Now that Alastair Cook’s fate has been determined, and the hordes of insatiable demonic plebs on social media have had their way, the England squad for the World Cup can finally be picked on merit. Shame it took the forces of darkness – those heinous orcish keyboard warriors – to restore a meritocracy.
Anyway, enough of the smugness, now we’ve had our pound of flesh (you can read Maxie’s thoughts here) it’s time to chew the fat and digest the rest of the squad. How’s it looking? Well, it looks better than it did in Sri Lanka, but it’s still not going to strike fear into David Warner, Virat Kohli and Co.
Unfortunately this team only has a few games to settle before the phoney war ends and the real shooting begins. We were supposed to have four years to prepare for the bloody World Cup, but the cult of Cook got in the way. Now we’ll have to bed in a new opening partnership and create a new ‘culture’ without the bloke who’s been the centre of the ECB’s universe for the last twelve months. Hang your head in shame Mr Downton.
Talking of Downton, he’s had one hell of a week. First of all he gave a series of media interviews in which he came across as a pompous spin-doctor divorced from reality. Now he’s been overruled and humiliated.
It’s hard to think how Downton’s first year in the job could have been worse. Why did he even give an interview last week? Why not just wait until the key decisions had been made? He was setting himself up for a fall. In my opinion he was both naïve and incompetent.
Through all the controversies of 2014, Downton hid behind his sofa and stubbornly refused to speak to the media. When he did finally make an appearance it was at the wrong time and he said all of the wrong things. If I wasn’t from the right sort of family myself, I’d call him a useless plonker.
Downton has got just about everything wrong this year:
The promotion of Andy Flower? Wrong.
The reappointment of Peter Moores – a coach who has never won a single limited overs trophy in his life – in a World Cup year? Wrong.
The backing of a captain with little charisma and little form? Wrong.
The sacking of Kevin Pietersen? Probably wrong, judging by the testimony provided by several members of the squad.
The decision to break the confidentiality agreement soon after it was imposed? Wrong.
And finally, the decision to speak to the public just three times in a traumatic calendar year? Shameful.
Cook has been a terrible England ODI batsman and captain since the Ashes debacle, but compared to the managing director of English cricket he’s been bloody ‘revelationary’ (to use Downton’s favourite non-word). If Cook has been sacked, why hasn’t the MD? It’s more than shabby, Downton.
Anyway, on to the squad itself … at least the team can now finally move on without the negativity surrounding the skipper. Like Roy Hodgson in Brazil, we can go the World Cup with young players, free from the burden of excessive expectations, enjoy the experience, learn as much as we can, and … probably go out in the group stage. Maybe Mitchell Johnson will have a meltdown and bite Brendon McCullum? That would be fun.
The squad itself contained few surprises, with Ballance deservedly replacing Cook. The batting definitely has talent, so it’s not a lost cause, I just fear it’s too late for them to gel as a unit. If the likes of Mo, Root, Morgan and Buttler can find top form at the right time, then a run to the semis or even the final might be possible. The odds are clearly against it though.
The bowling is also a worry. There is no mystery, no pace, and basically very little hope. We might take some early wickets if Broad and Anderson can find their form and fitness, but Jimmy’s recent record in Australia isn’t exactly great. Furthermore, he doesn’t play T20 cricket for a reason: batsmen can get after him. Even George Bailey gave him a tonking in the Ashes.
The absence of any good death bowlers is very concerning. In previous years we had guys like Darren Gough to fire in yorkers. These days our strategy revolves around the slower ball bouncer … which I suppose is the antithesis of the fast full toss (and just as useless).
Given the absurd format of the tournament, however, our cause isn’t without hope. If we can avoid too many hiccups in the group stages – in other words, we don’t lose to Bangladesh – we should make the quarter-finals. Then it’s just a series of one off games.
At this point, I cannot see England defending too many totals against the world’s best sides, but I do think we’re capable of pulling off the odd run chase. Cricket matches can be decided by brilliant individual performances, so if we can keep Buttler fit, and Morgan rediscovers his magic touch, we’ve got a chance.
Admittedly it’s a bit of a Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber chance, but it’s a chance nevertheless. What do you guys think?
Squad: Morgan (capt), Hales, Moeen Ali, Bell, Taylor, Root, Ballance, Bopara, Buttler, Woakes, Jordan, Finn, Broad, Anderson, Tredwell