I love the expression above. I first heard it in The Matrix Reloaded (I think). It’s when Neo proves himself very capable of beating up enemy agents but not quite so good at using his noggin. He doesn’t even notice that Trinity fancies him! In other words, he’s a little bit daft. Just like England’s approach in ODIs in fact.
England should have won at a canter yesterday at The Oval. They bowled very well for a change, including David Willey who was my man of the match, but they almost screwed up an incredibly simple chase by playing stupidly. It was ‘balls out’ batting without a hint of common sense.
Why is it that this particular England side always chooses brawn over brains? It’s like they’re a bunch of cocky kids permanently trying to prove their masculinity.
I don’t want to single out Moeen Ali because he bowled beautifully yesterday and largely set the platform for England’s win. However, holing out when we needed just 18 to win (when he was the last recognised batsman at the crease) was thoughtless and quite frankly negligent.
Jos Buttler also played a ridiculous innings. He was almost out hooking – we’ll see plenty of that in next year’s Ashes – and then completely deceived by a slower ball two minutes later. It was a pretty good nut but he wouldn’t have been deceived if he’d been playing each ball on its merits – which is all the match situation demanded. Instead Jos was irresponsibly going for glory.
I really don’t understand why England’s batsmen play like this. They’re going to come unstuck at the worst possible time (in a World Cup semi final for example) unless they learn to adapt to both different match situations and different pitches. Kevin Pietersen is universally loathed by the ECB, and vilified by many people still connected to this England team, so why do the current bunch of players do their best to imitate him all the time? I guess that’s just the way they play.
Moeen’s interview after the match was very much from the KP textbook. He claimed his psychology was “not to have any doubt” and insisted he’d stay “true to himself”. I’m afraid very few players have the talent (and the luxury) to play this way, Mo. If it got the likes of Pietersen into trouble sometimes, then I’m afraid you’ve got no chance mate.
It was really interesting to hear Stuart Broad on commentary too. I think it’s fair to say that Broad very much speaks for the England cricket team in general. He’s a senior pro, has been around for donkeys’ years, and he’s been captain or vice captain of various sides at different junctures too. When addressing this very subject Broad’s pearl of wisdom was basically this: “playing positively all the time is a great approach because you’ll generally win more games than you lose”.
At this point my jaw nearly fit the floor. Really, Stuart? Is this the most cerebral analysis you can come up with? It sounds like something a ten year old would say to justify his tactics in three-card brag. How can someone so experienced and ostensibly thoughtful support a strategy that’s so inflexible and simplistic?
Surely Broad and the England players realise they won’t secure the World Cup if they only win “most” of their games. To win major trophies you’ve got to be flawless. Winning two out of every three games (or whatever success ratio you want to insert here) might be good enough for an above average side but it’s hardly the mind-set of champions. If this is their philosophy then they’re setting the bar pretty low.
Now don’t get me wrong. England may very well win the World Cup next summer. I bloody hope they do. But if they do manage to triumph then it will be despite (not because of) their psychology.
The truth is that English cricket is intransigent from top to bottom. The board doesn’t listen to criticism and neither do the players. Rather than learning from mistakes, all our teams get touchy and even more determined to prove that their current approach is the right one – even when it’s blatantly the wrong one.
I don’t know about you but this approach simply has to change. It’s complacent, pretty arrogant, and really rather stupid too.