Tuesday, October 2, 2012

England Not Upto The Task

England surrendered their T20 crown last night, going out to the hosts with the merest of whimpers as they were well beaten by a talented and hard working Sri Lankan side.

For what seems the longest time now, England have had an obsession with changing their personnel hugely for different formats of the game seemingly forgetting that the basics of cricket, i.e. scoring runs and taking wickets remain paramount.

During England's horrible home performance at the 1999 World Cup, Sir Ian Botham lamented the introduction of so many 'bits and pieces' players who would not get into the side on the strength of either their batting or bowling yet were picked because they could do a bit of both, just not very well.

Since then, England have also developed an obsession with finding 'pinch hitters' and as of yet have still not figured out that when picking wicket keepers to open the batting in shorter formats, not one of those players is Adam Gilchrist.

Despite not being Adam Gilchrist however, it seems bizarre in the extreme that one of the most destructive test batsmen in the world right now, Matthew Prior is deemed not good enough to club a few overs for an England team hardly flush with established batsmen. Ian Bell is considered good enough to open the batting in ODIs for England yet isn't good enough to even get in the T20 squad, it beggars belief.

Looking at the England team last night, it had all the appearances of a development squad, hopelessly out of their depth against a first class International team. It is also time to stop the pretence that Ravi Bopara is an International cricketer, he has neither the technique nor the mental strength. Eoin Morgan also failed badly again last night when the team needed him.

England's sub continent travails against spin have been well documented and the irony is that in protecting the integrity of the England team by keeping their players from the IPL, England are going backwards (in all formats) against spin bowling and sub continent conditions where it appears more and more cricket is going to be played.

Whether anyone likes it or not, T20 cricket is here to stay and players are adapting and changing their skills accordingly through the IPL. Spin wasn't even the main culprit last night, more a devastating first over from Malinga that England simply couldn't cope with. Malinga's bowling in the T20 format is phenomenal and England had simply no idea how to deal with his clever use of cutters, length and changes of pace.

Stuart Broad is a fine player but it is questionable whether he is the right choice for captain given his propensity for hot headedness. T20 is a format that is often highly charged with fine margins, it is a cool head that is required and a batsman directing the bowlers at the end might serve England better. Unfortunately all the experienced batsmen were in TV studios or watching on TV at home.

This has been a year to forget for England across the board and with a daunting series in India to come followed by an energy sapping trip to New Zealand, all is not well in the England camp ahead of the Ashes. Maybe a certain Kevin Pietersen will be welcomed back more readily than anyone may have thought - No Nonsense.