England’s World Cup post-mortem – The harsh truth

England aren’t well-conditioned to travelling abroad.

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Players in the England team have suffering to various illness
Players in the England team have suffering to various illness


By CricketCountry Staff


Some of the reasons why England keep failing in World Cups:


Not tough enough


For whatever reason, England clearly aren’t as well-conditioned as other teams to travelling abroad. In the past decade, we have observed recurring themes when England have travelled away from home: homesickness (Steve Harmison, Kevin Pietersen), ill-discipline (pissing off a balcony, PedaloGate), stress (Marcus Trescothick) and general malaise (everybody).


And now, we’ve had Mike Yardy flying home the day before the biggest match of his life, because of depression. These are just the cases that we’re aware of, and it would not surprise anyone if there were a few more silent sufferers in the side.


Yes, spending time away from your family is tough. Being away from your wife and kids is tough. But it’s not as if you are quarantined from your nearest and dearest for the entire duration of your tour. Moreover, other teams have to deal with the same s*it, so why have we rarely heard of similar situations from other sides? The only other country that comes close to England’s factory-line of Greek tragedies is Australia, and that’s mainly because they’re a team of metrosexual pansies (ghosts in a hotel, anyone?). At least the Aussies have got an identifiable weakness, whereas it seems that England need to confront a few monsters in their closet.


Just not good enough


Bob Willis might well come across as a miserable old git, but the essence of his points remains salient. While I can’t profess to agree with his assertion that Jonathan Trott’s 86 off 115 was a ‘match-losing innings’, it lacked the X-Factor genius of a Mike Hussey or a Yuvraj Singh, who can both change gears at the death. This is not down to Trott’s temperament, and it’s not down to not knowing when to accelerate – it’s just down to a (relative) lack of genius.


So, while it is harsh to criticize Trott for playing to the best of his abilities, the fact remains that to win a World Cup, ‘good’ is not good enough.


However, it’s endemic in the English mindset to turn the tables on someone such as Bob Willis, who is unashamedly critical and brutally honest about the team’s shortcomings. Instead of focusing their ire on England’s players, the media use his comments as a convenient excuse to have a go at a man who actually knows what he’s talking about. Just because he doesn’t conveniently gift-wrap his advice so that it’s a sickly sweet syrup rather than his preferred enema, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t listen to Bob Willis.


James Anderson can lay claim to being the ultimate case of ‘just not good enough’. Having enjoyed an exceptional Ashes series, he was sadly unable to adjust to the flatter subcontinent pitches, and was battered from pillar to post, taking five wickets @ 56.5. As with so many other times in his career, just when we were thinking he might make the step up to be a consistently world-class bowler, Anderson came up short.


Caveat: Willis’ constant criticism of Trott is over the top. Instead of pillorying the bloke who is top scorer in the entire tournament after the quarter-finals, how’s about laying into the Ian Bells and Ravi Boparas of this world, eh Bob?


The schedule was silly


No matter how mentally focused you are, there will always be a mental comedown after winning The Ashes Down Under. It’s unfortunate, but at times during the World Cup, it was plain to see that England players had simply run out of steam, and occasionally had ponderous ‘*sigh* I wish I was home’  looks on their faces. Winning a hard-fought Ashes series, followed by a pounding in the subsequent ODI series, meant that there was always going to be an understandable mentality of ‘well, we always have The Ashes to fall back on.’


Furthermore, five players in England’s original squad ended up being replaced due to injury – by anybody’s reckoning that’s simply astonishing. Some were unavoidable, as there’s no accounting for broken fingers…but the consistently high number of ‘stress’ injuries suffered by English players is nothing short of alarming. Especially when you consider they have about 16 strength and conditioning coaches, seven yoga experts, and even a lackey who makes sure that James Anderson would always win his confidence-boosting Xbox penalty shoot-outs the night before a big match.


Grassroots failures


From my own experiences, the coaching system in UK is woefully flawed. Whereas in other countries, unorthodoxy is at least tolerated, if not encouraged, England have a massive problem in accepting young players who don’t bowl or bat according to the MCC Coaching Manual. In relative terms, I played a vast amount of youth cricket. Once, having travelled to Trent Bridge for some trials – Kevin Pietersen was there; this was before he became famous – I saw some exceptionally talented cricketers.


One kid sticks in my mind – he was a Pakistani lad, only 12 years old. He bowled googlies and flippers like I’ve still never seen to this day, turning the ball a mile with his tiny hands, on an indoor surface…he bowled all variations under the sun, and ended up flummoxing batsmen who were years older than him. The problem? He was a chunky monkey. Instead of earning a slot on an elite youth tour to Sri Lanka, or being given some advice, this lad was discarded. I chatted to his devastated father, a shift worker who had taken the day off work and had a 300 mile round-trip to make. His words still echo: “He’s 12 years old…he plays in his mens’ 1st XI…but we can’t afford to take him to all the trials.”


An unfortunate anecdote, perhaps, but symptomatic of the laziness and apathy of coaches that many have endured, both at school and for clubs. I played with many talented kids, and there is so much cut-throat competition at youth level that it is hard to believe that Adil Rashid and Scott Borthwick are the best leg-spinners in England. And they aren’t – the best spinners are out there every Saturday and Sunday, bamboozling batsmen in league cricket. They have simply never been afforded the mere chance of a trial at a county side.


At least 50% of the best cricketing talent in England lies outside the counties, and it’s a travesty.


The toothless ECB


Mike Atherton commented that as England captain 15 years ago, he wrote a report to the ECB explaining how the schedule was ludicrous, and beyond the means of all but Iron Men. In this post-mortem, we are outlining what the ECB will now take two months and tens of thousands of pounds to compile. They will continue to paper over the cracks and shirk the harsh truths of their own incompetence and failures – after all, why would they admit to their own mistakes, sat in their corporate boxes, with their prawn sandwiches and six-figure salaries? They will hold a kangaroo court inquiry, and as usual, nothing will happen. An independent audit is needed; anything less is unacceptable.


How can we expect the ECB to hold a competent reflection into their failings? After all, these are the same overpaid, out-of-touch guys who entertained Allen Stanford and still managed to stay in their jobs. Then, Giles Clarke was caught with his pants down in Lalit Modi’s office, and that was hardly a pretty sight.


We often ridicule South Africa for being ‘chokers’, but to put it into perspective, England haven’t even been good enough to get in a winning position since 1992. Repeating the same mistakes ad nauseam is simply ridiculous, and hints at endemic, systemic failures over successive regimes.


As @Fareastou put it: “South Africa choked. England chose to swallow.”


In conclusion, consistent, embarrassing failures in cricket’s tournament are only to be expected from England.


The World Cup owes England no favours. Treat it with disdain, and it will happily treat you likewise.


(This article is reproduced with permission from http://AlternativeCricket.com. AlternativeCricket is currently developing a scholarship for young Afghan cricketers. You can follow them on Facebook (http://facebook.com/alternativecricket ) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/altcricket )

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