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England’s horror show will just increase the apathy towards cricket in the UK

22-Feb-2015
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England_cricket_cartoon“Why would I stay up all night to watch this rabble?” came the comment from one of my facebook friends.  

He has a point. Why would you? The timings of the matches makes it hard enough but why would you battle through the night just to watch your team be humiliated?

England’s defeat to New Zealand inside 13 overs is as bad as it’s been for England in World Cup history. It was expected that they’d probably lose, New Zealand are an outstanding team but the manner of the defeat was one that no one could have predicted. 

“This must be the most one-sided match I’ve seen” said BBC Test Match Special commentator Jonathan Agnew who’s seen England on the wrong side of plenty of drubbings in his time. 

England are in disarray despite having given themselves six months of nothing but one-day cricket to prepare for this World Cup. They’d have been better off just having a short three week preparation period rather than two one-day series which they ended up losing causing last minute changes to the side and to the plans. 

Six months ago it was expected that Alastair Cook and Alex Hales would be opening the batting. Ian Bell was mostly on the bench during the Sri Lanka series. Then all changed, Cook was unceremoniously de-frocked as captain. Bell brought in to open with Moeen Ali, Alex Hales relegated to drinks carrier. James Taylor, having been successful batting at six was dropped down the order to bring in Gary Ballance at three. What a dreadful message that sends out to the team. Even Peter Moores' notorious motivational management speak could not hide that England don’t appear to know what they’re doing. They don’t know what their best team is and they don’t know how break the shackles. 

Compare and contrast the two teams:

New Zealand full of confidence, flair and freedom. Enjoying their cricket, lead well from the top allowing their players to do what they do best.  

England: Timid, terrified, confused. Paralysed by fear. The culture is all wrong and the culture comes from the top. And those at the top in English cricket talk a lot of nonsense. It is often joked that English is only Peter Moores’ second language with his first being management garbage. 

As Alex Bowden of King Cricket put it,

 

What do England do? Bring in a zombie and drop a zombie or stick with the zombies they’ve got.

And ex-England player Graeme Fowler who is now seen as one of the leading coaches in the country summed it up nicely with this tweet. 

Graemefowler@GFoxyFowler I feel sorry for the England players. They seem to be told what to do every minute and now have forgotten how they played to be selected.

Kevin Pietersen wrote about this in his autobiography. About how the culture in the England camp sucks the life out of the players. It was there for all to see during England’s Ashes whitewash last year. They’re managed within an inch of their lives. They have to listen to team meetings in which Peter Moores (or Andy Flower previously) bore them into submission with their “plans”. It’s time to stop all that. These are talented players, they’ve earnt their place in the side based on their ability. It’s time to throw out the plans. Trust the players to play cricket. They all know how to. They know what to do. And they need to do that. It’s OK to play their natural games. 
Of course, because of the nature of the World Cup, England will probably still qualify for the quarter-finals. In many ways, that’s irrelevant. The gulf between England and the top one-day teams in the World is huge and getting bigger.   

It’s been acknowledged for a while that cricket in England has a problem. Participation rates are down, interest in the game is waning. It’s descending into an even more minority sport than it once was.  

People want to support a winning team, they want to share in the glory. For all but the die-hards, performances like this one will just further the apathy both towards the England team and subsequently the domestic game. The new chief executive of the ECB has just started in his new job and he’s got a heck of a challenge on his hands. Whilst the Test side may be in fairly good health, limited overs cricket is going backwards and it’s limited overs cricket that is the starter drug for many kids. If it stays like this, they’ll take one puff on the joint of English cricket and decide it makes them feel too sick to ever do it again.  

England’s match against Scotland now looks like much more of a banana skin than it did 24 hours ago but you’ve got to wonder how many people in this country are going to take the risk of staying up during the night to watch it. 



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Lizzy Ammon is a UK based freelance cricket writer and broadcaster who works for the BBC and variou...

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