Ah, the innocence of youth. Lord knows what Alastair Cook, Peter Moores, James Whitaker and Paul Downton would have made of such thoughts, but it took the teenage progeny of a colleague to put in a nutshell what many currently feel about England’s 50 over performances.
To paraphrase what Freddie Wilde (son of Simon Wilde of The Sunday Times) tweeted the other day is worth passing on, which was that England’s problem is that they regard ODIs as short Test matches, whereas the rest of the cricket world now thinks of them as long t20s.
And, as they pick through the debris of another car crash of a one-day series defeat, the last, at Edgbaston, by the margin of nine wickets with three balls fewer than an entire t20 innings to spare, that prompts me to pen an open letter to all of the above.
Dear Alastair: We love you; we love the fact that you retained your dignity amid the carnage of last winter’s hammering Down Under, that, over Kevin Pietersen, you were not afraid to take a position which you knew would make you as popular in some quarters as herpes, and that you had the courage and passion for the honour of the captaincy to scrap like hell to keep it.
As you are fully aware, however, love is not all you need. Runs are. The Test side need you to score them at your own pace and, when you do, it generally does well enough to silence all doubts about your role as its leader, your occasional lapses into tactical catatonia notwithstanding.
But the ODI side needs them at a rate you do not appear able to deliver and while, England’s chances of winning the 2015 World Cup are slim at best, in my humble opinion, unless you remove yourself from it and concentrate on working out how you are going to reverse a 5-0 Ashes scoreline next summer, Slim will be saddling his hoss very soon.
When Graeme Swann, Geoff Boycott, Michael Vaughan, Shane Warne or Dave’s mum tells you their version of the above, it is not personal. It does not become you to seek to deflect criticism from Warne by calling it a personal vendetta, nor to attempt to draw the sting from Swann’s words by characterising them as betrayal from a “so-called friend”.
The worst thing a real friend can do is not tell you something you need to hear. So hear this, Alastair. Credit to you for responding so positively when, on your appointment as ODI skipper, Mike Atherton called you a “plodder” with the bat and a “donkey” in the field.
Fair play to you for telling us: “If players are not hungry to keep working on things there is no place for them in the dressing room,” and no one doubts your desire. But, unless you are convinced you can reinvent yourself as Sanath Jayasuriya in the time it takes to spell his name, for the good of the team and yourself, prove yourself a lion and quit.
Dear Peter: For your tactical approach to batting, no doubt teams of laptop carrying boffins can produce statistical proof that day is night, but whatever the theory about going steady at the start of the innings to keep wickets in hand, that doesn’t mean the top order batsmen should bat not as though they are in a one-day match, but as though it is day one of five.
And whatever technical shortcomings he may have against the unplayable late inswinger, why pick Alex Hales for his explosive hitting over the top in the first powerplay then ask him to bat like Boycs?
England have more than enough batsmen who can bob along at two runs per over. Give Hales (and others) licence to tee-off. The side cannot do any worse than be bowled out for scores like 206.
Congratulations on helping turn the Test series against India. Even allowing for the fact that MS Dhoni’s team seemed to go on their holidays for the last three matches, the hole England were in after Lord’s felt bottomless so well done for whatever you did to get them out of it.
But quotes like the one you came up with after the defeats in the first two ODIs do no-one any good. “We’ve got to accelerate the development of the team,” you told us, “quicker than might be normal to get ourselves really competitive by the World Cup.” Quicker than might be normal? You don’t say.
Dear James and Paul: From my personal experience of covering England in global ODI competitions going back to the 1991-92 World Cup, plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.
Every four years, at the point England are knocked out, we are told about exciting plans for the next one, with whichever new captain/coach/chairman of selectors has been appointed following yet another crushing disappointment attempting to inspire fresh optimism with words like dynamic, innovative, brave etc.
And every time the brilliant adventure peters out into failure, bewilderment and sometimes humiliation as your players struggle in vain to catch up with the dynamism, innovation and bravery they are shown by the best teams in the world.
I recall publicly being taken to task by an England cricketer for daring to describe their efforts in the 1995-96 tournament in India, Pakistan Sri Lanka as failure. “It wasn’t that bad, you know,” he told the audience at a Q and A, “ we did reach the last eight.” They had indeed, by beating Holland and the UEA.
It may be too late for the 2015 World Cup, but why not think about setting some new trends for the next one rather than another four years of failing to catch up with others. Bright idea #1: develop and pick big hitters and let them hit big. Why did it take so long to select Hales in this format, 43 ODIs after he made 99 in a t20 against West Indies at Trent Bridge in 2012, and three more to play Mo Ali this summer?
Why did it take so long for you to back Jos Buttler for the Test team? Why pack a Lions side full of the promise of James Vince and Hales, Jason Roy and James Taylor, then pick a one a day side with Cook and Ian Bell in the top three?
And why have you discarded Ravi Bopara, England’s best all-round ODI player for the last 18 months? David Gower was not the only one to assure us that “wholesale changes won’t work.”
I’ve got news for all of you: this isn’t working either. Yours in hope, but, sadly, very little expectation, Peter Hayter.