We’ve had quite a few submissions from readers over the last few weeks. We’ve chosen to publish this one by Ayelet Haimson Lushkov, an assistant professor of classics at the University of Texas in Austin, because it’s the assessment of someone who has only been following cricket for a while.
It’s amazing how quickly Ayelet recognises the recurring themes of English cricket: disappointment, frustration and finally disillusionment. Welcome to our world mate … another fine mess, followed by yet another fine mess.
I’ve only been watching cricket for about 8 months now. The India Test series, the Sri-Lanka ODI series, the Tri-Series, and now the World Cup. Throw in all the highlights of recent Ashes series as well. But I already know that Graeme Swann was right in September, and he’s still right now: we never had a hope in hell at the World Cup.
This is true no matter how wide the frame: England are knocked out in the group stages as often, if not more than, it progresses. Anything beyond the quarter-finals is the miracle that makes all our fantasies survive just a little bit longer.
Part of it is just being English in sports – it’s not like the footballers do any better. But all of it has an inevitability about it that’s nothing short of infuriating.
Stuart Broad spoke in the summer about slow wide yorkers at the death – which is fantastic, if you have the pace and accuracy. But if you don’t, which England didn’t, why keep at it? Again and again and again, through middle overs and the opening and the death, regardless of how many runs were on the board.
Jordan came in at the last, but where was Tredwell? And regardless of the woeful bowling, it was the batting that really let England down – again and again, regardless of Hales or Morgan or Bell, all of whom were much vaunted but failed to deliver.
James Taylor remains very much the only good thing to come out of this – but even so nothing can quite mask the feeling that while England can theoretically bat, they never really had a sense of how to go about it.
Boundaries are the name of the game these days, but they’re hardly all there’s to it, and England refused, repeatedly, to play to their strength. Nudging and hurdling at a run a ball brings you comfortably to 300 at the end of your innings.
Playing with slips, as NZ have shown, restricts the opposition. There’s so much talk about England prioritising Tests at the expense of all other styles, but we never even got to see that style of play.
It’s fine and well to have a signature style, even if it’s not as showy as Australia or South Africa. But to have none at all? Confusion reigned.
This is where the frustration reaches a fever pitch, especially as an England fan who missed out on the highs of 2005 or 2010, or even 2013, and who very much wants to see us regain the Ashes, or at least not embarrass ourselves this summer. The inconsistency seems almost destructive.
New Zealand and Australia will both come to the English summer on a high, and a richly deserved one. But will England’s woeful one-day form carry overs to the Tests? How can it not?
Cook was mercifully spared this (and how the heart breaks for Morgan, a sacrificial lamb if ever there was one), but several other players will be devastated: will Ballance, who was so important last summer, overcome his demons? Will Finn, a valuable if erratic asset, ever recover his confidence? Can Anderson keep going forever? Will Broad move past his bouncer trauma? How many times will Root dig England out?
None of this is new, and there seem to be few answers forthcoming. The KP debate stirs up old ghosts, but honestly, what does it matter? No single player is greater than the team. Not Hales or Buttler, despite the media support, nor KP, nor anybody else.
If England wants a strong Test side, why drag key players through the ODI quagmire? If they want to win trophies, why insist on tactics that never worked?
It’s clear to lesser cricketing minds what needs doing. Hint: batters who can put on 400 runs or more, bowlers who don’t leak runs, and impeccable fielding. England needs skill and discipline to add to their talent and experience.
What’s more they need a calm centre and a straight bat in a tough situation. Above all, they need a plan, and a sense of purpose. Putting on the whites again might help, but Cook will have his work cut out for him.
Ayelet Haimson Lushkov