Not long after Bangladesh’s Rubel Hossain castled James Anderson and sent England crashing out of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup at Adelaide on Monday, a headline appeared on BBC Sport’s website: “Relive England’s World Cup exit”.
It was a brutal rubbing of salt to the wounded egos of England cricket fans, or for others a gratifying schadenfreude. Or, for someone like Kevin Pietersen, a mixture of both.
— ICC (@ICC) March 9, 2015
The English fans would not have travelled to Australia with an Everest of expectations — not after how their team has fared in one-day cricket in the 12 months prior to the World Cup: 10 wins and 15 losses in 25 matches.
However, with an extremely generous format employed in the group stages of this World Cup, with four out of seven teams from each group qualifying for the quarter-finals, expecting England to at least reach the last-eight stage would not have been asking for the moon.
Instead, the Three Lions were expelled from the tournament after the first round itself for the third time since 1992. That was the last time they had reached the final. Six tournaments and 23 years later, they have never gone past the quarters even once.
— ICC (@ICC) March 9, 2015
“I am extremely disappointed,” said England captain Eoin Morgan, following the exit to Bangladesh. “Within the group there was a lot of belief and expectation to go further than this. I think it’s more a surprise than anything else.”
— ICC (@ICC) March 9, 2015
However, if you followed England for the last six months when they have been playing only limited-overs cricket as preparation for the tournament, it wasn’t such a big surprise.
They sacked their most talismanic player, Kevin Pietersen, without disclosing all the reasons.
They were unable to prevent their most successful coach, Andy Flower, from resigning.
They re-appointed a sacked former coach, Peter Moores.
They kept an unsuccessful captain, Alastair Cook, at the helm for far too long.
They appointed a replacement, Eoin Morgan, just two months prior to the World Cup.
They did not play England’s only centurion in Twenty20 internationals, Alex Hales, until the fifth match of the tournament when it was far too late.
The writing has been in bold red on the wall.
Well done Bangladesh ! England pathetic ! When are we going to pick the selectors to pick a team for the 1 day format ? Time for change !!
— Ian Botham (@BeefyBotham) March 9, 2015
Even so, such a tame exit was probably not predicted by even the most scathing critic of the team. Despite all the hullabaloo behind the scenes, England have got a nucleus of young, sprightly players.
In Hales, Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Gary Balance, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan and Ben Stokes, they had a spirited bunch with a lot of character and bags of potential.
Didn’t expect @ECB_cricket to win the WC… But expected them to reach the quarters at worst and compete in games against the top teams..
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) March 9, 2015
So, where did it all go wrong?
Were they unprepared? Yes and no. Were they lacking in confidence and not in the right frame of mind? Definitely, yes.
They were prepared on paper, having played only ODI cricket in the build-up to the World Cup, but England have been unprepared for limited-overs cricket — the 2010 World Twenty20 win being as good as an aberration — ever since the early nineties.
This was when Australia and South Africa led the charge in the reinvention of limited-overs cricket, with revolutionary batting techniques such as the use of pinch-hitters, slogging and slam-bang, along with an exponential improvement in fielding standards.
The rest of the teams followed suit and created a version of the game that was poles apart from Test cricket.
But not England.
Watching five of England’s top seven batsmen provide catching practice to the Bangladesh wicket-keeper and slip cordon, it was evident that they haven’t evolved their one-day game for the better part of the last 25 years.
England need to revolutionise their one-day game, the roots of which have to be laid in the domestic circuit.
The 50-over Royal London One-Day Cup, which replaced the 40-over tournament that existed since 1969, was only introduced last year. The younger members of England’s squad have hardly played any 50-over cricket, which reflects in the team’s performance.
Calls for having a specialist one-day coach, who would be different from the Test coach, have been made by pundits such as Jonathan Agnew. This would be an extremely radical and risky move, but the new pack of Three Lions need to be managed by someone who understands and has experience playing one-day internationals.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) March 10, 2015
The names of South African Gary Kirsten, who coached India to the 2011 World Cup win, and New Zealander Stephen Fleming, who masterminded two Indian Premier League and as many Champions League T20 title wins for Chennai Super Kings, have been doing the rounds.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) would have to sell their soul and a lot more to prise any one of the duo away from the riches of the IPL, but with the Indian T20 league occupying just two months in the calendar, there’s room for some negotiation.
The ECB needs to think out of the box if it wants to reverse the slide of England’s one-day cricket, even if it means swallowing their pride. Yes, that alludes to the KP conundrum and the embracing of T20 franchise cricket around the world.
With the country hosting the next edition of the World Cup in 2019, English cricket has enough time to plan ahead and spark a renaissance.