This has to be rock bottom. They cannot go any lower. This has to be the moment England draw a line in the sand and really mean it when they say they will prioritise Test cricket.
And that means doing much, much more than having the audacity to call for a red-ball reset, as Tom Harrison did last week, while trousering a big fat bonus for undermining Test cricket by creating an unnecessary and unwanted new format in the Hundred.
It has been done before. As Alastair Cook said on BT after what is surely the worst of all away Ashes debacles, England knew they could not sink any lower when they were demolished for 51 by West Indies in Jamaica in 2009. They vowed to put things right and two years later were crowned the best Test team in the world.
England’s shambolic collapse to a 4-0 Ashes series defeat leaves Joe Root’s captaincy at risk
Go back further and Nasser Hussain and Duncan Fletcher came together in 1999 with England ranked the worst of the lot and began the recovery that was to culminate with the fabled 2005 Ashes victory under Fletcher and Michael Vaughan.
How England could do with a captain like Hussain now to drag them off the floor with his force of personality. And how they could do with a coach like Fletcher with a steely vision of where they need to go and the technical acumen and drive to take them there.
It is all very well blaming the system and clearly a domestic game that has been far too in thrall to the white ball is the fundamental reason for England’s shocking demise in Australia.
There is zero trust in a rudderless ECB led by a dead chief executive walking in Harrison and without a chairman at all.
Australia finished England off in the fifth and final test with an easy 146-run win at Hobart
The board have been asleep at the wheel while England are facing up to a year when they will play more international cricket than ever before with their players in the mood to rebel against any further Covid bubbles and restrictions.
But a broken system does not excuse those who have been responsible for this Ashes being even worse than the nadirs of 2006-07 which was to cost Fletcher his job, and that of 2013-14 that was to do for another coach of real substance in Andy Flower.
That means, for all his desire to carry on and the lack of viable alternatives, Joe Root’s captaincy race is run, Chris Silverwood has to pay the price for being given too much responsibility for coaching and selection and Ashley Giles must go for giving Silverwood that hospital pass in the first place.
Root cannot survive simply because there is no one else. He has overseen three Ashes without success after admitting before this series that his legacy would be judged by this one.
And if anything he is getting worse tactically. He needs to go back to the ranks and concentrate on restoring the very high batting levels misplaced during this series.
The one outstanding candidate to replace Root is Ben Stokes. For all the reservations many, including this observer, have about overloading such an important player, Stokes could do the job with one important proviso — he would have to give up Twenty20 cricket, the one format where he has never fulfilled his potential.
Chris Silverwood surely must be forced out after failing to perform with selection duties
Ashley Giles was the man whole handed those responsibilities to Silverwood, and must go
That includes the IPL. If England’s top players are serious about rescuing Test cricket, they must give up a franchise tournament that in itself undermines our first-class cricket by taking players away from the red-ball game at the start of each season.
There should be a new coach in place by the time England play their next Test in Antigua in March too. It might not have gone down well within the team when Gary Kirsten made such an obvious play for the job while Silverwood was still in situ, but the South African disciple of Fletcher is the obvious man for the Test job.
And Paul Collingwood can take charge of a white-ball machine that shows no signs of malfunctioning under captain Eoin Morgan.
It was Andrew Strauss who put the white-ball reset in motion after an embarrassing 2015 World Cup before leaving his post of team director to prioritise his family after the death of his wife Ruth.
That move led to the huge success of the 2019 World Cup but it has gone too far now and Strauss, who has made a part-time return to administration as chair of the ECB cricket committee, is the best person to redress the balance. He should return to his old job at Giles’ expense or even replace Harrison and run the whole thing.
England are missing the leadership of a character like Nasser Hussain to lead them into Tests
And Strauss could work with a new ECB chair in Surrey chairman Richard Thompson, a man with the expertise, dynamism, love of cricket and business acumen to lead the governing body in their moment of greatest need. He has the support of the counties too after his success at the helm of the biggest county of them all.
Root articulated what has to happen in the short term to ignite that red-ball reset while at his lowest ebb in the aftermath of the pitiful Hobart batting collapse and a three-day last Test defeat.
‘What incentives are there in the County Championship to open the batting?’ he asked. ‘What incentives are there to be a spinner or to bowl fast? Anyone coming into Test cricket is doing it in spite of county cricket, not because of it.
‘How do we provide those incentives? We could produce better wickets, hopefully by playing at a better time of year. We could flatten the seam on the ball, maybe by giving our seamers a Kookaburra to work with.
‘That would nullify running in and bowling at 70 miles per hour while encouraging bowlers to create new angles and find different ways to take wickets. And give spinners the chance to bowl in the first half of the season.
Joe Root understands the needs for changes but it looks like he won’t be the one making them
‘Then we could double the batting points in a Championship game and incentivise first innings leads above 400. When do our young batters ever go out under the pressure of replying to 450-500? When do they have to save a match in spinning conditions?
‘There are lots of things we could change quite quickly but for now it’s how we react to this Ashes. Can we use this experience when we’re hurting to grow and come back as better players?’
They are all valid points and questions. But they are ones for Root’s successor to address. Along with a new coach, team director and ECB hierarchy.
This really does have to be the time for action. This has to be when England really do rip everything up and start again.