August 27, 2014

Was Michael Vaughan right?

We'll find out next year. Sadly, all signs point to yes

"Them thar are the fields where the wild Tetley grows" © Getty Images

On Monday, tea salesman and part-time troll Michael Vaughan said that England's one-day cricket is old-fashioned. They are, according to Michael, ten years out of date. Ask England's one-day batsmen who Miley Cyrus is, and they'll give you a blank look.

He did preface his opinions with a disclaimer, admitting he had been wrong about Alastair Cook, so could be wrong about this too. This is a good idea. Every pundit lured into a studio should have their wild speculation or ludicrous guesswork preceded by a statement explaining exactly how often they had been utterly wrong in the past:

"We now turn to former England captain Michael Vaughan for his take on these events, but before we do that, we should warn listeners that since he began speaking his brains into a microphone for a living, Michael has been completely wrong on 27 occasions and partly wrong on a further 35. The full details are available on our website, just click on 'Michael Vaughan', 'Totally Wrong' and scroll down the A-Z List."

But if England's one-day international cricket is ten years out of date, does that mean that ten years ago it was at the cutting edge? Well, in 2004, England were captained by, er, Michael Vaughan, and their one-day international trophy cabinet resembled, as it does now, a museum diorama illustrating the history of dust and the evolution of the cobweb.

So what about 15 years ago? Or 20? Or 30? How deep do you have to dig into the rich, fertile soil of failure before you hit a time when England were good at this stuff?

As with most sports, the English decided how they were going to play one-day cricket five minutes after inventing it, and have stuck with that method ever since, like a stubborn old colonel refusing to leave the family home despite the volcano erupting in his cellar.

The method is known as Survive, Nudge and Thrash, and it is, I suppose, a logical response to native conditions. Let me explain.

England is damp. It isn't properly wet, like a rainforest. It's just damp. You know those underpants you washed three days ago and put on the radiator to dry? If you're late for work and you need them in a hurry, you just know they're still going to be wet, don't you? Those underpants are like England; damp in a depressing but predictable way.

In England, the wickets are green and the air forever feels as though a large wet Labrador has just shaken itself dry in the vicinity. Batting is about getting through the first ten overs with some wickets left. At the annual domestic final at Lord's in September, the team that lost the toss usually found themselves 20 for 5 by midday.

If some batsmen manage to survive, they begin to test the ground like snails emerging from their shells after a downpour. They crawl along at two an over until they reach the 45-over point, when the umpires announce, "It's Slog Time!", the audience wakes up, and the aimless thrashing commences.

Thanks to serial grinner turned professional airwaves irritant Graeme Swann, who has finally managed to tick off the objectivity box in his TMS contract by squeezing out a criticism of his best friend Alastair, we have learned that Survive, Nudge and Thrash is still the official England Team doctrine.

Swann revealed that at the 2011 World Cup, when England scored 229 and Sri Lanka knocked that off in 29 overs, the coach congratulated his batsmen for carrying out their plan to the letter. This is hilariously and utterly English:

"Well played Corporal, you refused to alter tactics in the heat of battle. The pride of the British army has been maintained this day."

"But we lost, sir."

"Never mind that, boy, the most important thing is that we lost like Englishmen. We played the game the right way. The only way."

"But if we'd been using guns instead of these long bows, we might have won."

"Nonsense. Long bows were good enough for Henry V. Now go fetch my leg, Corporal, I intend to reattach it with this traditional Tudor healing poultice made from cowdung, tea leaves and gin."

The good news for those who enjoy a chuckle with their international sport is that it seems Team England are planning to recreate the tactics of the 1970s at next year's World Cup. Once again they will head into a major international tournament with a "see how it goes, eh" attitude, once again they will be bringing feather dusters to a swordfight, and once again they will be departing proceedings at the first opportunity.

All very entertaining, but consider this: if England do fall flat on their face again, we will be forced to draw a very uncomfortable, disconcerting conclusion, namely, that Michael Vaughan was right.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Adam on August 28, 2014, 14:18 GMT

    He wasn't wrong about Alistair Cook, and he's not wrong about this either.

  • Dummy4 on August 27, 2014, 22:45 GMT

    very hilarious article with truth inside it

  • Chris on August 27, 2014, 22:18 GMT

    Vaughan and Swann got it spot on. Cook, Bell and Jordan must go. Bopara Bairstow and Finn must come in.

  • David on August 27, 2014, 17:53 GMT

    Great article - England have always aimed to a) play cricket in the proper, tried & tested way and then b) tried to win, in that order. The problem being that by the time they've got to b) they're already having their backsides whopped by the opposition. Sadly, Indian being so pathetic in the last 3 test matches has condemned us to another year of Moores in charge, with his ultra correct county-style coaching based upon naff, meaningless sound-bites lifted from a £7.99 motivational handbook. And with regard to WC preparation, it's good to see we've started today the way we mean to go on.

  • Tom on August 27, 2014, 9:53 GMT

    Before the Dark Age of England cricket in the late 80s and 90s, England were pretty good at ODI cricket: they reached three World Cup finals, after all, but it tailed off along with everything else. In fact England's ODI cricket arguably held out slightly longer against the tide of decline than their Tests did. Since then though it seems the game has changed beyond recognition - possibly because it's a younger format and thus still changing more quickly - and they've never quite been able to catch up again.

  • Dummy4 on August 27, 2014, 9:06 GMT

    This is awesome! But I guess English Cricket and English fans in general don't care what happens in ODIs/T20s. They are more interested in Test cricket, which is good in a sense. Just that the nation doesn't hurt when the team can't perform in shorter formats. I guess it is the exact opposite of India.

  • Rizwan on August 27, 2014, 8:15 GMT

    Dear Mr. Hughes, being an ardent reader over the last few years, I can sense that you're at your best when writing about either England or Pakistan ...and of course Danny Morrison!

  • Rawal on August 27, 2014, 7:56 GMT

    Haha! Some parts were hilarious!

  • Sagir on August 27, 2014, 7:50 GMT

    'Part time troll'...

    Mr Hughes, i think Michael Vaughan needs to be promoted to 'full time troll' status, a la Piers Morgan ! Also i don't see how India's shambolic performance suddenly lends credibility to Cook's captaincy, if Vaughan's recent admission of error were to be taken seriously.

    Also, if Swann felt that strongly about team tactics, why did he then not come out and support what KP was saying about the coach's tactics and methods and all that..

  • Dummy4 on August 27, 2014, 6:04 GMT

    Perhaps an analogy will help.

    Imagine that a microphone is like an infinite set of type-writers. Now imagine Michael Vaughn is an infinite set of screeching chimpanzees... which would explain a lot now that I come to think of it... Anyway point is: non-zero chance of saying something not entirely fatuous.

    Assuming of course the chimpanzees have any idea what a typewriter is for... maybe if it was lemurs...

    This clearly needs some ironing out but you get the general idea.

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