Yes, I know. England won’t win the World Cup until there’s root and branch reform of the English game and we change our attitude to ODI cricket.
I also realise we won’t win a global tournament until a franchise based ELP is established, and those responsible for abolishing 50 over cricket in England between 2009 and 2013 are hung, drawn and quartered.
However, there is one thing the authorities can do to improve England’s performances right away: sack Peter Moores.
I don’t mean to be harsh – as I wrote yesterday, Moores seems like a decent man doing his best – but what’s clear now more now than ever is that Moores’ best isn’t anywhere near good enough.
It’s hardly a surprise. Moores was horribly out of his depth last time he was England coach. We were told he had learned a lot since then but results are equally bad, if not worse.
When Moores was reappointed, Downton argued his failure in the job first time round should be seen as a positive: falling flat on your face can apparently lead to enlightenment.
You’ve got to laugh. I bet Downton never sacked an incompetent worker in The City then reappointed him a few years later because “he’s learned a lot since he shredded important documents by accident and spilled scolding hot coffee over the CEO”. The logic used to justify Moores’ reappointment was post-rationalisation of the worst kind. And it looks even more ridiculous now.
Even if we put the politics of his reappointment to one side, Moores’ position is now untenable. When a group of players are performing well below their potential – and make no mistake, this England team has some talent – the coaches must be blamed.
When Kevin Pietersen was sacked, the ostensible reason was to create an environment and culture in which cricketers could thrive. Moores has singularly failed to achieve this.
England misunderstand what creating a successful environment actually entails. Removing egos might improve team spirit to a certain extent, but the overall environment is bigger than how chummy players are.
As Nick Compton reminded us on Sky the other day, confident, brash, aggressive individuals can be a positive influence: they are winners, and their confidence and positive thinking can rub off on those who aren’t so sure of themselves – especially youngsters finding their way. Picking match winners, and actually winning a few matches, also improves the environment.
Although some things are beyond a coach’s control – and the players must take their share of the blame for the World Cup disaster too – it’s the coach’s responsibility to foster an environment in which players feel comfortable and can flourish. I’ve seen no evidence of this whatsoever under Moores. England have looked unsure, timid and tense.
Downton and Moores talk a good game – and many people were initially taken in by the former’s affable persona – but the proof of the pudding is in the eating:
The first time Moores was in charge, the senior players disliked his methods and the team regressed. History is repeating istelf: Moores simply cannot get the most out of England’s senior players. Perhaps, as a product of the county system with little experience of the international game, Moores struggles to inspire anything other than county cricketers.
People point to England’s resurgence against India last summer as evidence that Moores can indeed hack it. They ignore the loss against Sri Lanka, the humiliation at Lord’s, the fact that England’s bowling improved when Anderson and Broad started ignoring team instructions, plus the obvious point that India were completely disinterested …
Now the amiable Cook is no longer the focal point, mainstream journalists like Stephen Brenkley are finally portraying Moores’ solitary series win for what it really was: a decent, but by no means seminal, achievement against a side that didn’t really care; it was the only bright spot in a year of constant disappointment. Moores has won just one series out of five, and overseen our worst ever World Cup humiliation.
Moores has also been found wanting tactically. Buttler was hidden down the order at seven; Ballance was brought in at three (even though he bats five for Yorkshire in limited overs cricket); Hales was in and out of the side then finally tried at number three (a new position). Taylor did well at three, but was promptly moved to six (again, an unfamiliar position). And finally, after performing pretty well with the new ball in the warm-up games, Chris Woakes was suddenly first change again.
Moores’ tinkering resembled Claudio Ranieri on amphetamines. The bowling plans were also nonsensical. The management complain the attack was too samey, but they hardly gave Ravi Bopara (who is skiddy and offers some kind of variation) a bowl.
Downton might complain about the side’s lack of experience, but twelve months ago he was heralding the arrival of new talent. If fresh blood was required after the Ashes, and he was responsible for ushering in this exciting new era, he can hardly blame lack of experience for England’s woes. I’m sorry Paul, but you can’t have it both ways.
What’s more, England have treated their remaining experienced players very dubiously indeed: Bopara’s 119 caps were deemed surplus to requirements on the eve of the tournament, the benefit of Pietersen’s 136 caps discarded a year ago, and James Tredwell didn’t get the chance to add to his 44 appearances.
The ‘inexperience’ excuse also seems hollow because Bangladesh’s team has even less caps than ours. There are less holes in a kilo of Swiss cheese than in Downton and Moores’ defence.
I should also mention that David Saker, the longest standing member of Moores’ team, was arguably the coach who performed worst. Never before has an international attack bowled so short, for so long, for so little reward.
How fitting that the final two wickets that sealed England’s fate yesterday came from yorkers – the delivery our bowlers neglect so palpably.
In Downton’s interview with Sky yesterday, plus the video published on the ECB website (in which he produced exactly the same sound-bites), the MD backed Moores because it’s still “early into his appointment”. We were also reminded that things were always going to be tough.
While there is obviously some truth in this – Moores is not the only England coach to suffer World Cup humiliation – transitional periods don’t necessarily have to be this way.
When Darren Lehmann took the Australia job many thought it was a poisoned chalice. The Aussies had just been whitewashed in India, senior players were throwing their toys out of the pram, and there were fitness concerns over several senior players. Michael Clarke’s position as captain was also under scrutiny.
It took Lehmann just a few months to turn things around. He realised Australia still had a number of very good cricketers. The problem was the environment created by Mickey Arthur. It wasn’t working, so Lehmann changed things – the atmosphere became more relaxed, the approach to training changed and players were encouraged to express themselves and play aggressively.
When Mickey Arthur was sacked the ACB ushered in real change. Going back to Tim Neilsen, as England went back to the future with Moores, was never an option.
Nobody is pretending that firing Moores will solve all England’s ills – there’s still the small matter of those who appointed him – but it’s the logical first step.
Ask yourself this: would Australia be in the position they are now had they shown faith in Mickey Arthur?
Changes off the field won’t be effective unless the team is being coached and managed by the right people. Tactics, selection and the team environment matter. To argue otherwise is ridiculous.
This World Cup has been a disaster. It will be an utter catastrophe if ECB politics keeps Moores in place.