Rob Key’s greatest strength during his seven years in the commentary box could yet provide our game with a missing ingredient: straight-talking, unvarnished common sense.

Some will bemoan his lack of managerial experience, and they have a point. But decisions in English cricket are so often made on the basis of what someone can’t do rather than what they can, so it is refreshing to see the ECB back a figure who will not shirk the big calls.

Over the last couple of years, England’s Test team have ground to a halt, partly under the weight of their own self-analysis — a tendency that reached its nadir in the omission of Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson from the recent tour of the Caribbean, where victory might have prolonged Joe Root’s captaincy.

If Key’s observations as a Sky pundit are anything to go by, he will understand a simple and obvious truth: pick your best available team for every game, and you improve your chances of winning Tests and series. We may have seen the end of over-elaborate rest and rotation.

He has already demonstrated one important skill: despite pronouncing on the players from the media centre, he remains popular with them. They respect his views and his integrity — as well as his closeness to the modern game. Ben Stokes will have no problem operating as Root’s replacement under Key.

Key will also appreciate that, once a new captain and head coaches — one for the Test team, one for the white-ball sides — are in place, and the selection process has been simplified, the future may well take care of itself.

For too long, English cricket has over-complicated the present in search of the promised land. Key will operate in the here and now, and keep it simple. After a shambolic period for the Test team, it’s a philosophy that has to be worth a try.


Note: This article is written by Lawrence Booth and has been published at Daily Mail UK

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