England’s Cricket World Cup: Muddled Thinking

The Cricket World Cup is well underway and the action so far has been highly entertaining. One exception is England who have been a major disappointment in their first three games. The management and coaches seem stuck in the the 1990’s with their team selections and tactics, which is frustrating all English fans.

This has been going on for a few years: the selectors stubbornly pick non-One Day specialists like Jonathan Trott and Alistair Cook. Trott certainly scored his fair share of runs in the One Day side, but often at a painfully slow rate meaning England scored too slowly. More recently of course there was the farce that saw Alistair Cook stripped of ODI captaincy at the last moment when it really should have happened a year ago.

England have had five solid months of preparation for the World Cup playing nothing but One Day cricket. The tour of Sri Lanka at the end of last year was a shambles, with Cook playing as if it were a test match which meant the rest of the batting order had to try to compensate for him. The pressure was bound to tell and with the odd exception it just didn’t work. Added to that, Cook’s muddled thinking with regards to bowling changes and field placement meant that England never had a chance.

The selectors picked their squad without Cook with Eoin Morgan taking over as captain. In their wisdom they chose to leave out One Day specialists such as Luke Wright, who then went on to have highly successful campaigns in the Big Bash tournament in Australia.

The tri-series with Australia and India saw England scrape through to the final, courtesy of India who were badly out of form. Predictably, Australia easily won the final, with England offering no threat at all. A pattern was beginning to emerge with England as they constantly took early wickets, only to let their opponents off the hook. As for the batting, England seem to suffer mid-order collapses time after time so much so that it must have affected the confidence of the side.

In the build up to the World Cup, captain Eoin Morgan stated: “we’re here to win the cup!” All very laudable but no English fan believed they had a chance, especially with their strong group featuring the two hosts Australia and New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Everybody knew the team aren’t strong enough and the tactics are badly out of touch with the modern One Day game. A win against an off-colour West Indies and defeat against Pakistan in the warm up games hardly raised confidence in the team.

Australia were the first opponents and curiously England totally changed the side that was fairly settled. Out went all-rounder Bopara for Gary Ballance who had barely played for five months. Added to that, James Taylor was looking solid at number three but mysteriously he was moved down to six. James Tredwell is by far England’s best spinner and so far he has been ignored.

Predictably, Australia won easily although that wasn’t unexpected. Next up were the other co-hosts New Zealand, who themselves are tipped as possible World Cup winners. It was a complete embarrassment for England as the batting collapsed totally with eight wickets going down mainly to Tim Southee who took seven of them. England folded pathetically and set the Kiwis just 124 to win.

Enter Brendon McCullum who proceeded to play an incredible innings with a 25-ball 77.Wherever England bowled he hit the ball out of the ground in a vicious display of hitting seldom seen in any World Cup. It took just twelve overs to humiliate England totally and one can only imagine how it affected the players.

Of course England beat Scotland, as they should do, but even in that game the batting wobbled and England were thankful for Moeen Ali’s century. The problem is England didn’t learn a thing from the first two games and stubbornly stuck to the same eleven, which is puzzling to say the least.

Coach Peter Moores is way out of his depth in international cricket. He seems to pick teams purely on stats alone which can only spell disaster. When the TV cameras focus on him he is always on his laptop studying heaven knows what which is in stark contrast to the “up and at ’em” attitude of Aussie coach Darren Lehman. Moores has failed in the job once before and it has to be hoped the new man at the top of the ECB removes him and employs a top quality coach.

Finally, Alex Hales has to come in to the side in place of Ballance. Hales has the capacity to play a McCullum-like innings, which is exactly what England need. Taylor has to move back up to three and Tredwell has to play at the expense of either Finn or Broad. With those changes England may just have a side that can win games with that team selection and a more attacking outlook.

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