From Botham to Boycott, whether it be the country’s best cricketers or the psyche of the nation, English cricket has always been a stubborn so-and-so.
Steadfast in its belief in how the game should be played; in terms of tactics, technique or temperament, the ‘English way’ has always been considered as the gold standard.
Historically, there is good reason for this. They were the creators of the game itself, and founding fathers of the ODI, T20 and World Cup formats. Cricket history is decorated with their achievements, while they have provided some of the game’s most iconic individuals.
They have always had a major say in the governance of the game, while it wasn’t so long ago that the County circuit was seen as the ultimate finishing school for budding international players.
Have any of the ex-captains slaughtering the English approach to one day cricket on Sky actually said, and yes, I was a small part of this?
— Barney Ronay (@barneyronay) March 9, 2015
That’s not to say English cricket trades on the past in the same way their football team does, but that accumulation of history, most of which has been positive, has created an inflexible psychology that continues to rule at the very top of the national game.
There was a time, fairly recently, where the sort of carefree, loose, aggressive cricket espoused by the likes of New Zealand, Australia and India was demonised as reckless. The IPL and more recently the Big Bash have never been embraced wholeheartedly by the watching public or administration.
A straightforward ‘not for us’ mentality, pouring scorn on the glitz and glamour and castigating it as ‘tacky’ and ‘just not cricket’. There is much to admire about England’s commitment to and passion for Test cricket. It’s troubling to consider what would happen to the format if they rejected it in the same way as, say, the West Indies.
But at the same time, there is something distinctly 20th Century about the England team. Bangladesh have had their troubles but there is a degree of symbolism about yesterday’s defeat to the newest of the 10 Test-playing nations. England are going backwards while the rest of the world moves forward, embracing new concepts, ideas and methods, and not ones that exist on a laptop.
Perhaps the most alarming statistic from yesterday’s humiliation was that at World Cups since 1992, Ireland have won more matches against Full Member nations (5) than England (4). If that doesn’t arouse some need within the ECB to force a change in attitude, nothing will.
All the captains queueing up to criticise Peter Moores and the ECB are also culpable in all of this. They have helped lay the foundations and conventions for this timid, tentative one-day approach England have stuck to for far too long. Woe betide any individual who deviates from the tried and trusted method (mentioning no names with the initials ‘KP’).
Moores may not survive this, or at least the lingering effect will haunt the rest of his tenure, however long that may prove to be. But this is a real chance to move on and try something different.
Start selecting the likes of Alex Hales, Jason Roy and James Vince and give them, as well as the swathes of talented young cricketers the country still produces, freedom to play; don’t try and coach a bowler’s individuality out of him – e.g. Steve Finn – for the sake of a few extra runs saved; and wake up to the fact that the way England play no longer drives the agenda.
If anything, events in Adelaide could be the best thing that’s ever happened to them.
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