By Anthony K
There are many ingredients in the making of a successful team, but a look at England’s recent fortunes in Test and 50-over cricket illustrates the value of a clear strategic vision. Under the leadership of the Andys Flower and Strauss, England’s Test cricket has shown a clarity of purpose that has fuelled what might be an unstoppable march from the nadir that gave this website its name, to the zenith of victory over India and the number one ranking. The confusion as to what one day cricket is actually for, and how to approach it, has offered a vivid and unwelcome contrast, with England mired in a mediocrity which could no longer be ignored after the ignominy of their ten wicket humiliation by Sri Lanka in this year’s World Cup.
So, we at 51allout were delighted by the pleasing symmetry of Wednesday’s victory by that margin over the same opponents, as an under-pressure England bounced back convincingly from their maulings at Headingley and Lord’s. Alastair Cook’s partnership with the excellent Craig Kieswetter, and the dominant role he played within it, was a most satisfying endorsement of his appointment as the new spearhead of England’s 50-over team. But aside from Cook’s glorious confirmation of his suitability to open, have England really moved on? Is the pattern not already familiar to seasoned watchers of their limited overs cricket? In traditional “English” conditions, with first use of a seaming wicket, haven’t they always been able to beat most opposition?
It is this writer’s view that, for the players, the main purpose of 50-over internationals should be to prepare for the World Cup. Pitches like that at Trent Bridge yesterday will help England win home one-day series, but not the 2015 World Cup to be held in Australia, where a 6-1 debacle was recently endured. Are English cricket fans prepared to see their team suffer some home reverses on flatter, more batsman-friendly wickets or don’t they care enough about one day cricket to do what is necessary to become a force in that form of the game? Will they be satisfied with a few quickly forgotten wins to set against quadrennial humiliation at the World Cup?
And will “Team England” and the ECB be content to count the money and use ODIs as an unofficial proving ground for potential Test match players, or will they approach it with the same seriousness as the Australians did when they were able to combine unchallenged supremacy in Tests with the winning of three consecutive World Cups?
With ten games against world champions India coming up, we will see where England really stand and whether they can bring to the limited-overs game the vision and guts so characteristic of their recent form over five days. We hope they will, but another wicket like Wednesday’s at Old Trafford on Saturday, and more of the same when India come to town, will be a frustrating sign that England’s long-awaited one-day renaissance has been postponed again.