England’s recent performance has been a disappointment, especially in the losses to South Africa and Sri Lanka. They altered their strategies, leaning on their all-rounders and choosing to bat first.
This underscores the significance of tactics, team dynamics, and even the coin toss. However, the ultimate factor, not just in cricket but in any sport, is having players in top form, especially in a World Cup setting.
If you were to enter the England dressing room now and ask the players if they are in good shape, only a handful could answer positively. As a collective, their performance has crumbled, and it appears that we may be witnessing the conclusion of an era. Some of them have faced challenges beyond their abilities.
That being said, it’s always easier to analyze things in hindsight. Many of the cricketers out there today are some of the best ever to represent England in white-ball cricket. I wouldn’t have made changes prior to the tournament.
Would I replace Jonny Bairstow? No. Dawid Malan? No. Joe Root? He’s among our finest white-ball batsmen. Ben Stokes? He’s practically carried us to two World Cups single-handedly. Adil Rashid? Mark Wood? No.
Collectively, they’ve performed magic on the field, but in these past three weeks, their play hasn’t reflected the caliber of players they are or the culture Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler have cultivated over the last six years. It’s a disappointing departure from their usual standards.
While it’s easy to adopt a pessimistic outlook and call for changes, we mustn’t forget the exceptional six or seven years of outstanding white-ball cricket they’ve provided us.
Attributing England’s cricket struggles to the system is a feeble excuse. What I find troubling is how we often offer players an easy way out in English cricket.
When they clinch victory in the 50-over and T20 World Cups, we sing their praises. Yet, when things go awry, suddenly the blame shifts to the English cricket structure.
They point fingers at our T20 and 100-ball cricket formats, suggesting we haven’t played enough 50-over cricket. Consider how much domestic 50-over cricket Virat Kohli or any other top cricketer worldwide has played. They draw inspiration from T20 franchises across the globe, which has been a cornerstone of England’s success over the last six years.
It’s a weak argument to lay blame on the structure, especially when that very structure catapulted them to world champion status.
While it’s true that England may have somewhat lost focus and not provided adequate practice and game time leading up to the tournament, it’s important to remember that this very system was instrumental in their success.
When things go wrong, the responsibility lies with the team itself. They should shoulder the blame rather than shifting it to the structure, in my opinion.
A sports psychologist once told me, ‘If you stay at the same level, don’t assume you’re progressing.’ England has appeared to plateau, perhaps thinking that being double world champions is enough. Well, it’s not enough, and they now stand on the brink of elimination.
Jos Buttler acknowledged that his future as England captain may be out of his control after a string of heavy defeats that have severely jeopardized their World Cup campaign. He remains confident in his leadership abilities but understands that the decision may ultimately rest with higher authorities.
As the tournament unfolds, England’s qualification chances hang in the balance. Their next challenge is against hosts India on Sunday, and they’ll need a few miracles to keep their hopes alive. You can catch all the action of the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup live on Sky Sports or stream it on NOW.