What led to England’s downfall and how can they regroup for the T20 World Cup? | By Simon Burnton
It is clear that England’s preparations for this tournament were not enough. Some may argue that it was comparable to South Africa’s, who are currently in second place with only one loss. Both teams had exactly 16 One Day Internationals (ODIs) scheduled in the year leading up to the World Cup and then had a gap of five to six months before playing a series against teams from Australia and New Zealand. They also gave their top players a brief rest before heading to India.
The main discrepancy is that eight South Africans participated in at least 10 of those ODIs, while only four English players, two of whom have had limited involvement, were able to do the same. The majority of the South African team has had ample opportunities to play together and have become familiar with each other’s strengths and quirks as well as the demands of this format. In contrast, some of the players that England had counted on, including Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Mark Wood, Ben Stokes, and Liam Livingstone, had not played a 50-over game in over a year when they joined the first match of the September series against New Zealand (and Gus Atkinson had only played two). It was assumed that these players had enough experience to seamlessly adapt and perform well, but England’s assumptions have proven to be unreliable.
During the time when England’s team took a break before the tournament, Australia participated in a three-game series in India and a majority of New Zealand’s team was in Bangladesh. It is crucial to spend time actually being present at the location of a major event rather than taking time off.
India has set a model for optimal training by playing 30 ODIs in a span of 12 months leading up to the World Cup. This culminated in nine matches within three weeks in September, allowing the team to establish a rhythm for tournament cricket. Additionally, participating in the Asia Cup served as a low-key version of the upcoming event. While England’s players have numerous commitments that make this type of schedule nearly impossible, prioritizing an ideal preparation may be more crucial for achieving success in tournaments than having the perfect team composition.
Although Matthew Mott did not have a say in this schedule, the position of the coach will likely be a subject of discussion. Prior to England’s match against India, Eoin Morgan, who briefly collaborated with Mott when he was appointed as coach and Morgan retired from cricket the following month, expressed criticism towards him. Morgan maintains a close relationship with Jos Buttler and various members of the team.
“There is a line of command on the decision-making process that has failed,” Morgan said. “When it comes to infrastructure or structural decisions, you have to question the leadership. That’s a challenge for Rob Key and I’d say a bigger challenge for Matthew Mott. This World Cup and possibly the next [T20] one in the West Indies and America in 2024 will be his biggest challenges, because he’s in and amongst the team, he knows them inside out now, and his man-management will be tested because that level of expectation will not go away.”
The word “possibly” is particularly intriguing, as it seems harmless but carries a significant sense of uncertainty. The only reason why Mott may not see next year’s T20 World Cup as a challenge is if he is no longer employed by the ECB. Mott’s track record with Australia’s women’s team was exceptional and he gained a lot of recognition for England’s victory in last year’s T20 World Cup. In hindsight, his decision to make minimal changes when taking over a winning team in May may have been a mistake. However, his partnership with Jos Buttler has not been very inspiring and he has been unable to provide answers during England’s disappointing performances in India. While he deserves more time, if he is capable of building a successful team rather than just inheriting one, it is time for him to demonstrate it.
Here are three steps to prepare for the World T20:
Maximize the potential of the buildup.
Unfortunately, it is too late to alter the schedule for England’s team, which is alarmingly similar to the one that has been unsuccessful this year. While it was not expected for many members of this squad to participate in the West Indies tour in December, their performances in India have resulted in unexpected time off in November. However, this could potentially change. The white-ball team will then disband for a period of five months before reuniting for four T20 matches against Pakistan in May. The last match will take place just five days before the T20 World Cup, making it impossible to gather the team sooner due to the ongoing Indian Premier League. To make the most of a less than ideal preparation, the selection criteria will need to be modified, placing greater emphasis on current form rather than past performances.
Select the appropriate personnel.
Jos Buttler showed his support for Chris Woakes during the World Cup, despite Woakes’ initial struggles. Buttler emphasized the importance of having consistent performers on the team. However, this mindset should be reconsidered. The focus should be on selecting players who are in good form during the time of the tournament. This means that those who excel in T20s during the winter, such as in the Big Bash, SA20, PSL, or IPL, should be considered for the World Cup. On the other hand, those who do not perform well should not be included. Additionally, if it appears that the current coaching staff is unable to bring out the best in their players, they should be replaced with new coaches, possibly including some strategic appointments while retaining Mott as head coach.
3) Look to the future
The England team is composed of older players who hold onto their positions too tightly. This has made it nearly impossible for outside players to join the national team, despite it being a cricket team and not a private club. Unfortunately, the ECB has given out long-term contracts at a time when rejuvenation is necessary. However, selectors must ignore these contracts and choose players based on their current abilities. Non-contracted players should also be given more than just average pay for their involvement. Most importantly, those who play in place of multi-format players should feel valued and not just filling in. The team is in need of new talent, fresh energy, and a fair competition for spots.