'No improvement': Legend's huge England swipe amid Ashes debacle

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On the left is England legend Mike Atherton alongside current coach Chris Silverwood.
Mike Atherton (L) says England have entrusted too much power with coach Chris Silverwood. Pic: Getty

Cricket great Mike Atherton has questioned the role of England coach Chris Silverwood in a brutal critique of his nation's current Ashes woes.

Silverwood - as sole selector for all three formats of English cricket - has perhaps unsurprisingly come under heavy scrutiny as a result of his side's two heavy defeats in the first two Tests of the Ashes series.

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His decision to leave out veteran stars Stuart Broad and James Anderson for the first Test at the Gabba was widely panned, with spinner Jack Leach copping a hiding from Australia's batters.

Broad and Anderson were then brought in for the second Test in Adelaide, with Leach and express paceman Mark Wood making way in another contentious call.

But that move backfired spectacularly when the Adelaide pitch spun more than it seamed and swung, with England forced to make the embarrassing move of having Ollie Robinson switch from bowling pace to off-spin on the fourth day.

Silverwood has also come under fire for the standard of England's batting and fielding - two areas that former England captain Atherton says are a major concern for the tourists.

Atherton says by moving away from a selection panel made up of more than just one man, England have entrusted too much power in the hands of Silverwood, and it's simply not working.

“England have invested a lot of authority in one man,” Atherton wrote for The Times.

“Chris Silverwood has been given more power than any other England coach, taking account of his responsibilities across all three formats and for the selection as well as coaching of those teams.

“It is, when you think about it, a remarkable concentration of power, one that is increasingly hard to see as justifiable.”

Atherton says that while England - who are current one-day international World Cup holders - may be formidable in the shorter formats of the game, it has come at the expense of their standing in Test cricket.

“Under Silverwood, England have won one of their past 11 Tests, a run that began its downward trend in India, when the Test team was weakened at the altar of T20,” Atherton wrote.

“It continued through the summer, when the players involved with the Indian Premier League were indulged and allowed to miss the New Zealand series, through to the series with India, also lost, and the Ashes, which are one match away from being out of reach for another two years.”

Pictured here, England coach Chris Silverwood looks on during the first Ashes Test at the Gabba.
Chris Silverwood looks on during the first Test at the Gabba. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

England great fails to see improvement in team

England's fielding so far in the Ashes series has left a lot to be desired and the batting hasn't been much better, with Joe Root the only Englishman to average more than the high-30s at Test level.

“Throughout that time, it has been hard to discern any improvement in the team’s capacity to play good cricket,” Atherton wrote.

“The batting has continued to underwhelm, with Joe Root carrying an intolerable burden as the best player in the team.

“Not even the inherent advantages of the Dukes ball and English conditions helped camouflage the standard of batting or catching in the summer, both of which have continued to be highlighted as glaring weaknesses at the start of the Ashes.”

Despite the overwhelming criticism of his team and selection decisions, however, Silverwood insisted that he wouldn't have done anything different over the first two Tests, if he had his time again.

Pictured left is England captain Joe Root alongside coach Chris Silverwood.
England captain Joe Root (L) and England coach Chris Silverwood (R) have plenty to figure out after losing the first two Tests in the Ashes series. Pic: Getty

“There is always going to be divided opinion,” Silverwood told BBC Sport.

“You pick a team and not everybody’s going to agree with you.”

Asked if the would pick the same teams again, he said: “To be honest, I would.”

“I was happy with the skillset we had in the pink-ball Test, so I would pick the same team again.”

Curiously, Silverwood's assertion was at odds with England's bowling coach Jon Lewis, who admitted that leaving a spinner out of the Adelaide Test was a mistake.

"We felt the ball would move around under the lights a little bit more than it has," Lewis admitted.

"In hindsight, you might say we should have picked a different side."

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