England v India, 4th ODI, Edgbaston September 2, 2014

England World Cup plans in ruins

England's World Cup plans are in ruins after another trouncing from India at Edgbaston and Alastair Cook's presence in the side is impossible to justify

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Butcher: England's attitude to ODIs is wrong

By the end of a game that had all the competitive elements of a day of seal clubbing, there could be no masking the flaws in the England ODI side. This wasn't a cricket match. It was a massacre.

Bowled out for the fifth time in six full-length ODIs - including every innings this series - they only avoided sinking to a first 10-wicket defeat in a home ODI when Ajinkya Rahane hit a full-toss to cover with victory in sight. This was 'sport' in the same way that shooting and fishing are sports. There was only ever going to be one winner.

England have now lost five ODIs in a row and five ODI series out of six. They are not building towards a World Cup challenge, they are crumbling ahead of it.

This defeat leaves them with 12 ODIs - it could be 13, but can you really see them reaching the final of the tri-series event with Australia and India? - before their World Cup campaign starts. Which means they are running out of time to find a formula that might work. It is a phrase that could have been written ahead of every World Cup challenge they have mounted since 1996.

There has some simplification of history in much of the recent analysis. To claim that England have fallen behind the rest of the world in their ODI tactics for more than a decade ignores the fact - and facts tend to be more persuasive than selective opinions - that, less than two years ago, they were rated No. 1 in the world in the ICC rankings. It ignores, too, that just over 12 months ago, they were in the Champions Trophy final. They have not always been this bad.

And it is not so ridiculous to presume that their tactics - accumulate then accelerate - could yet prove effective. Had England scored 270 here, as was their target at the start of their innings, they might just have put the India batsmen under a little more pressure. The problem remains more that the execution of their tactics has been woeful.

To play out four maidens in the first mandatory Powerplay; for none of the top six - including the perceived 'accumulators' - to have registered a half-century in the series; to lose with 20 overs remaining: these are signs of a team that failed even to compete. It was akin to India taking on an Associate nation.

There has been much talk about the players England need to pick in order to improve their performance: the likes of Jason Roy, James Vince and James Taylor. And, it is true, each of them may have a part to play, although expecting them to provide a silver-bullet solution is asking a bit much.

Kevin Pietersen, too, might have had a part to play. But unless he is going to play county cricket regularly enough to find form and warrant genuine consideration, he slips - sadly - into irrelevance. He has not played a List A game this year.

But it is Jonathan Trott that they miss. A healthy Jonathan Trott, anyway. If they are going to utilise these tactics, it is a batsman of Trott's ability - his batting average is 20% higher than any man to represent England in more than 20 ODIs - that they require to establish the platform on which the likes of Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan can build.

Up until the end of the Champions Trophy, England sides including Trott were bowled out for under 250 once in 25 full-length ODIs dating back to the start of 2012. Without him, it has happened six times in 17 ODIs. It might be a risk taking him back to Australia, but in the 2011 ODI series in the country, against an attack including Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee and Shaun Tait, he topped the England averages (62.50) and had a strike-rate of 81.69.

The management's continued insistence that they believe Alastair Cook is the man to lead the ODI side forward in the face of all logic and evidence is beginning to resemble those who deny climate change

It may be that there is no combination of England players available good enough to win the World Cup. But even if that is the case - and if it is, there should be a thorough review of the failure of the county and England programmes to produce the requisite players - there is no reason to accept performances as dire as this.

It has become almost impossible to defend Alastair Cook's position in the side. It is now 38 innings and 26 months since he has reached even 80. For a man selected to provide the platform for others, that is an unsustainable record.

The management's continued insistence that they believe he is the man to lead the ODI side forward in the face of all logic and evidence is beginning to resemble those who deny climate change. It is surely telling that the only ODI series England have won in recent times - against West Indies - was with a side that did not include Cook.

One of Cook's great qualities is his stubborn determination. His refusal to know he is beaten. It is part of what has rendered him one of England's greatest Test batsmen.

But, in these circumstances, those qualities might be a weakness. It is increasingly hard to avoid the conclusion that Cook is part of the problem and that, whatever his many positive qualities as a man, he is simply no longer worth his place in the side. He is impeding the opportunities for the likes of Roy or Trott or Taylor. He needs to go.

There was one shaft of light for England. The elegant way Moeen Ali eased his way to a 37-ball half-century - there have been only 20 faster by England players - in his first ODI in England offered some hope for the future and some respite from the otherwise unrelentingly one-sided nature of this 'contest.'

But it was a brief interlude of joy in a general drama of pain. England are dire at ODI cricket. There can be no denying it.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Michael on September 4, 2014, 12:28 GMT

    What doesn't help is when a player like Michael Lumb gets a century on odi debut then gets dropped 2 games later for no apparent reason,

    This would be my squad to choose from - Hales, Taylor, Vince, Roy, Ballance, Root, Buttler, Ali, Rashid, Broad, Stokes, Bopara, Woakes, Jordan, Anderson, Finn, Patel, Morgan

    Yes I know not much experience apart from Bopara, Anderson, Broad and Morgan but in Bopara and Taylor you got players who have experience in captaining a team and there's players with power and precision

  • S on September 4, 2014, 8:33 GMT

    First of all Eng Team Management in catch 22 situation now for their mistakes of egos and foolishness, as the WC 2015 just around the corner and clock ticking. I tell you the problems. 1. First of all NOBODY from Eng team management should be talking about Cook's place and captaincy at this time, as they gone past that date for WC 2015. 2.) The best thing possibly they can do in my opinion, is to repair the damage that they did to the team composition. There are too many youngsters in the batting line-up just played Eng domestic competition look promising, however they have't played with senior players and achievers like Kevin Peterson at a highest level. Ask Peter Moors to keep egos down. Attitudes of anybody can be corrected it's very simple thing to be corrected, for that reason one one shouldn't dump the talent and experience. I would suggest, Open the doors for KP, at least End Team will have a good chance to compete. Once you a chance then think about winning......

  • Richard on September 4, 2014, 5:33 GMT

    @Nutcutlet:- Indeed, I've never understood the English caution/timidity with regard to cricket. After all, this isn't the Battle of Britain where a mistake or a rash move has nationally catastrophic consequences. We're supposed to play the game for the love of it, for the chance to let our spirits soar, to clutch at Fortuna's hand in an effort to transcend our mortal selves. England tend to play the game like a penny pinching skinflint rather than dashing sportsmen. It's like a composer who deliberately sets out to write a piece that's so mundane no one wants to hear it. I just don't get it, is that what passes for fun over there?

  • Michael on September 4, 2014, 4:27 GMT

    Sure, KP should still be in the team and without being dumped and remaining in the England "set up" he probably would be scoring runs without the above affecting him. But I agree with the author, George Dobell, the main player England miss is Trott. A top order of Cook, Hales, Trott, KP, Bell, and Morgan compliment each other. Cook is a good one day player, but he needs Trott in the side. Maybe Ballance can fill that role?!

  • John on September 3, 2014, 21:31 GMT

    I'm so sick of this 'bring back KP' stuff. For all practical purposes the guy has retired. He's 34 now, will be closing in on 35 by the time the WC is played, hasn't played a List-A game this year and his form in T20s has been dismal. His average over the last 10 games he's played is 21, with a top score of 39.

    The English ODI season is finished (for Surrey, at any rate) so how does he get to play himself into form- in Sri Lanka?

    Give it up. He's gone and he isn't coming back.

  • ashok on September 3, 2014, 18:00 GMT

    With the current team, captain, coach, players, attitude, mindset and board administration, England will never win a world cup... I am betting big on South Africa, Australia & India this time...

  • sudeep on September 3, 2014, 17:56 GMT

    England should play with Zim,Bangladesh & Ire land to get there confidence.They should look for new blood.

  • Fred on September 3, 2014, 17:39 GMT

    No to 4 seamers (unless you count Bopara as one of them)

    In ODI cricket you don't actually need to take wickets to win - it does help if you can but you don't NEED to

    What you absolutely need to do is score shed loads of RUNS. 300 is the new par.

    Bopara, Ali, Tredwell, Anderson, Broad, Stokes can bowl your 50 overs no problem - Root and Luke Wright chipping in with a couple if you play him gives you versatility.

    The bowling isn't the problem, it's the batting, particularly being lead by Cook. Morgan is not good enough either.

    Getting shot of Cook would not actually be that drastic. Let us remember that he never used to be a feature in the ODI team at all. He wasn't at the last world cup. Dropping him is not that big a deal. It will also - as Michael Vaughan rightly said - give England a better chance of winning the world cup and the ashes with a fresh Cook for Tests only.

  • Arup on September 3, 2014, 16:43 GMT

    Cook is not an ODI player. He has just about got his test form back, but only because of some woeful Indian bowling but against better oppositions he will struggle. England need to look at attacking talent, like Hales, pretty much throughout their order if they are to emulate what India did in the last World Cup. What was wrong with someone like Carberry? He is attacking, and also a left hander. I would give the captaincy to Morgan although he has been out of form, he is an innovative batsman and therefore his captaincy may be the same. Cook is way too defensive!

    Also what about players like James Taylor (the guy averages 52!) in the middle order and Roland Jones with the ball? Spinning wise, I guess stick with Tredwell or try Briggs again. Alternatively just stick with Ali as the main spinner and play 4 seamers. I also think Bopara has a big part to play still.

    My XI - Ali, Hales, Ballance, Root, Morgan (c), Taylor, Buttler (WK), Bopara, Woakes, Broad, Anderson, Finn/Guerney

  • Fred on September 3, 2014, 16:27 GMT

    I also agree to some extent about Anderson's inclusion. White ball down in Australia hmmm and wouldn't it be better to rest him for the Tests.

    While I agree with this I don't see an obvious replacement and his partnership with Broad is excellent.

    The obvious replacement is Finn, particularly on Aussie pitches but he still looks a shadow of his former self. In Edgbasten he was clocking in at 82, 83 mph. Unless he can find his pace again I'd rather have Anderson's experience and talent in the side than Finn.

    It's also pretty clear that this will be Jimmy's last shot at the World Cup. If Cook retired from ODIs with another player at the same time it would send out the message we need - but he can do with with Bell, both of whom can concentrate on the Tests.