The latest failure in England’s World Cup performance prompts them to bring out the Executioner | Written by Barney Ronay
Some of us were hesitant about what we might discover, traveling hundreds of miles along a road that wound through the World Cup like a power cable. However, we proceeded nonetheless, navigating through corridors and flights of stairs, amidst the commotion and brightness (and the stadium’s canine mascot), passing through various rooms until we reached the epicenter of England’s World Cup struggles.
In the last room, there is a table with a board full of advertisements. Sitting in front of the board is Carl Hopkinson, who is also the fielding coach. It was a terrifying sight.
This was not a formal meeting with the press. It felt more like a punishment. In fact, based on the events of that afternoon, Carl Hopkinson might describe it as such. The interim spokesperson for England’s defeated world champions used the phrase “execute our skills” repeatedly, a total of nine times, during two short interviews with the media.
This was something deeply routine, a series of unremarkable questions posed by the host and travelling press at the England team’s first public appearance since exiting the World Cup in the most wretched, invertebrate fashion.
No one predicted any of this. However, there were hints along the way. This was one of them – the day when England’s management chose an assistant coach, who had never spoken to the press before, to address the downfall of a successful team and the end of an era that has been fulfilling for all players and administrators involved, and has affected those who are passionate about and support the sport at home.
Honestly, Hopkinson should be rewarded with a bonus, multiple rounds of drinks, and sincere gratitude for stepping up when no one else would. However, this was also a comical display of public relations, showing disregard for the process and displaying disdain towards the incredibly supportive cricket media (imagine losing in a similar manner in football). It also showed a lack of consideration for the dedicated cricket fans, who are also known as viewers and readers.
Is any of this important? Can a regular pre-match press conference truly hold significance? In this instance: yes. This was a unique occurrence, a press conference that held weight, with obligations to fulfill and reassurance to provide. And above all, the necessity to care for the most crucial relationship in cricket.
The cost for players to participate in the World Cup will exceed £100,000 in addition to their regular salary. This money is not unlimited and is generated from TV subscriptions, ticket sales, and sponsor involvement. Whether on or off the field, this compensation should be earned rather than seen as a freebie. However, England has quietly exited the tournament, much like how they entered it unprepared, with injured players, relying on their own fame, and ready to falter under the slightest pressure.
Apathy can be contagious. In the home country, the orchestrated collapse has gradually faded from attention, serving as a warning for a sport that is on the brink of becoming a specialized pursuit. The downfall of this team seems to be ingrained, indicating a larger underlying issue that extends beyond exhausted players struggling to keep up with the demands.
It really shouldn’t be Carl Hopkinson’s job to explain this. But it made for an agreeably surreal afternoon in Pune as Hopkinson took his seat, a generic cricket-style man, shades on top of his cap, looking a little frazzled in the lights.
He was not aware of the team, as the person who did know had not informed him yet. He was uncertain if Ben Stokes would be leaving. Hopkinson was asked why he was present and chosen to elucidate the unexpected downfall of England’s World Cup champions. He responded, “I’m not entirely sure why I am the one to explain,” which could be seen as a nod to Roy Hodgson’s famous quote of “I don’t know why I’m here” after the Iceland match in 2016, but it was something that everyone in the room could agree on.
In other words, the main focus was on how well they performed. Just to clarify, this is a shortened explanation provided by England’s coaching team for the unexpected downfall of the reigning champion team: “It’s about performing under pressure. We haven’t been able to execute our skills as well as we could have. As I’ve mentioned multiple times, it comes down to executing under pressure.”
When asked about how to improve execution, Hopkinson provided an answer. He explained that it comes from various factors and leaned in as if he had a groundbreaking realization. He stated that it starts with winning cricket games. It’s a perfect circular logic, delicate enough to disappear from view just as you think you understand it. Essentially, execution leads to winning games, and winning games teaches you how to execute.
The future of English cricket is constantly in danger of disappearing, disappearing without a trace due to external distractions. Maybe this is what awaits us behind the door of our final destination. Maybe this is the end. A man wearing a cap stands in front of a board covered in advertisements, discussing execution while no one bothers to take notes that will never be recorded, read, or necessary. This is your Executioner.
Is any of this significant? Indeed, it is. The coach of England’s team, Matthew Mott, should have been there. Mott has not made any public statements since the World Cup ended. He appears pleasant and capable. He has been described as “calm” by The Executioner. It is hard to argue with that, as we do not know much about him. Cricket coaches have less impact compared to football managers. However, his complete absence from the public eye is peculiar, showing that he lives a secluded life within a secluded world.
Once more, this appears to be a discussion taking place in a confined space. Initially, the introduction of the Rob Key-led leadership group, made up of former professional players and relatively new administrators with a strong presence on television, gave a sense of progress and modernization. However, the preference for friendships and connections, as well as the idolization of celebrities, has resulted in its own negative consequences.
It is noteworthy that contracts for players are being publicly announced during the middle of a World Cup, with no prior knowledge of the Champions Trophy, and with an aging team that has fallen apart. Additionally, the fielding coach is giving a crucial press conference because no one is able to admit that this is poor communication, presents a negative image, and ultimately shows a lack of professionalism.
Hopefully, Key will arrive in India sometime this week to survey the remaining parts and assess the situation. It is hoped that he will have more to offer than this.