually friendly Ashes.
But the sight of the video taken by Thorpe somehow finding its way to the Sydney Morning Herald was indicative of the sorry mess.
Sportsmail on Tuesday revealed concerns over the drinking during this trip. Together with questions over the fitness of players epitomised by bowling coach Jon Lewis’ public criticism of Ollie Robinson and the refusal of one player to undergo a skin folds test — accusing management of fat-shaming him — it makes a mockery of Chris Silverwood’s pre-tour aim to be ‘leaner, fitter and sharper’ in Australia.
The only question is whether most of that drinking has been done by players or coaches and the fact they are all pointing fingers at each other is further evidence that life under Silverwood and Root has become far too soft and indisciplined for comfort. It has been rumoured that Thorpe is heading to Middlesex to become head coach after the Ashes but his hopes of jumping before he was pushed by England have been jeopardised by this sorry saga.
Thorpe is a good man who was one of England’s best, most nuggety batters during the dark days of the Nineties — days that we never thought would be eclipsed in the central- contract era.
He also has a welcome, balanced perspective on life and cricket formed by the acrimonious break-up of his first marriage and will probably shrug and view this as a storm in a teacup. Or, in these circumstances, a storm in a glass of rum and coke.
But clearly it is going to cost him his job, if it was not already on the line. Sadly, that is inevitable but it should not be taken as a given that the players’ apparent mutterings about Thorpe’s methods and means of communication — Ollie Pope even considered asking his Surrey coach, Vikram Solanki, for help during this tour rather than the England coaches — should be held against him.
It was the players’ apparent unwillingness to accept the stricter ways of Mark Ramprakash that cost him his job as batting coach two years ago and they have clearly stuck two fingers up at Silverwood by not showing the required discipline on this trip.
Graham Thorpe (left) filmed the leaked footage of players getting thrown out of a bar
Rules had been relaxed regarding alcohol ahead of the tour given the Covid restrictions
Yes, Silverwood has to go and Thorpe will now go with him but the players also need to have a long, hard look at themselves before their Test recovery can begin. One thing is for certain. The next coach of England will be a disciplinarian and quite right, too. How they need the firm hand provided by their best two coaches in Duncan Fletcher and Andy Flower.
And a stronger captain than Root. There must be someone who could do the job, surely? Even if it means going back to a Mike Brearley or even Chris Cowdrey-type figure.
How players need a reminder of the responsibilities that should come automatically with playing for England in what’s meant to be the most professional of eras.
Nasser Hussain was right. Ricky Ponting would sort them out. He would be the perfect next England coach.
The ECB should at least tempt him by making him an offer he might find hard to refuse. England really do need the most almighty shake-up.