The World Cup: Do We Care?

England will fail at the World Cup in Australia. We may squash some minnows and reach the quarter final, but the lack of imagination in our bowling attack and the inconsistency of our batsman will see us lose to any test playing nation. England have no world class one-day players. In a test match, especially in English conditions, we are a match for any team, but when it comes to scoring runs inventively and bowling dynamically we are below average, as our position of 8th in the one-day rankings shows. Every other team (excluding the minnows) has at least one player that can turn a game on its head. England do not have players like de Villiers, McCullum, Kohli or Johnson. We have players like Finn, Tredwell and Bopara…

AB De Villiers – A new breed of batsman

But why is it that England still fail when it comes to major tournaments and in one-day internationals in general? Can we just blame the ECB like we normally do? Well yes of course we can, but it is not solely down to Giles Clarke and the other space cadets at the top of the pile. England’s failings in one-day cricket stem from the culture in which it is forced to grow and stagnate. Very few English cricket fans prefer one-day cricket to a test match and you could probably count the number of English professionals and ex-professionals who see a World Cup Final (rather than an Ashes test match) as the pinnacle of cricket, on one hand.

Is the problem that no-one really cares? To go to Eden Gardens, the Wankhede Stadium or the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium for the second day of a Test Match would be akin to visiting a graveyard in comparison to the cacophony of noise experienced were you to sit through a limited overs game in the same place. The fanatical support for the shorter formats in the sub-continent means that those cricketing nations consistently produce players that excite and galvanise that support in a cycle that will surely see them dominate one-day cricket for many years to come. The fiercely competitive nature of the Australians, South Africans and New Zealanders means they will always compete, which leaves us English ‘cricketing pioneers’ to fight it out for the wooden spoon with the money grabbing drama queen’s in the West Indies, who can occasionally still rely on one of their ‘power hitters’ to score a ridiculous number of runs on a seemingly impossible time scale.

Young English cricketer’s dream of walking out to the buzz at Lords for a Test Match, and so they should. But to say we should ignore other forms of the game because it is ‘not real cricket’ is ridiculous. Whilst the ECB would never admit to placing more emphasis on the importance of Test cricket to one-day cricket, and England do seem to be preparing for major tournaments in a more comprehensive way, we still seem to have arrived to the party in Australia late and half-dressed. The ECB’s inability to see the importance of allowing centrally contracted players to play in world-renowned T20 tournaments like the IPL and the Big Bash is now coming back to bite us. It is no coincidence that Australia and India are now producing big hitting batsman and accurate, tight bowlers. Either the ECB needs to allow the big players to play in these competitions, or, better yet, promote our own T20 competition properly, setting aside time in the cricketing calendar specifically for it. The 50 over competitions are becoming influenced more and more by the 20 over game, with greater emphasis placed on power-play hitting and death bowling by those teams that recognise the importance of it (seemingly every team apart from England).

Once again the ECB selection has been unimaginative. Whilst there’s been movement in the right direction with the continued faith in Moeen Ali, the inclusion of players like Bopara and the exclusion of Stokes and Sam Billings is nothing short of bizarre. At least we no longer have Alistair Cook to blame for the poor form of the England team. No, we have Eoin Morgan instead. A player bereft of any meaningful contribution to the side in the last year given the added stress of the England captaincy. Cook was stripped of the captaincy as he did not merit a place in the team, so why give it to a player that also does not warrant his inclusion. Root should have been given the burden. He’s assured of his place in both formats, is a great fielder and is evidently thoughtful in his batting.

This is the team I would have chosen to face Australia in the first game:

Ian BellWorld Class Test player, worth having in the one-day team to build an innings around.

Moeen AliWill attack in any situation and could get us off to a flier.

Alex Hales – Top of the World T20 batting charts not long ago. Firepower up front.

Sam Billings – The highest average in the domestic 50 over competition this summer and has a strike rate of over 120, exactly what England need in their middle order. (also a wicketkeeper)

Joe Root – Should be England captain. Wisdom beyond his years, capable of batting quickly and inventively all round the wicket.

James Taylor – A great innings against the Australians in the opening game showed what he is capable of.

Jos Buttler – A good keeper and an explosive batsman.

Ben StokesA quick bowler who put the England selectors to shame with his blockbuster performances in the Big Bash IN Australia.

Stuart Broad – Fiercely competitive and has the ability to change a game on its head.

Tymal MillsHe’s quick, very quick. Very important in Australia.

James AndersonThe best swing bowler in the world, could conceivably take apart the top order of any team.

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Tymal Mills – Can bowl at 94mph

This team would not win the World Cup but provides a balance between youth and experience, with exciting players capable of the extraordinary. To give future England teams the chance to win a major one-day competition we have to allow young English talent the opportunity to fight on an international stage, to be scrutinised by the press and browbeaten by the crowds down under, at a point when they are not truly expected to perform at a consistent level. Players like Billings and Mills have proved their worth in first class cricket and so should be blooded in the England team now, to gain experience for future tournaments in which we might stand a realistic chance of doing something that will spark the interest of your average dispassionate English cricket fan.

I suppose the real question is are we no good at one-day cricket because we don’t care about it or do we not care about one-day cricket because we are no good at it? I would suggest that an upturn in the success of any one-day England cricket team would lead to a sudden increase in the interest of your average fickle cricket fan. But don’t expect that to happen anytime soon…