Sunday, March 27, 2011

England on the Way Home

So England are on their way home from the Cricket World Cup having finally been put out of their misery by a rampant ten wicket Sri Lankan win. It's been a rollercoaster tournament for the team with more downs than ups unfortunately. Whilst it's tough to be too hard on a team that won an Ashes series downunder for the first time in over twenty years there is little question that the England team and management need to take a hard look at themselves.

There does appear to be something endemic to British support that any form of substantial triumph leads to a sharp and quick decline. All the talk of mental and physical exhaustion simply doesn't wash. It would have probably been a step too far to expect England to have won the World Cup given its' hosting on the sub continent with their particular brand of pitches and given that there is a currently excellent Indian national team unit and no shortage of talent from their vanquishers last night in the form of Sri Lanka.

Having said all that, losses to Ireland and Bangladesh and a hugely sub standard performance against the Netherlands were inexcusable. Every team has the odd poor performance but three poor performances in a row against lesser nations were a sign of a team that had mentally shut down. Given the loyalty of the travelling England support and the generous nature of the central contracts, that is simply wrong.

There is no doubt that touring from Mid November onwards is a grind and a tough schedule. It has been recognised that it less than ideal with the next Ashes series in Australia being moved forward a year so that the cycle no longer contains the two events in the same year. Realistically however, Winter tours happen every year and the World Cup has always been every four years so nothing has really changed which as Al Gore would put it, is an inconvenient truth.

Of the players who played in the Ashes, the one day series that followed and then the World Cup, only Strauss, Bell, Trott, Prior, Pietersen, Swann and Anderson and Collingwood were involved from start to finish. Pietersen went home injured granted , whereas the latter two were simply dropped for loss of form. Anderson will cite fatigue as the reason for his demise but Colly certainly can't as he was never in the middle long enough to work up even a sweat. Stuard Broad unfortunately succumbed to injury at two stages of the long grind. Others such as Bresnan who admittedly came into the Ashes side late showed that strength of mind could ensure strength of body.

When faced with the carrot of chasing a huge total against an Indian team and a partisan crowd, England did not look remotely jaded with Strauss in particular producing a magnificent innings. Against South Africa, the bowling attack did not look jaded either as they superbly defended a sub par total. Jonathan Trott played a fine innings last night yet again whilst others fell around him and he has spent more time in the middle than anyone since the middle of last November. Simply playing well seemingly renders you less tired than the others around you it would appear.

It should be added that prior to his appointment as captain, Strauss was not usually selected for one day cricket. It was presumably on his insistence that he was and he is now citing tiredness due to too much cricket, is it only I finds this ludicrous? Strauss is now also stating that he is unsure whether he will carry on playing one day cricket.

This smacks of gross selfishness. Strauss undoubtedly pushed for his own inclusion on the basis of the captaincy. Now that the World Cup has been blown for another four years he now seems to be of the opinion that maybe he wasn't up to both appointments, it's a shame he couldn't have come to this conclusion earlier.

The administrators must also take much of the blame for this debacle. Had the one day internationals either been held prior to the Ashes series or simply reduced from the utterly pointless number of seven, England could have flown home for a break and to recharge these seemingly lowlife batteries.

The selection of the team also has to be looked at with some degree of scrutiny. There is little doubt that England has a settled test team and is probably coaxing a bit extra out of that team even beyond that. The continued chopping and changing of the one day team however beggars belief. Players such as Bopara or Yardy are simply not good enough for a team with supposed designs on winning the trophy. It doesn't matter how you dress up their role as 'pinch hitter' or an extra spin option who can bat a bit, the team should simply be your best bowlers and batsmen.

England have lacked an opening partner for Strauss all tournament and it is obvious to anyone that spin has played a crucial low in this World Cup which is hardly a shock on the sub continent. I have a feeling that Monty Panesar and Alastair Cook have both been sat at home the past few weeks feeling somewhat less than jaded - no nonsense.