I don’t need to write this blog anymore. I just need a computer programme that can spell Virat Kohli and then add a list of superlatives after his name. He’s just too bloody good for our quite average bowling attack. We’ve been saying it all effing winter and it’s not going to change any time soon.
You can’t really blame our batsmen. They did their part by scoring 350-7. Some might be a bit picky and argue we were twenty runs short, but 350 will win you most games. The problem comes when the opposition have a champion batsman (who is probably the best ODI player in the world on current form) and you don’t have anything remotely close to a champion ODI bowler to neutralise him.
I don’t want to get too down on our bowlers today, as I’m sure you’re all well aware that our lack of top quality seamers and spinners in limited overs cricket is our achilles heel, but it’s kind of unavoidable in the circumstances. An attack of Woakes, Willey, Ball, Stokes, Rashid and Moeen is never going to get the job done, especially in these conditions.
It’s a sad state of affairs that these guys are the best our country can produce. All of them average over 30 with the ball in ODIs (in fact most of them are closer to 35 or above) and they all go for 5.5 or 6 runs per over. The only one who’s relatively economic is Moeen Ali, who has a respectable economy rate of just over 5. But of course, Mo’s average is a lamentable 45 so we can’t exactly pretend that he’s anything special.
What was particularly galling yesterday was that we reduced India to 63-4 and they still bloody won at a canter. Kohli made our bowlers looks so ineffective that India’ number six Kedar Yadav (who had passed 50 just once in 12 ODIs before yesterday) soon grew in confidence and played an absolute blinder. It’s hard not to feel confident when you’ve got someone like Kohli at the other end saying “look mate, these bowlers are about as threatening as a toddler brandishing a breadstick, let’s take ’em to the clearners” … and then doing exactly that with consummate ease.
At the end of the game, Eoin Morgan said that England’s plan was to get Kohli off strike and bowl to the bloke at the other end. I would laugh at the skipper’s complete lack of imagination if I could actually think of a better plan myself. I mean, how exactly are you supposed to get Kohli out when the closest thing you’ve got to a strike bowler is David Willey? It’s not like Morgan can throw the ball to someone like Warne, Murali or even a Shaun Pollock. All Eoin can do is sit back and hope Kohli makes a mistake … which he invariably doesn’t.
I guess the best way England can win ODIs in this part of the world is to win the toss, bowl first, and then trust our batsmen to chase whatever mammoth total India make. I feel a lot more confident in the ability of Root, Stokes and Buttler to chase big totals down than the ability of Willey, Ball and Rashid to defend them. I imagine many of you feel the same way.
The good news, I guess, is that both the Champions Trophy and the World Cup will be played in England, where average seamers can sometimes look a bit better than average when conditions suit. I wonder if the penny will drop that Stuart Broad needs to play if England want something that vaguely resembles a strike bowler come May-June. Broad’s record in ODIs might be merely ‘ quite good’ rather than ‘outstanding’, but it’s still significantly better than the guys currently playing.
At some point Andrew Strauss is going to have to decide just how serious he is about winning a 50 over tournament. If he is indeed serious (which we’re led to believe he is) then he can’t keep holding back our best bowler(s). Whether we personally want to save Broad (and possibly Anderson) for test cricket is a different question.