Jos Buttler scored the maximum runs for England in 2014 © Getty Images
Jos Buttler has scored the highest runs for England in 2014 so far © Getty Images

England slipped to another defeat in the second One-Day International (ODI) against Sri Lanka. The year 2014 has been a tough ride for England in ODIs as they search for the success formula ahead of the World Cup. Nishad Pai Vaidya writes that it is not so much about ability as much as it is about mindset.

England have traditionally not been a force in ODIs. It seemed an auxiliary format, with all the focus on the classical game. The three-time World Cup finalists fit the bill at a time when ODIs were evolving and finding its feet. However, the fast-paced modern version has exposed England’s limitations and they are in danger of being embarrassed at the upcoming World Cup. Alastair Cook’s men have had a tough time in 2014, winning only seven out of their 20 matches.

It isn’t to say that England do not have the players for the coloured clothing. They clinched the ICC World T20 2010 with a bunch of fearless and flamboyant cricketers who thrived on the shortest format. Even though Kevin Pietersen is out of contention, they have the likes of Eoin Morgan, Moeen Ali, Jos Buttler and Ravi Bopara, to name a few. However, their mindset is not tuned to the demands of modern one-day cricket, where scores over 300 are no longer as psychologically imposing.

Former skipper Andrew Strauss summed it up quite well during a chat with the BBC recently: “I think the England players, even throughout my time, have played too fearfully. They’ve been far too fearful of getting out. And you can’t make 400 if you’ve got that kind of attitude. I would argue it’s not the strategy that is wrong; it’s that players haven’t actually played well enough. And it’s very hard to score 400 in ODIs if you’re not confident”. These comments come from the man who had led them in the last World Cup, and is the only Englishman to have scored three ODI 150s.

Let us have a look at how England’s batsmen have performed in ODIs in 2014:

M

R

Ave

100s

50s

SR

HS

Jos Buttler

20

587

34.52

1

2

113.5

121

Joe Root

18

549

32.29

2

1

75.8

113

Eoin Morgan

18

488

28.70

1

2

82.0

106

Ian Bell

15

479

34.21

0

4

90.9

68

Alastair Cook

16

436

29.06

0

1

71.4

56

Ravi Bopara

16

353

29.41

0

3

76.7

65

Moeen Ali

7

306

43.71

1

2

107.0

119

Garry Balance

11

261

29.00

0

1

70.5

70

Michael Lumb

3

165

55.00

1

0

81.3

106

Take away Michael Lumb (he has played only three matches), and Moeen is the only one who averages over 40. Jos Buttler is, of course, the standout performer. For someone who bats lower down the order, an average of 34.52 is impressive, particularly when bring his astonishing strike-rate of 113.5 into perspective. Morgan has struggled this year and so had Cook. On the other hand, though Ian Bell’s numbers are not very impressive, he has still managed to score four fifties and has maintained a strike-rate over 90.

Many have felt that the old-fashioned mindset is holding them back. However, a batsman like Bell has managed a better strike-rate when compared to some of his supposed aggressive teammates. Cook has clearly struggled and is in desperate need to lift his game. Root isn’t very aggressive when one considers the numbers in a long run but has the ability to pick up pace.

Keeping that trio aside, England do not have a lot of quality ODI batsmen, what with Alex Hales sitting out. It is not so much about ability as much as it is about mindset. Once England overcome that, men like Cook and Bell can blend in with the others such as Moeen, Morgan, Buttler and Bopara.  Once England are able to get their act together they can be formidable.

As far as the bowling goes, they need not worry. James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn can be dangerous on the surfaces Down Under. James Tredwell has been effective in ODIs and is backed up by Moeen and Bopara.

In a nutshell, batting will be their biggest worry. What is worse, England seem to be in this mental whirlpool forever; ironically, only they can pull themselves out.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)