England’s Mistimed Revolution

England have been rubbish at one-day cricket since 1992. How’s that for stating the bleedin’ obvious? If I had a quid for every time a pundit said we’ve fallen behind other nations, I’d have enough dosh to pay this blog’s hosting fees for the next decade.

Here’s a list of our supposed crimes: we bat too cautiously (especially at the top of the order), we become scared of our own shadows during powerplays, our bowlers are too orthodox, we don’t have anyone with an iota of mystery and, last but not least, we don’t even have a decent left-arm seamer. Oh the ignominy!

Of course, all of the above is true. Whenever we play global tournaments abroad – particularly in the subcontinent – we get hammered. It’s because we have, in the words of Paul Collingwood, a ‘prehistoric’ approach to limited overs cricket. This is one of the main things that Strauss’ revolution is supposed to change, although it may take time – New Zealand are still big favourites to win the upcoming series.

Throughout this time, however, England have always had a pretty good excuse: the conditions in England don’t really suit the brand of cricket played by the likes of India and Australia. If your openers try to whack it everywhere in England in May, or even some days at the supposed height of summer, you tend to come unstuck rather quickly.

What’s more, if you look at the history books you’ll see that England have actually performed relatively well in global tournaments on home soil – with the exception of the disastrous 1999 world cup. We reached the final of the Champions Trophy in both 2004 and 2013.

In the first of those tournaments, we had the game in the bag until the Windies tail pulled off a miracle. In 2013 we didn’t play particularly good cricket – our record was won three and lost two – but we still had a good shot at winning the final until we bottled it. Basically, therefore, England are usually pretty competitive in home conditions. We could, and perhaps should, have won both these titles.

That’s why England’s latest glorious summer revolution, which must be about the seventieth we’ve had in limited overs cricket since 1992, has left me scratching my head somewhat.

We’ve all been beseeching England to modernise their brand of one day cricket, so we can compete in tournaments around the world, for years and years. Yet we finally make a concerted effort to do so at precisely the wrong time – in other words, at a time when the next World Cup is being held in England and our archaic form of cricket might actually work!

Obviously the World Cup is a long way away, and it’s important that England build momentum by winning games across the world in the meantime, but I wonder whether other countries will approach the next world cup with a slightly different mindset?

Maybe, just maybe, they’ll head into the 2019 tournament thinking: ‘ok guys, we might not be able to play our natural aggressive way as much as we’d like to in England, so let’s play more conservatively against the two new balls’. They might even select the odd orthodox opener to establish a strong foundation at the top of the innings.

England, meanwhile, could squander their home advantage by approaching the tournament as if it was being played in India: our batsmen go out with all guns blazing, commit hari-kari, and get blown away inside thirty overs. The rest of the world would think we’re nuts.

Consequently, I’d like to express a word of caution on the eve of our latest glorious one-day revolution. All we’ve asked England to do in recent years is stop playing catch up with other nations. It would be nice, for a change, if we could be ahead of the curve.

One-day cricket moves incredibly quickly. The brand of cricket that was played in 2019 might not be the same as the one that dominated in 2015. I would have thought that Andrew Strauss’s job is to anticipate what the prevailing trends of 2019 will be. He might even be able to set these trends.

At the moment, England’s plan is simply to try and copy everyone else. This is exactly what we’ve tried to do a hundred times before, but by the time we’ve got where we want to be, the rest of the world has moved on.

As the world cup is in England this time, we have an opportunity to out-think everyone else and develop a brand of cricket that will be hard to beat in our own backyard. England should have an advantage in the next world cup. Let’s not squander it.

Thus far I’m not convinced that Andrew Strauss is thinking straight. When he met the media a few weeks ago, he talked about England playing a modern brand of limited overs cricket (nothing wrong with that of course) and his desire to include more specialist limited overs players (hmmm, not so sure about that). In fact, Strauss talked enthusiastic about creating more ‘separation’ between the test and ODI sides, so that they became totally different entities.

This strategy worries me greatly. It isn’t actually modern at all. In fact, England have tried it several times without success before: think back to the days of specialists like Ali Brown, Adam Hollioake, Mark Ealham and Neil Smith. The plan was rubbish, results were poor, and we went back to the far more sensible plan of simply picking our best cricketers.

Having just watched Australia win another World Cup at a canter, you’d have thought Strauss might have learned a thing or two: Australia’s team in the final was as follows: Warner, Finch, Smith, Clarke, Watson, Maxwell, Faulkner, Haddin, Johnson, Starc and Hazlewood.

Only three of those players are not in Australia’s Ashes squad, and one of them (Faulkner) played in the fifth test at The Oval in 2013. Consequently, Australia’s world cup winners included just two players who could be termed one-day ‘specialists’. Yet Strauss wants an entire team of them.

Just looking at England’s revolutionary new squad, one wonders where the genuine quality lies. James Taylor averages 51 in List A cricket, and Jos Buttler 45, but the others likely to start on Tuesday average in the mid-thirties: Hales (35), Roy (32), Morgan (36) and Stokes (31).

The bowling is also a huge worry, although the cupboard is largely bare so it’s hard to be too critical: Wood’s List A wickets cost less than thirty but other than Steve Finn (who isn’t the bowler he once was), the others cannot say the same.

England’s new left-arm seamer, David Willey, will be nothing more than a medium-pacer at international level. Willey is a gutsy and combative cricketer, and he’s useful with the bat, but my expectations are not particularly high for someone who averages 32 at county level with an economy rate of 5.6.

Spin bowling is also a big worry. There’s a lot to like about Adil Rashid as a cricketer, but his domestic record really isn’t much to write home about. Let’s hope he’s matured as much as his fans believe. England desperately need their very own Imran Tahir.

My thoughts on England’s brave new ODI world can therefore be summarised thus: when we take the field at Edgbaston we’ll be basing our long-term strategy on two premises that are quite possibly flawed.

The first is that copying the blueprint established by this year’s world cup finalists is the right way to go. The next world cup will be played in different conditions, possibly under slightly different regulations, and the best teams might not play the same brand of cricket as a result.

The second is that England haven’t even diagnosed their rivals’ strategy at the last world cup correctly. Australia and New Zealand do not believe in packing the side with one-day specialists. This will be apparent as soon as the Black Caps take the field.

Nine of the eleven cricketers who played in New Zealand’s last ODI represented the test team at Lord’s and Headingley. England’s squad only contains four players who played in those games.

Let us hope that Andrew Strauss knows better than Darren Lehmann, Mike Hesson and Brendon McCullum. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure he does.

England Squad: Eoin Morgan (capt), Jos Buttler (wkt), Sam Billings (wkt), Steven Finn, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Taylor, David Willey, Mark Wood

New Zealand: Brendon McCullum (capt) Corey Anderson Trent Boult Grant Elliott Martin Guptill Matt Henry Tom Latham Mitchell McLenaghan Nathan McCullum Luke Ronchi Mitchell Santner Tim Southee Ross Taylor Ben Wheeler Kane Williamson.

James Morgan



  • Your best cricketers are your best cricketers. I think Australia and NZ have it right by simply including one or two limited overs specialists. I know England are ‘resting’ Broad, Anderson, Ali and the others (if indeed they are being rested) but my main point is that Strauss’s vision for the ODI team – a crack unit of specialists who whack the ball – isn’t necessarily the right one.

    While we could do with a more positive approach (which could come from the coach anyway) I don’t see the need for an entirely new side. Strauss says we’re doing this to catch up with the way the modern game is going, but the best modern teams don’t really pick too many specialists – therefore the logic is flawed on all fronts.

    If England were Australia, we’d probably choose the 80% of the same cricketers and simply play around with the batting order & strategy e.g. promote Buttler up the order.

    • “Your best cricketers are your best cricketers. I think Australia and NZ have it right by simply including one or two limited overs specialists.”

      Not really, mate.

      In the victorious WC side, Finch, Maxwell and Faulkner were ODI specialists.

      And when you look at the numbers, Watson and Starc probably qualify as well.

      • I talked about Finch, Maxwell and Faulkner in the article! There’s a world of difference between having one or two specialists and an entirely different side (as England seem to have).

        Watson has played 57 tests! Hardly a ODI specialist. Starc is possibly the most fearsome fast bowler in the world at the moment, is currently opening the bowling for the Aussies’ test team, and will be a fixture in the upcoming Ashes.

        • I think Tom’s point is Watson’s ODI record is much, much more impressive than his Test Record. He averages 36 in Tests, not impressive when he is primarily a batting all rounder. He has played a lot of tests because he can do a job and fill a role, not because he is an especially excellent test match player. Decent batsman, did quite well in the absence of other options when he was asked to open and he bowls a bit.

          On the other hand consider some of the destructive innings he has played in ODI’s and T20’s, and he has over 150 wickets as well. Mitchell Starc it’s too early to say. I mean he averages 18 at the moment in ODIs which would make him just about the best bowler in the history of the game statistically, and is much better than his Test average. But of course he’s only played 40 or so ODIs and not many Tests.

          • But he’s not a one day specialist. He’s worth his place in the test side on merit, and if he was just a biffer then he would’ve have opened the batting as an orthodox player with an orthodox technique in several of those matches. I agree Watson is a fine one day player, but he gets in both sides because he’s one of Australia’s best 11 cricketers, full stop.

        • Well, there are three ODI specialists straight off the bat, not one or two.

          As for Starc, he’s still unproven at Test level. I find it astonishing that people simply look at his WC performance and immediately conclude that he will therefore be a world-class Test bowler as well. That hasn’t been the case so far. You say he will be a fixture of the Ashes, as though that’s a foregone conclusion. I’d suggest he could just as easily be overlooked, with Harris, Johnson and Hazlewood preferred.

          As for Watson, yes, he’s played 57 Tests but whether he deserves a place on merit is a matter of debate. He averaging 30 with the bat since the start of 2011. He’s basically hanging on for dear life and has been for some time. But in ODIs, it’s a different story. I consider Watson a fine limited-overs players who has been very fortunate to have so many opportunities at Test level. So while not a ODI specialist, his numbers in Test cricket suggest he should have been.

          • If you’re not willing to concede that Watson has been one of Australia’s best cricketers in ALL forms for a long time then there’s no point continuing this debate. And Faulkner has also been in Australia’s test squads. Just because someone blasts the ball doesn’t make them a one day specialist. England have more than twice as many ‘specialists’ as Australia and NZ. Guys who are nowhere near the test side.

            If you look at the top run scorers in the World Cup, you’ll see the overwhelming majority are fine test players not so called specialists like Jason Roy. Strauss’s idea that the ODI side should be almost completely separate to the test team is wrong. It possibly applies to T20s but not ODIs.

            • On Watson, look at the numbers. In Test cricket, he’s been averaging 30 with the bat since the start of 2011. In light of that, he’s been fortunate to keep his spot.

              Just because Faulkner ‘has been in a Test squad’ doesn’t mean he’s not a ODI specialist.

              I mean, Michael Bevan played Test cricket as well but I think it would still be fair to categorise him as a ODI specialist. No? What about Nathan Bracken?

              The reality is that Faulkner is a bowling all-rounder and that makes it hard for him to command a spot in the Test side unless the keeper bats at 6 and he comes in at 7, which is unlikely. He either needs to improve his batting to the point of leapfrogging Watson and Mitch Marsh to bat at No.6 or improve his bowling to command a spot in the pace attack. Until one of those things happens, he’s a limited-overs specialist.

              I don’t disagree with your general criticisms of England’s approach to ODI cricket. But I definitely question the claim that Australia don’t have ODI specialists. There are three in Finch, Maxwell and Faulkner and a fourth in Starc who, despite being around the Test side, is unproven in that format. And Watson, while still playing all formats, is very fortunate to have been retained at Test level when you look at the numbers.

            • And George Bailey was playing at the start of the WC – he was the captain, no less. And he’s nowhere near the Test side. So there’s another one.

    • While I mostly agree with you to play devils advocate…. Australia’s test batting is in generally more aggressive than the English side. I can’t imagine a situation where a recent Australian team (ie last 20 years) wins a test series scoring at 2 runs an over like England did against NZ in 2013. If that is so then possibly England either need to
      a) pick more aggressive test cricketers so they can play both formats
      b) have a greater difference in the test and ODI sides.

      I do wonder is David Warner would have ever played test cricket had he been in England?

      • Hi Steve. Thanks for joining in. I accept that England can’t just play their test top 3 in tests. A Cook, Compton & Trott top 3 (that was our top 3 on the tour to NZ you mention) would indeed be too slow. What I’m saying is that the ODI side doesn’t have to be dramatically different. I think 2 or maybe 3 specialists is fine. Similarly, why not just pick a similar side to the test XI but get the likes of Buttler and Stokes up the order? Throw in the odd pinch hitter, or a more positive opener like Hales, and I don’t see why the sides shouldn’t be more or less the same.

        I think the main issue that’s hindered England is planning and our in-game approach. Why has Ballance batted at 3 and played timidly when he bats in the middle order and gives it a whack for Yorks? I think I’m right in saying that he won Sky’s 6 hit league a couple of years ago. Perhaps the environment has been wrong, and England have played with too much fear. Ballance is actually a very good one day player, but fans simply haven’t seen this for England.

        What I don’t accept is that England need entirely different squads, with very little overlap. I firmly believe that your best players are your best players, generally speaking.

  • If only KP had said ‘yes’ to advising the team, we’d be a lot better.
    See, it’s all his fault still..

  • I think we have different memories of 2013 – and thus learned different lessons from it. Conditions suited us down to the ground and we still never looked capable of beating India (who were the form team.) Further, we lost to an SL team who were certainly not ideally suited for the conditions.

    So – quality tells, but it’s ODI quality that tells.

    The problem for England is that our Test batting has generally been so passive, it doesn’t translate well to ODIs. That may change now, you can see Root and Stokes doing it…

    Of course, the other reality is that Anderson and Broad won’t make it to the WC physically intact if they play limited overs as well as Tests, so we have to look for new bowlers.

    • England were 110-4 chasing just 129 in the final against India. We should have beaten them.

      Trott is possibly the best example of a test player many say was unsuited to ODI cricket, but he actually has the best record of any England player in limited overs history.

      Trott finished his ODI career with an average of 51 and a strike rate very similar to Sangakkara and Michael Clarke. In fact, Trott’s overall record is considerably better than both those players. It shows that it can be done!

      • England could have won, but what marks many of them out as “Test players” is the way they folded under the pressure of limited overs. (It’s worth noting that they were at 110 with 3 overs to go – so they needed just over 6 rpo.

        That’s the key point – the better teams (witness SL in the WC) can find 6 rpo a very calm place to be.

        • And indeed, the reason I’d pick Sanga over Trott is precisely the difference in their ability to keep the scoreboard ticking when the pressure is really on…

        • If I remember correctly, the guys who folded under pressure at the end were Morgan and Bopara, two one day specialists. A run rate of 6 per over is easily attainable with orthodox batting and rotating the strike.

          • Trott folded under pressure, got himself out… the list goes on.
            6 per over is easy in an orthodox manner for other nations.
            For (old) England it appears to be a mountain.
            Probably because we play so conservatively in Tests.
            If that changes (and it seems it may) then we don’t need ODI specialists. But if it doesn’t, we’ll continue to do so.

            The other key, of course, is that we often don’t pick our best players when they are in form for the Test team…

            Finally, there are 3 teams who play Test cricket aggressively: NZ, SA, Aus. Until we do, our Test players will continue to under perform in ODIs.

            Or you can look at India & SL – they are ODI teams first and bring in a couple of Test specialists. But again, they aren’t bringing players with a conservative mindset into ODIs. (WI might fit here too.)

            Pakistan… are Pakistan, not a good site for comparisons.

  • On Rashid – as a Yorkshire fan I have to point out that it’s a long time since England have so consistently set a player up to fail.

    Rashid bowled well in the Big Bash, so it’s not as if he can’t do it in shorter forms, but NZ are flying high and the pitches aren’t likely to be turners, and leggies are often not the most economical to start with. And England won’t treat him as an attacking bowler anyway…

    • I’ve seen this trope a lot. It is probably true. For sure they should have picked him in the Windies. For sure they have messed him around, the knobends. But, if he’s ok, he’ll do ok. We don’t need to make appologies in advance. Good luck Adil. That’s my tuppence hapenny.

    • O agree that Rashid has been messed around greatly by England; denying him cricket by keeping him around in the West Indies when it was obvious he wasn’t going to be selected was ridiculous.

      However, if they give him an extended run (and they probably won’t, if past form is any guide), then I agree with Grenville.

      • If they give him an extended run – fair enough. If they drop him after the first mauling from McCullum… and you can understand why I think that might happen… well… not so fair enough… that’s my position…

  • I think you have to see the bigger picture here. If we are going to succeed at limited overs cricket (and let’s bear in mind we also have a T20 World Cup next year) we don’t need 11 or even 15 players. We need more like 22. Australia are not picking from a shallow pool any more. They have cover in every spot. So do India. Anderson won’t make it to 2019 playing ODI’s and I’m beginning to doubt whether Broad will either.
    We are expected to lose these games against the Kiwi’s so why not have a look at a few people?
    As for county averages translating to international form, I think the comparison doesn’t really stand up. Until they have been tried at the top level we don’t know anything really in my book.
    Im still glass half full and looking forward to seeing how these new lads get on against a world class odi team.

    • Thanks for commenting Mark, but I think you’re missing the point I was trying (perhaps badly!) to convey. It’s about Strauss’s theory that we need two distinct ODI sides – not just for this summer, but as a blueprint moving forward until 2019, and the brand of cricket we are attempting to play. I’m not really interested in this particular series, I’m talking long term. Presumably, this squad has been picked as the first step towards these long term goals – with the emphasis on specialists etc.

      My article questions whether we should have two distinct sides with lots of specialists (when the best teams don’t do this) and whether playing the attacking brand of cricket that was in vogue in 2015 will be the modus operandi for the majority of teams in 2019.

      The Kiwis only have a small pool of players to choose from, and their current ODI team has very few specialists. I don’t see why we need a pool of 22 players. The point about schedules is a valid one, but then the problem has to be fixed by changing our busy schedules, not by inventing a new brand of cricket or having separate ODI and test teams.

      • I’m not missing the point James. I agree that a good player is a good player regardless of format but again, quoting list A averages and strike rates for English players is a red herring in my book. There is far too much below average cricket (and far too much cricket in general) played in England to make those figures stand up.
        A good number of current english test players are good enough to play one day cricket. Few of them stand up as T20 players but that’s a different argument. Ballance is clearly a good batsman in a bad run of form and in my book there is nothing to be gained by watching him get bowled by Trent Boult five times. Especially when there is an ashes series coming up. Better that he gets in the nets and corrects his issues on off stump.
        I totally disagree regarding the number of players we need to be picking from. We are talking about a world cup that is four years away. Neither Anderson, Broad or Bell will feature in that competition. We don’t currently have a bowler who can take wickets at the death, or a good spinner. We don’t have anyone opening the batting who has decent experience, or a good back up keeper either. You need to have a good look at quite a few players to find a solid XI for that tournament and you don’t know that they can cope unless you put them out there.
        Arguing that the system should change is pissing in the wind. English cricket is what it is and nobody in authority is ever going to agree to our counties playing less of it, heaven forbid that there should be less counties!
        We have to work within the confines of what we have. Dozens and dozens of mediocre cricketers who wouldn’t get anywhere near an Australian state side and a small number of genuinely good players who would. The dilution offered by our county game means that our best players are rarely tested at the highest level until they reach the international level. In my opinion we need to develop more high quality high level players than we have and our county game is not doing that.
        I beleive that the only we could make right now that would make a real difference would be to centrally contract the county groundsmen and have prepare international level wickets all over the country. If batsmen and bowlers were tested on good wickets every week we might stand more of a chance.

        • I’m not arguing with any of that. My main argument is a simple one: that a country’s best players are their best players in both test & ODI cricket, with just a couple of exceptions. T20 is a different matter. Quality players should be able to adjust, and on the whole they do. The best batsmen at the World Cup were generally players that also play test cricket well (and not the so called one day specialists).

          The reason I brought up domestic stats (flawed as they can sometimes be) is simply to demonstrate my point that the so called specialists drafted in by Strauss to supposedly create this crack unit of specialists he mistakenly thinks we need, are probably lesser cricketers than the guys we were picking before. Other than simply saying ‘according to my personal eyes and judgement’ I used stats as the only neutral objective barometer we have. I hope this explains :-)

  • Great point about test players James. When the one time team England looked decent at one day cricket ( 2012-2013) we had the much criticised top 3 of Cook, Bell, Trott. They all did extremely well and in fact Trott averages of 50 in ODI cricket. However ask the average pundit and fan about Trott and theywill say he was tooslow in ODI cricket. The bowling attack was packed with wicket-takers and no gimme 5th bowler. Anderson Broad, Bresnan , Finn and Swann. Wicket-takers stop teams from scoring.

    Ithought we were the best teamheading into the 2013 champions trophy and fully expected us to beat Aus ( wouldn’t now!!) Sri Lanka was a disappointing bowling performance but we were ruthless v the chokers in the semis.

    Lost our bottle in the final ( a T20 game) when needed 20 off 16.

    In ODI cricket you need batsmen who can score hundreds and bowlers capable of taking 1.5wickets a match. Sounds obvious but something we fail to produce! Letshope for a decent series!

    • Absolutely mate. I think the most valuable lessons from the World Cup were that taking wickets wins matches ( so you need quality bowlers) and the best batsmen are usually teams’ best batsmen in all formats. Eight of the top 10 run scorers in the World Cup were test stalwarts – De Villiers, Steve Smith, du Plessis, Misbah, Sangakkara, Dilshan etc. The two also play test cricket now. There were very few, if any, pure one day blasters worth mentioning. Even Guptill is playing test cricket.

  • Whoever was responsible for disseminating and popularising the term “brand of cricket” deserves to be one of the first against the wall when the revolution comes.

  • Good blog James. I tend to agree we need to find our own game plan but I don’t see any harm in trying to throw the shackles off with a knee jerk reaction.
    If we picked a similar squad and played a similar brand (yes that term needs binning) we’d be accused of all sorts, this way if it fails at least we can say we tried. The truth is in England we probably need to be somewhere in the middle.
    Blasters opening but with a middle order that can consolidate if needed, the one big thing we need to introduce is flexibility. Change the batting order, take the power play at different times. Attack the 5th and 6th bowlers.
    As for the bowling we desperately need to find a bloke who can take wickets in the middle overs and a bloke who can bowl at the death.
    There must be someone……

    • I agree Neil. Better coaching and some new tactics are required but not wholesale changes of personnel. Changing the batting order is also a good idea.

      The thing is, this new squad and supposed new approach of picking ODI specialists is not a knee jerk ‘let’s give it a try’ strategy, this is very much the long term strategy Strauss has announced. This is the way we’re going to play up to and including the 2019 World Cup. We’re doing it in the name of ‘catching up with the other teams’ (the words used by Eoin Morgan today), even though the other teams actually have a slightly different approach and might not actually try and play relentlessly aggressive cricket in England in 2019.

      Basically it’s a strategy that isn’t based on anything sound, even though it has become accepted wisdom (if you read the papers) that this is what England need to do. Where did this myth / fallacy start? Has anyone actually questioned the validity of Strauss’s plan, or has this been lost amongst a barrage of buzzwords and cliches?

      • One does not question Big Brother. One loves Big Brother or one gets one’s face eaten by rats.

  • I’m very happy that England are finally experimenting wholeheartedly. Whatever the result v NZ, if we come out of the series with 2 or 3 clear star players, that’s good.

    I just can’t believe that a top quality player should be able to succeed in only one format. What the countries do have is at least one player who can do everything exceptionally – names like Dhoni, Kohli, McCullum, AB, Gayle spring to mind. We sacked ours.

    Just to say that I’d have Hales and Taylor in my test team anyway, so with Root, Buttler, Stokes, Ali over half my team would be playing both formats, whatever Srauss wants.

    I’m worried about our bowling.

    • Agreed mostly, although I would add that the thing about experimenting is that you have to give players time. We can’t come out of one series with even one star player, because we won’t know whether they’re really good or just a flash in the pan. I was looking back at our teams and results in the 90s recently (because I’m both a masochist and a nerd, and there’s no better way to combine the two), and in retrospect our best team is fairly clear, for both tests and one-dayers. But because we got beaten by better teams, we were always chasing the mirage of a great undiscovered talent, rather than recognising that our best bet was to play our best players consistently, and hope that they got better at playing international cricket through practice.

      The great players are great at domestic level. If you pick players once they’ve proved themselves domestically, rather than on the basis of promise, you might miss out on a year or two of a great player at international level – but you avoid spending a lot of time playing people who aren’t good enough, and never will be.

    • Last shot of the trailer should come with a warning for all those who have high blood pressure.

      In fact, scrub that: just those with a properly calibrated moral compass.

    • Many, many thanks for this. I didn’t know about the film. I’ll tweet about it immediately, write a post about it soon, and keep an eye on things.

  • Excellent article James and I’m fully in agreement about the wrong-headedness of Srauss’s strategy. All the other top sides have the backbone of their Test side in their ODI side supplemented by a handful of ODI specialists. The idea that England are somehow ‘ahead of the curve’ in departing from what everyone else is doing is laughable.

    The other part of the Strauss plan that is no less nonsensical is this accent on youth. The MSM seem to love it and don’t seem to be noticing that no other side is doing this. Are 36 year old Grant Elliott, 34 year old Luke Ronchi and even 33 year old Brendon McCullum going to play in the 2019 World Cup? NZ don’t seem to think it matters. If Bell and Anderson have been left out because they aren’t good enough then there might be a case but age seems to have been a major factor.

    Partly this youth policy seems part of a desperate need for English cricket to regard itself as ‘exciting and vibrant’ and it feels part of a rebranding exercise. I also can’t help but feel England like young players because they are more malleable. Finally of course it seems designed to eliminate ‘him’. However it isn’t only ‘him’ – Lumb and Tredwell (to name just two) have been caught up in the insanity. When England won the T20I WC 31 year old Lumb opened the batting and 33 year old Sidebottom opened the bowling. Any lessons there? Not for Strauss.

    It would also help if ‘planning for the future’ and ‘winning now’ weren’t somehow seen as mutually exclusive. England need to win some ODIs (they’ve only won seven of the last twenty-five against Test-playing nations) to build some confidence and fall back in love with the format. It is so much easier for young players to come into a successful, confident team.

    • Absolutely. It’s amazing how so few people have questioned the strategy.

      A good point a few people have made on twitter is that England should simply pick their ‘best one-day players’, and it’s the labels that make things confusing. I think this is a good point.

      However, I’m not sure England actually are picking their best ODI players. They’re more interested in this rebranding exercise and making it look like they’re doing something different.

      Look at Gary Ballance for example. His List A average is 49 with a strike rate of 88. That is substantially better than every specialist batsman in England’s ODI squad, with the exception of James Taylor.

      The problem for England at the world cup was boneheaded planning and strategy. Ballance was expected to play an anchor role at 3, even though he’s better suited to a middle-order role where he can give it a whack (which is what he does for Yorks).

      My point is not that Ballance in particular should be playing in this series, but that we haven’t put our best cricketers in the best position to succeed. Overall, the recipe that has worked well for champion international teams is to pick the test side, with a couple of changes to personnel and the batting order – not fielding entirely different sides. You then develop a strategy and environment in which these players can express themselves.

      Strauss’s logic is that run rates worldwide have increased because teams now pick a bunch of specialists. This simply isn’t true. What we are seeing is a change in approach – with the best batsmen in all formats (like AB De Villiers) excelling – rather than the introduction of crack, specialist, one-day units. Basically, I think Strauss is confusing ODI cricket with T20 cricket, which does seem to have a few more specialists.

      Very few counties have the depth of talent to field two separate teams. England certainly do not!

      • Gary Ballance on current form is probably not one of England’s best one-day players.

        The other thing to bear in mind is that apparently Trevor Bayliss has had significant input into the picking of this squad, therefore you have to reckon that players that he is interested in seeing are playing. Isn’t that a good thing?

        As far as the current squad goes, Root, Stokes, Buttler, Jordan, Plunkett, Finn, Rashid are either in or have been in and around the test squad in the last 12 to 18 months, so is it right to say that they are just one-day specialists? Taylor’s regularly been captain of the Lions team, so has been in the frame for test cricket as well.

        I would have liked to seen Lyth in the squad, I think it’s not a bad thing for Mo to be back in county cricket getting overs under his belt and building some confidence in advance of the Ashes. Broad and Anderson need a bit of protection due to the workload coming up. I find very little to dislike about this squad. Not everybody is going to work out, but at least we’re starting to find out about them 4 years in advance – the ones that do well will have the best part of 100 ODIs under their belt by the time 2019 rolls around.

        In addition, I don’t think Strauss ever said that England were going to pick a team of one day specialists, he talked about treating them as separate entities to allow more flexibility in approach. Surely that means that just because player x is in the test side doesn’t mean he’ll be in the ODI squad. Morgan was retained as captain largely because of his experience of IPL and Big Bash. Again, these are sensible options.

        • I’m not sure if you saw Strauss’s interview live on sky but he specifically said he wants more limited overs specialists, so we’ll have to disagree on that one.

          Look, I’m not really interested in individual players here but the general rule that your best players are your best players in both ODIs and Test cricket in most cases. I know Ballance is out of form at the moment, and I’m not trying to say he should be in this particukar squad, I’m just trying to point out that England were probably picking the right players before now. And I do firmly believe that many of the new guys in the squad aren’t as good as the blokes they’ve replaced.

          What England need to improve is their approach and strategies, not necessarily their personnel. The best cricketers should be able to adjust. If you look at today’s game the so called specialists failed and our best two batsmen were test players who have been in the ODI side for a while. The difference was their mentality today.

          By the way, I like Lyth as a player but his list A record is surprisingly poor.

          • But you have to consider individual players if you’re taking issue with the difference between the ODI and Test sides, at least to back up your arguments. Which players do you mean when you say players aren’t as good as the ones they’ve replaced? I disagree that the “specialists” failed – Finn, Rashid, and Morgan all played very well. Roy and Billings didn’t but obviously it would seem extremely premature to write them off after one game.

            Of the players that featured in the last Test match who didn’t play today, the only one I would have included would have been Wood. I can understand the rationale behind not playing the others. Who else would you have included?

            I agree that the truly great players should generally be of a sufficient standard to play in both, but there are exceptions (in my opinion Cook and Morgan are good examples of this). Also another point in favour of experimenting with the ODI team is that this can be a stepping stone to the Test team (the premise of the article seems to suggest that the flow should be mainly in the other direction). Perhaps Hales and Rashid may achieve this in the future.

            Also today at 200 odd for 6 around 30 overs would have seen a more conservative gameplan from there previously, which is exactly the mentality that you said in your article shouldn’t change!

    • As has been pointed out previously, ‘building for the future’ means not having to take responsibility for poor results in the present.

  • Agree entirely with the article, and on a related note – England aren’t really going to drop James Taylor, are they? While picking Roy, Stokes at 4, and Morgan? What the suffering fuck do they think they’re doing?

    Jesus, it is seriously not hard. You continue pick the players who have performed well, and the players who have consistently performed badly you replace with players who are performing exceptionally at domestic level. That means that of your batsmen, Morgan is the most vulnerable, and Ballance and Taylor should be given a long period in the side to work out whether they are good enough or not. As you point out, the selectors’ job is made much easier when the next world cup is in England, and English domestic cricket is a fair guide to success.

    Four of England’s batting slots should be set in stone for the next year, and longer than that unless one of them performs as badly as Morgan has – Root, Buttler, Ballance and Taylor. Theynow seem to have dropped Ballance and Taylor. Buttler should be worried.

    This obsession with having a great captain in the side has to stop, particularly when there is no evidence that the man chosen is a great captain, or even a particularly good one. It’s of a piece with the Flower/Strauss/ECB obsession with Leadership and Teambuilding and Teams Doing What They’re Told By Their Leaders At All Times, Even If What They’re Told To Do Is Fucking Stupid, In Fact Especially If What They’re Told To Do Is Fucking Stupid, Because That Will Show How Important The Team And Its Leadership Is To Them.

    • I agree with much of that … except that it might make sense to expand the pool of players a little, and think of the two teams separately, if only to avoid player overload.
      The long term fitness of players like Root, who can perform in all formats, should be a concern.
      I don’t buy the ‘one day specialist team’ argument, but we should be looking to develop alternatives to our best players, as no one can play all three formats for an extended period and stay fit.

  • I take your point on the ‘Horses For Courses’ debate, I don’t think the sides should differ massively.

    I’d like for Taylor and Hales for example to feed into the test team through their ODI performances. If you want to use Australia as the ‘Zenith Approach’ then it’s certainly a method they’ve put to good use.

    I’d be cautious in drawing wholesale conclusions over ODI averages, especially in the case of Trott, they can be misleading taken outside of a match context. Trott (if my memory serves) was part of the we win x% of games when we get to 270 method, but not much use when we had to accelerate chasing 300+

  • ‘Let the great world spin forever down the ringing grooves of change’ Alfred Lord Tennyson

    We have a new young team at the developing edges of International cricket. Facing New Zealand they are against top notch opponents. To survive the onslaught they will have to be resilient and stand strong no matter what the outcome might be. Surely that is what we want?

    My fear is that things might not go as planned and our new bloods might be reduced to little more than lion/kiwi feed. Are we doing the right thing or have we thrown out the baby with the bath water.
    This is my dilemma.

    Any helpful ideas or suggestions greatfully received.

    • And if one or two, or more, do succeed, will they then be forever categorised as ‘one-day specialists’ with no hope of progressing to the Test team?

        • Not really, no. As you well know, when Buttler progressed to the Test team there were no directors of England cricket advocating discrete teams for ODIs and T20.

  • Isn’t part of the issue though that they’ve picked this ODI squad with one look at preserving some of the players for the Ashes? With some players having been desperately out of form (Bell/Bal(l)ance and the likes of Anderson and Broad neither being in the first flush of youth or travelling around the park in the WC, did it not make sense to rest them for this series?

    It is also nigh on a fact that only Bal(l)ance has any hope of getting back in the side for World Cup 2019 when the other 3 are probably likely to be retired by then. The last of those (whom I’m not going to type again given my auto spell correct!) should prosper away from the top 3 or 4 if/when he’s given a chance again.

    I suspect that sadly a couple of these players picked (if not more) may find themselves rather horridly exposed and not get another go, but so bad were many of the senior players in the world cup that they can’t really have a moan about being left out of the ODI squad here. Some folk mention Ian Bell’s world cup average of 52. It may well have looked rather impressive but the vast majority of his runs were at a rather pedestrian rate with an after the Lord Mayor show filling of his boots v the Afghans pushing both his average and strike rate up to a level that did not reflect how he played in the pressure matches.

    • Err why? All the specialists failed and the stars were test players (Root and Buttler) who simply changed their approach! Thus proving that the best players can and do adapt. What happened today supports my thesis entirely. Rashid is in the test squad too.

      • Well who would you have wanted to play instead of those specialists that failed? Apart from a very harshly treated James Taylor, I can’t think of anybody in the Test frame that deserves selection at this moment in time, considering present form and scheduling.

        It is a really interesting general point you make… when I first got into cricket, I had to get a school friend to explain to me why some international cricketers were only capable of playing one format. At this point, I was wondering why Irani, Alleyne and Ealham didn’t seem to be in the Test reckoning… now I know! :-D

        But getting back to your point, how do you gauge the ‘best eleven cricketers?’ I know that’s always going to be subjective for all of us, but I also think it’s quite non-specific. What are the best cricketers best at? And in what style, against which kind of opposition and in in what conditions? There’s quite a few variables. Cook is almost certainly one of our best eleven cricketers at the moment. When Morgan was tearing up trees in the limited over games, he probably was too. But neither could sustain success in the other format and nobody is asking to bring them back into either team. Maybe you are saying that the ‘best’ cricketers are those who could comfortably hold down a place in any format (Pietersen and Flintoff / Root and Buttler)? I can see the sense in that.

        • On a related note, I never cease to be amazed at some of players we produce who excel in one but never quite click in the other – how is it that Vaughan and Prior couldn’t bring their fluent strokeplay to the fifty-over game?? I’m still not sure how it didn’t happen for them! Could be fun to come up with a composite XI of England players who excelled in both…

          • I think our ODI sides have struggled over the years because of the environment and strategy they’re following. Guys like Ian Bell are tremendously talented, but they’ve played under regimes that use stats to calculate a par score and they take it from there: paralysis from over-analysis. I see yesterday’s win as a removal of the shackles. The chance to play naturally. I think guys likes Ballance and Bell would succeed under the new regime – just like Root and Buttler improved yesterday.

  • There was too arguments to this article.
    1. A more aggressive approach might not be appropriate in England especially early in the season.
    2. You should mostly just pick your best players.

    I think that
    1. is not looking as good after today’s result
    2. Is looking to have been reinforced.

    • We’ve been asking England to play a more ‘modern’ and ‘aggressive’ style for years. By beef is with Strauss’s desire for specialists. Your best players are generally your best players, and the best ODI batsmen in the world are generally guys who do well in test cricket too. I maintain it’s not about personnel but our approach and tactics. Root and Buttler looked completely liberated yesterday. Hence the improvement.

      Yesterday was sensational and really enjoyable, but batting conditions were quite peculiar for England. The surface had very little in it for the seam bowlers and the ball didn’t swing all day. I would be very surprised if the majority of pitches are like this in the World Cup in 2019, especially as the tournament starts in late May.

      I suspect this England side will have good days and bad ones. I certainly don’t expect us to score 400 every time. We were in trouble at 202-6 but got to 400 because of the brilliance of Buttler, and to a lesser extent Rashid.


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