In philosophy there is a thought experiment, the ship of Theseus, which explores what it means for an object to exist over time.
The crew are ordered to replace decaying parts of the ship until all the original planks are removed and none remain left over from the original entity.
Is it the same ship? It is a paradox that has troubled the world’s sharpest minds for centuries. However, something strange happens when this type of theory is mistakenly applied to sport.
Take the attitude before the Champions Trophy final yesterday afternoon: Pakistan are bottlers, always have been, a fact blindingly obvious considering India held a 13-2 record over them in ICC tournaments.
Before their unravelling at the Oval, that is. Funnily enough, the Pakistan of 2017 is not the same version as the teams that have preceded them. They do not even resemble the confidence-sapped team that lost to their bitter rivalsin the opener.
Ancient history is also being tailored by some to explain away England’s dismal defeat in the semi-final. The tournament favourites’ capitulation at the hands of Pakistan was their 13th knockout defeat in ICC ODI competitions, and they have only ever won six at the knockout stage in their history.
But for all the pointing of fingers at the past it is useless dredging up history time and again. To associates losses from years gone by with a team of the present is one of the most baffling practices in sport punditry. Pakistan laughed in the face of it yesterday, and England may simply ignore them.
That is, unless you think there is something inherently, genetically ‘English’ about England’s one-day tournament failures.
Did Eoin Morgan lose his wicket against Pakistan because he was fretting over Geoffrey Boycott’s pedestrian half-century in the 1979 final defeat to West Indies? Did Ben Stokes try too hard with the ball because Sri Lanka thumped England by 10 wickets in the quarter-final six years ago?
No. The old English ship was mercifully sunk in the aftermath of the 2015 World Cup and was replaced by a young, exciting team that bears no resemblance to the past.
Now it’s full steam ahead to the 2019 World Cup on home soil and, despite a soul-crushing semi-final defeat, it will not take long before the result is consigned to ancient history in their minds.
The Champions Trophy was only ever the stepping stone for this team and to win would have brought about success two years ahead of schedule.
If anything, having been freed from the shackles of the recent past, England showed naivety by failing to adapt on a pitch that proved a home away from home against Pakistan.
It is not as if this team cannot bat on Asian tracks given that they blasted 350, 366 and 321 in India back in January. Instead it was their sluggishness to react to a sluggish pitch, unbelieving that Sophia Gardens could ever turn into Eden Gardens.
But do not expect them to be weighed down by lingering regrets. Their unbeaten group stage was preceded by a series victory over No1 ranked South Africa. They have developed a formula that is a clear success.
Of that semi-final side just two players, Morgan and Liam Plunkett, are over the age of 30 and just three have made more than 60 ODI appearances.
Chris Woakes is set to return and there are a clutch of batsmen in particular – Liam Livingstone crashed 129 for the England Lions earlier this month – to step in if a Jason Roy hits a bump in the road.
More of those bumps will be smoothed out by the time the World Cup returns to English soil yet there is no guarantee, no matter what happens, that this side will take advantage of a second shot.
If they fail again, just don’t dredge up what happened in 2017. It may have been a similar result historically but it happened to a vastly different England.
Roy back in the runs
Instead of letting his confidence sink to whatever is below rock bottom against Pakistan, Jason Roy was enjoying himself back at Surrey on Saturday – and even stole Kumar Sangakkara’s thunder.
The 26-year-old returned to his belligerent best at the top of the order, top scoring with 92 runs from 81 balls as Surrey made a whopping 363 to beat Worcestershire and qualify for the Royal London One-Day Cup Final.
He may not have been facing down Mohammad Amir and co but, as the Pakistanis have proved, confidence is the overriding factor at the elite level.
Roy had been struggling for his county too – scoring just one run in his final List A game before his travails with England – but his self-belief will have returned with interest.
England’s T20 series against South Africa starts on Wednesday and do not be surprised if Roy wakes up from his month-long nightmare in style.