Mike Holmans October 24, 2011

Playing the long game

The India v England ODI series has seen the boot not just on the other foot, but planted firmly up England's backside
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The India v England ODI series has seen the boot not just on the other foot, but planted firmly up England's backside. They might possibly have won at Mohali if they had been sharper in the field, though even that is pretty doubtful, but otherwise they have been hopelessly outclassed.

This is hardly surprising. Other than changing the captain who opens the batting, there is essentially no difference between the current team and the one that wasn't good enough to get beyond the World Cup quarter-final. It was clear even then that the team was not really up to the task of winning ODIs on South Asian pitches, especially against India.

One can pick apart the various flaws in certain players, which are in several cases partly explained by their lack of experience, but the main problem is strategic: England are playing 50-over cricket as if it were a speeded-up Test match, while India play as though it's the stretch-limo version of Twenty20.

The most obvious indication of this is the persistence with Jonathan Trott at No. 3. This is not meant as a criticism of him – his job is to hang around all through the innings and give the strike to the hitter at the other end, and he does it very well indeed – it is the job description itself which is at fault. It is a strategy that assumes that too many wickets will be lost too quickly unless there is an anchor keeping one end safe, which implies that they do not believe in all-out attack, or at least that they have little confidence in their ability to carry such a policy off.

Despite this, Alastair Cook and Andy Flower have both gone out of their way to praise Trott and have made it very clear that he is an integral part of their ODI strategy, even if Flower slightly qualified that by adding the rider “unless and until a better player comes along”. England fans can therefore look forward to more gloom and despondency during the rest of the winter's away ODIs against Sri Lanka and Pakistan (wherever “Pakistan” is actually situated).

One possible explanation is that the England management are stupid.

However, stupidity is not one of Flower's most obvious qualities. Quite the opposite: he gives every impression of being someone who thinks deeply about the England team's needs and how they should reach their goals.

While the way Trott plays is not ideal for Asian conditions, it makes a lot of sense in English conditions where it's not uncommon for a side to lose three or four wickets in the first ten overs. England's recent home ODI record is pretty good, and Trott has featured well in many of the wins, as he did in the series that England won in South Africa two winters ago. Conditions in Australia and New Zealand are similar to those in South Africa and England respectively. England's record in ODIs in Australia is pretty poor, including on the last visit, but since those series have been at the fag-end of a mentally and physically tiring Ashes series, they have probably not been ideal for assessing the ODI team.

The point being that what matters in ODI cricket is the World Cup. Australia may be top of the ODI rankings by a country mile, but who cares? It's India who are World Cup champions, and that's all that people really recognise. The rankings only cause any interest in the months leading up to a World Cup when people want to make some assessment of who are the potential winners of the main tournament.

Since the next World Cup is in Australia and New Zealand, what England need to do is to develop a team which can play well in Australasia. Nothing else matters. Having a team that plays poorly in Asia means that they spend a lot of time getting laughed at as well acres of hand-wringing press comment about how useless the ODI team is whenever they get thrashed by India from here to breakfast time, but for the next decade or so, until the World Cup circus returns to southern Asia, that's just a distraction.

Depressing though the current series has been, Flower is gambling in pursuit of the prize in 2015. We England fans have to hope he's right.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Hiren M on November 21, 2011, 9:06 GMT

    Someone was talking about 3-0 in England but dear please see tthat Indian Team no top players at that tym still played well , we r nt only lions at home see that in Australia in near future .We compete with SA in their backyard and almost beaten them .

  • Elirye on November 1, 2011, 7:08 GMT

    India has developed a specific and very successful strategy of winning on Indian soil that is to stuff the team with batsmen even at the cost of bowlers. Any team lacking world class bowlers who can perform irrespective of conditions would struggle against India. Keeping that in mind, Pakistan, Australian and South Africa are the only teams who would always put Indian team under pressure. Based on recently concluded two bilateral series between India and England, ICC should pondet seriously to start a championship for the World's best home team, and both India and England should given bye to play directly in the finals...

  • jabeen on October 31, 2011, 15:01 GMT

    trott is the best english batsman right now,he should play the sheet anchors rolls.

  • Jeegar on October 30, 2011, 5:51 GMT

    I'll add my 2 cents worth...Does the author say that England will have a WC winning team even though they might get thrashed in the sub continent. And that it will be fine with them !!! I don't believe either suppositions. Australia are the no 1 ranked team in the world. They won 4-1 in 2 of the last 3 ODI tours of India (the last series was a rain marred 0-1 loss where 2 games were washed out). It is not required to sacrifice subcontinent cricket skills to be successful everywhere else. And I dont think any team can become that good or that bad by changing the conditions. England are poor in ODI cricket because they cannot play spin and cannot rotate the strike when boundaries are not available. Skills that are aplenty in more successful ODI teams like Aus, Ind, SL. These skills will be required in 2015 WC as well and THAT rather than the conditions will decide how they will fare. Eng can ignore these lessons from this tour at their own peril.

  • Girish on October 28, 2011, 18:12 GMT

    Great article. You echoed my thoughts. I hope Flower reads this article. Desperate to see England win the next World Cup. I agree with the Trott logic and the need to exclude him on Asian pitches. The same should apply to Cook and Bell.

  • Nick on October 28, 2011, 17:28 GMT

    I think the truth lies somewhere between the following:-

    1. Yes the World Cup is what matters more than a quick ODI tour to India 2. Yes, he is probably trying to build a side for all conditions 3. No, he isn't playing his best 11, but he's trying out a few guys

    I think the 2015 team will be half a team different,but Flower still won't be happy with the result in India recently.

  • Kiranraj on October 28, 2011, 13:17 GMT

    Most of the Things on the post seems a knee jerk reaction to what happened in the series. Remember even England are without two of their best ODI players in Eoin Morgan and Stuart Broad. This indeed makes a huge difference as the replacement for these players are simply not in that league. About Trott, i think if he plays he has to bat 3 and for all the runs he has scored he deserves a place in the side. One thing i do think is flawed with England is that their belief that there are strikers who can do the big hitting while Trott can hold one end up, this because apart from Morgan none of the others including Pietersen, are big power hitters like Raina or Dhoni. England are trying to get Bairstow and Ben Stokes to do that but it will take some time. I think with Broad back along with bresnan, FInn/Anderson, Swann England have a good enough team to beat most teams on any surface. They just have to believe that.

  • Sreeni M on October 28, 2011, 9:57 GMT

    I have found often that when one feels seriously let down by a hero, a team or a leader one idolizes, the first reaction is to find a convoluted justification that explains away the failure, and this article by Mr.Holmans does just that.

  • Sriram on October 28, 2011, 9:35 GMT

    I agree with Venkat... In Cricket, Captain runs the show... He should be selected by a committee of ex-players and administrators... He should have a say who should be the Coach not the other way around. Coach basically helps the Captain run the show. The modern day emphasis on the Coach / Manager / Director is nauseating... The great teams of West Indies and Australia didn't rule because of their Coaches / Managers / Directors but because of pro-active Captains with superlative Players.

  • Rishabh on October 27, 2011, 18:36 GMT

    It is not just about winning the next world cup. If England want to be acknowledged as the best team in the world they have to be able to defeat all teams home and away, in addition to winning the world cup. Thats what the great Australian and west Indies teams did. Australia werent just lions in conditions they preferred - they defeated India in tests and ODIs in their backyard - thats why they were great and not just good.

  • Hiren M on November 21, 2011, 9:06 GMT

    Someone was talking about 3-0 in England but dear please see tthat Indian Team no top players at that tym still played well , we r nt only lions at home see that in Australia in near future .We compete with SA in their backyard and almost beaten them .

  • Elirye on November 1, 2011, 7:08 GMT

    India has developed a specific and very successful strategy of winning on Indian soil that is to stuff the team with batsmen even at the cost of bowlers. Any team lacking world class bowlers who can perform irrespective of conditions would struggle against India. Keeping that in mind, Pakistan, Australian and South Africa are the only teams who would always put Indian team under pressure. Based on recently concluded two bilateral series between India and England, ICC should pondet seriously to start a championship for the World's best home team, and both India and England should given bye to play directly in the finals...

  • jabeen on October 31, 2011, 15:01 GMT

    trott is the best english batsman right now,he should play the sheet anchors rolls.

  • Jeegar on October 30, 2011, 5:51 GMT

    I'll add my 2 cents worth...Does the author say that England will have a WC winning team even though they might get thrashed in the sub continent. And that it will be fine with them !!! I don't believe either suppositions. Australia are the no 1 ranked team in the world. They won 4-1 in 2 of the last 3 ODI tours of India (the last series was a rain marred 0-1 loss where 2 games were washed out). It is not required to sacrifice subcontinent cricket skills to be successful everywhere else. And I dont think any team can become that good or that bad by changing the conditions. England are poor in ODI cricket because they cannot play spin and cannot rotate the strike when boundaries are not available. Skills that are aplenty in more successful ODI teams like Aus, Ind, SL. These skills will be required in 2015 WC as well and THAT rather than the conditions will decide how they will fare. Eng can ignore these lessons from this tour at their own peril.

  • Girish on October 28, 2011, 18:12 GMT

    Great article. You echoed my thoughts. I hope Flower reads this article. Desperate to see England win the next World Cup. I agree with the Trott logic and the need to exclude him on Asian pitches. The same should apply to Cook and Bell.

  • Nick on October 28, 2011, 17:28 GMT

    I think the truth lies somewhere between the following:-

    1. Yes the World Cup is what matters more than a quick ODI tour to India 2. Yes, he is probably trying to build a side for all conditions 3. No, he isn't playing his best 11, but he's trying out a few guys

    I think the 2015 team will be half a team different,but Flower still won't be happy with the result in India recently.

  • Kiranraj on October 28, 2011, 13:17 GMT

    Most of the Things on the post seems a knee jerk reaction to what happened in the series. Remember even England are without two of their best ODI players in Eoin Morgan and Stuart Broad. This indeed makes a huge difference as the replacement for these players are simply not in that league. About Trott, i think if he plays he has to bat 3 and for all the runs he has scored he deserves a place in the side. One thing i do think is flawed with England is that their belief that there are strikers who can do the big hitting while Trott can hold one end up, this because apart from Morgan none of the others including Pietersen, are big power hitters like Raina or Dhoni. England are trying to get Bairstow and Ben Stokes to do that but it will take some time. I think with Broad back along with bresnan, FInn/Anderson, Swann England have a good enough team to beat most teams on any surface. They just have to believe that.

  • Sreeni M on October 28, 2011, 9:57 GMT

    I have found often that when one feels seriously let down by a hero, a team or a leader one idolizes, the first reaction is to find a convoluted justification that explains away the failure, and this article by Mr.Holmans does just that.

  • Sriram on October 28, 2011, 9:35 GMT

    I agree with Venkat... In Cricket, Captain runs the show... He should be selected by a committee of ex-players and administrators... He should have a say who should be the Coach not the other way around. Coach basically helps the Captain run the show. The modern day emphasis on the Coach / Manager / Director is nauseating... The great teams of West Indies and Australia didn't rule because of their Coaches / Managers / Directors but because of pro-active Captains with superlative Players.

  • Rishabh on October 27, 2011, 18:36 GMT

    It is not just about winning the next world cup. If England want to be acknowledged as the best team in the world they have to be able to defeat all teams home and away, in addition to winning the world cup. Thats what the great Australian and west Indies teams did. Australia werent just lions in conditions they preferred - they defeated India in tests and ODIs in their backyard - thats why they were great and not just good.

  • jackjik on October 27, 2011, 17:26 GMT

    hi england team performance nothin good but like you

  • Srikanth_k07 on October 27, 2011, 16:42 GMT

    I completley agree with Venkat....why is English media so obsessed about what Andy Flower has to say everytime....This is Cricket Captain is the Man who runs the show..nt like footbal where Manager calls the shots...

  • Srikanth_k07 on October 27, 2011, 16:39 GMT

    I think england have to accept the fact that wickets for ODIs around the world (except in England) will be flat tracks...in Australia & SA you can get more bounce thats it...it is stupid to build ODI side for particular conditions..The simple fact is you need good batsmen to rotate the strike and can play big shots when require...teams from sub continent are always competitive in ODI, becuase they have batsmen who can bat throughout the innings with good strike rate. I think Michael Vaughan is spot on today in his article about England's ODI problem....i really want to know many times eng have scored above 300 or chased above 300...that tells you the story...

  • Venkat on October 27, 2011, 12:19 GMT

    England's most basic problem is its belief that the coach can cure all of its ills. The English press is more interested in what Flower has to say than Cook. And what is this business about the coach appointing "his" captain. Cook should sit with selectors and pick his team and play. The problem with this structure is, Cook gets all the brickbats when England are playing badly but when they do well it seems like Flower is the magic man. There seems to be no accountability for coaches in the modern era. I much rather have the selectors pick a captain, have a manager and let the captain take over. It simplifies a lot of things. For example, Swann bowled poorly (or rather the Indians played him really well ) so why isn't Mushtaq Ahmed being questioned. At the moment it is only Swann who is getting the stick. My point (and I know that this post is slightly divergent from the blog itself) is that let Cook/Strauss run the show. Andy Flower has no magic wand.

  • Mani Viswanathan on October 26, 2011, 20:17 GMT

    Disagree with most of the things written in this post. Firstly, it's really unfair of you to blame Trott who is the leading run scorer in the ODI series for your side. Secondly, having a separate team for Asia and one for Non-Asian continents is madness. Thirdly, Yes! India have won the world cup in Indian Conditions but they don't seem to lose 'so' badly in Australia-SA-NZ-England. So if England are to win the 2015 WC then they need to have players who can play both Seam and Spin bowling.

  • Darbari Lal on October 26, 2011, 13:56 GMT

    This is the stupidest thing I've read yet about England's ODI campaign. How does flower start preparing now for a tournament that is 4 years away? It is form, fitness in a 6 month period leading up to the tournament that will decide who does or doesn't play in the English ODI team for the 2015 WC. Pretending that any losses the team suffers uptil then don't matter is like shoving your head in the sand and refusing to acknowledge your weaknesses & is going to cost the fans a whole lot more pain in times to come!

  • Joe Fine on October 26, 2011, 11:37 GMT

    Hmm... wasn't there a one-day series involving India and England between the World Cup and the current series in India? I seem to remember there was. Oh yes, England v India. Series result - 3-0 to England. Was it not fair for England to pick a squad as close to the one which very recently beat the same team who England would be opposing now?

  • Mad Hamish on October 26, 2011, 7:05 GMT

    Srikanth, you might want to look at what happened to Sri Lanka in Australia just before they won the World Cup in 95. The conditions can make a huge difference.

  • Ilanks on October 25, 2011, 20:24 GMT

    Trotty would have been the perfect No 3 for England in 1987 World Cup. Far better than Bill Athey or Ian Robinson or whoever played that role... No comparison to Dean Jones however!

  • Prabal Goel on October 25, 2011, 18:23 GMT

    Just about confirms what Saurav ganguly has been saying about England these days----They have got too much theory on how to play one day cricket

  • Enigma on October 25, 2011, 6:02 GMT

    It is unfair to blame Trott. He is playing his anchor role well. It is the strikers who have failed.

  • Kijoh on October 25, 2011, 3:11 GMT

    I completely disagree re: the rankings. Winning an event every 4 years is just icing on the cake, to dominate oppositions and maintain the no.1 spot over an extended period is far more prestigious. As for England, their younger players are bringing the mindset necessary for ODI succes, they just need time and experience to come together. They will be a very good unit by the next world cup, but it will probably be without Trott.

  • Anonymous on October 25, 2011, 3:07 GMT

    why not make trott open if his role is of an anchor than he should be given the opportunity to carry his bat throughout the innings,its gonna take him 50 over to cross the hundred mark in most cases anyways.your best batsmen play first thats the logic....

  • Srikanth on October 25, 2011, 2:52 GMT

    Hi Mike,

    Well-written article as always, but I have to disagree. I do not think that Flower is trying to build an ODI team specifically for Australasian conditions; I think he's trying to build the best ODI team possible regardless of conditions. Of course there will be a couple of bowlers who would be swapped based on conditions, but I believe that England are trying to pick their best ODI players period. How different would a 2015 World Cup England squad be from the 2011 World Cup squad? I don't think it would change much as a result of conditions; most changes would be due to retirements, injuries, and form.

    A good ODI side will be able to perform anywhere; I do not believe that an ODI side can get thrashed in Asia, but be good enough in Australasia to lift the World Cup. Besides, I don't think Flower would like to throw away ODI series by picking "Australasian-specialist" sides in Asia. The current England team have gotten as far as they have by taking everything seriously.

  • marees on October 24, 2011, 18:28 GMT

    dean jones, ponting and symonds ran a lot of fast singles. only bell in current eng squad seems capable of running the fast single. so why is flower not testing bell in India - esp when he is a good player of spin?

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  • marees on October 24, 2011, 18:28 GMT

    dean jones, ponting and symonds ran a lot of fast singles. only bell in current eng squad seems capable of running the fast single. so why is flower not testing bell in India - esp when he is a good player of spin?

  • Srikanth on October 25, 2011, 2:52 GMT

    Hi Mike,

    Well-written article as always, but I have to disagree. I do not think that Flower is trying to build an ODI team specifically for Australasian conditions; I think he's trying to build the best ODI team possible regardless of conditions. Of course there will be a couple of bowlers who would be swapped based on conditions, but I believe that England are trying to pick their best ODI players period. How different would a 2015 World Cup England squad be from the 2011 World Cup squad? I don't think it would change much as a result of conditions; most changes would be due to retirements, injuries, and form.

    A good ODI side will be able to perform anywhere; I do not believe that an ODI side can get thrashed in Asia, but be good enough in Australasia to lift the World Cup. Besides, I don't think Flower would like to throw away ODI series by picking "Australasian-specialist" sides in Asia. The current England team have gotten as far as they have by taking everything seriously.

  • Anonymous on October 25, 2011, 3:07 GMT

    why not make trott open if his role is of an anchor than he should be given the opportunity to carry his bat throughout the innings,its gonna take him 50 over to cross the hundred mark in most cases anyways.your best batsmen play first thats the logic....

  • Kijoh on October 25, 2011, 3:11 GMT

    I completely disagree re: the rankings. Winning an event every 4 years is just icing on the cake, to dominate oppositions and maintain the no.1 spot over an extended period is far more prestigious. As for England, their younger players are bringing the mindset necessary for ODI succes, they just need time and experience to come together. They will be a very good unit by the next world cup, but it will probably be without Trott.

  • Enigma on October 25, 2011, 6:02 GMT

    It is unfair to blame Trott. He is playing his anchor role well. It is the strikers who have failed.

  • Prabal Goel on October 25, 2011, 18:23 GMT

    Just about confirms what Saurav ganguly has been saying about England these days----They have got too much theory on how to play one day cricket

  • Ilanks on October 25, 2011, 20:24 GMT

    Trotty would have been the perfect No 3 for England in 1987 World Cup. Far better than Bill Athey or Ian Robinson or whoever played that role... No comparison to Dean Jones however!

  • Mad Hamish on October 26, 2011, 7:05 GMT

    Srikanth, you might want to look at what happened to Sri Lanka in Australia just before they won the World Cup in 95. The conditions can make a huge difference.

  • Joe Fine on October 26, 2011, 11:37 GMT

    Hmm... wasn't there a one-day series involving India and England between the World Cup and the current series in India? I seem to remember there was. Oh yes, England v India. Series result - 3-0 to England. Was it not fair for England to pick a squad as close to the one which very recently beat the same team who England would be opposing now?

  • Darbari Lal on October 26, 2011, 13:56 GMT

    This is the stupidest thing I've read yet about England's ODI campaign. How does flower start preparing now for a tournament that is 4 years away? It is form, fitness in a 6 month period leading up to the tournament that will decide who does or doesn't play in the English ODI team for the 2015 WC. Pretending that any losses the team suffers uptil then don't matter is like shoving your head in the sand and refusing to acknowledge your weaknesses & is going to cost the fans a whole lot more pain in times to come!