Ten months on from England’s capitulation at the cricket world cup, we can finally put the team’s abject performance into some kind of perspective. The team didn’t lose because Peter Moores was crap, or because we played an archaic style of cricket, we lost because we were, erm, English.
It’s now more than apparent that English sportsmen and the knockout stages of world cups don’t mix. We just don’t like them very much. As a nation we very much prefer what I call the baseball rule: three misses and out. It’s better for everyone if the England team turn up, embarrass themselves, and then go home. Everyone knows where they stand that way. It’s a comfortable fit.
It has been a thoroughly depressing time for English sport recently. Our football team is crap; our rugby team is even craper; and our cricket team has some big challenges ahead.
However, I actually think the cricket team is in a much better place than the others – mainly because we have competent, proven management team in place. I like Roy Hodgson, and think he’s done a better job than Harry Redknapp would’ve done, but you get the feeling he’s yesterday’s man. His considerable achievements in the game were some time ago now, and although I still find him insightful he’s about as dynamic as a haddock.
I’m a signed up member of the Trevor Bayliss fan club though. He’s a world-class operator who has gilded CV, a bucket-load of worth of experience, and a track record of getting the most out of his players. You could say he’s the ant-Moores or the anti-Lancaster.
With every passing day, Andrew Strauss’ decision to sack Peter Moores before this summer’s test matches looks better and better. He wasn’t fooled by the management speak – the kind of thing that makes Giles Clarke, Paul Downton and Ian bloody Richie (the head of the RFU) go weak at the knees – he looked at things pragmatically.
Strauss didn’t want England to go into the Ashes, the showpiece event on the cricketing calendar, with a lightweight head coach. Strauss didn’t give a monkey’s that Peter Moores was ‘likeable’ – which is apparently Stuart Lancaster’s only credential – he was hard nosed and pragmatic. Strauss only cared about experience and cricketing IQ. He even spurned Jason Gillespie, who seemed to be flavour of the month, because Bayliss’ CV was longer and shinier.
I say ‘bravo’ to Andrew Strauss. I also say ‘boo’ to the suits that appointed Moores last year and preferred Stuart Lancaster, a youth coach who had won just two premiership matches in his entire career, to world cup winners like Jake White.
Is it any coincidence that England won the Ashes because we had a good coach with a sparkling track record? Of course not.
Is it any coincidence that English teams bomb badly, and perform without cohesion, intelligence or composure, when we have poor coaches who are out of their depth? I refer you to my previous answer.
I hope that the top brass of all English sporting bodies are watching and learning. When it comes to the national team don’t gamble on a novice; don’t gamble on someone who has failed in the job beforehand; don’t gamble on someone who tried but struggled in his sport’s top league; don’t gamble on someone with about as much experience of international sport as you or I.
In other words, engage your bloody brains. Don’t mistake patriotic clichés, management speak, and some nebulous concept of ‘culture’ or ‘discipline’, for the ability to think clearly and make sound decisions under pressure.
Talking the talk is one thing. Walking the walk is a completely different matter.