England’s pitiful performance at the Cricket World Cup has many critics wondering again how a country which invented the sport could have plummeted so far in elite international competition.
It’s not the first time, obviously, and it’s not the only sport that provokes the question. Even so, England’s early exit, following a 15-run loss to Bangladesh on Monday and with a pool game still to play, sparked a torrent of mockery with an underlying current of serious concern.
There will be fallout: players, coaches and administrators will be blamed. The seeds of the embarrassment — at home, some are even saying it’s the lowest point in English sporting history — were sewn before the tournament had even began.
This should have been the best-prepared England one-day international squad in decades.
The Ashes series in Australia was moved forward by 12 months to ensure England had a full winter of ODI cricket as preparation. The five-match test series didn’t end well, with England swept 5-0 by Australia in January, 2014.
England then had a five-match home series against India in August-September, a seven-match series in Sri Lanka in November-December, and a tri-series against India and Australia in January. Throw in two warm-up games, and England played 19 ODIs in the run-up to the World Cup.
That was supposed to create a settled squad, a style of play, a strategy, some consistency of selection. Instead, it just muddied the waters.
England selectors dropped the captain, Alastair Cook, from the squad two months before the World Cup started and replaced him with Eoin Morgan, another player struggling for runs. The composition of the squad was criticized for lacking variety in its bowling attack, and selectors went with a new-look opening partnership that left out one of its more destructive batsmen in Alex Hales.
Then, for unexplained reasons, England changed its batting lineup for the opening group game against Australia, bringing in Gary Ballance — who was short of game time and is more at home in the test arena — at No. 3 and dropped James Taylor into the middle order.
The result? Hammerings by Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, an unimpressive win over Scotland, and finally the humbling defeat to Bangladesh.
“Eng had the wrong team, the wrong style of play & everyone could see it, tonight’s result not a shock,” Australia great Shane Warne posted on Twitter. Indeed it wasn’t. England lost to Bangladesh, and Ireland, in the 2011 World Cup, when it still reached the quarterfinals before a 10-wicket loss to eventual finalist Sri Lanka.
England’s results at World Cups since reaching the final in 1992 — the last time the tournament was co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand — have been poor. Quarterfinals in 1996. A group-stage exit in 1999 and 2003. Finishing fifth in the Super Eight in 2007, so missing out on the semifinals. And then the last eight in 2011. Since 1996, England has only a 27 percent success rate against full member nations in World Cup matches.
Test cricket is the king in England, and the country just doesn’t seem to take ODIs seriously enough. It is starting to come as no surprise that England struggles at World Cups, with the team’s approach failing to move with the times. Test players are still selected for the ODI team, when selectors should be looking at the type of players who are excelling in the shorter T20 version instead.
“4 years to prepare and we looked like we have been playing cricket from 2007,” England test bowler Chris Tremlett posted on Twitter. “Game moved on and we haven’t.”
England coach Peter Moores and his players have been accused of being obsessed with statistics. They compare their totals to the “par scores” on wickets, instead of living in the moment.
“Moores depends too much on facts and figures and data analysis,” outspoken former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott said. “He is too consumed by the opposition.”
So, what will be English cricket’s response? Andy Flower quit as test coach after the Ashes whitewash last year. Ashley Giles left as England’s Twenty20 coach after the team’s failure in the world T20 championships in April. Will it be Moores’ turn to leave now?
And what of cricket outcast Kevin Pietersen? The England hierarchy dispensed with the controversial batsman in search of better harmony after the Ashes, but Pietersen remains a star and has the X-factor that England needs at the moment.
New ECB chairman Colin Graves appeared to leave the door open for a return for Pietersen in a recent BBC interview, so long as he played English county cricket.
It runs deeper than that, though. English cricket needs to realize that the shorter forms of the game have moved on and pick teams accordingly. Without a new mindset, the national team could continue to cause embarrassment for the home of cricket.
This article was written by Steve Douglas from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.