England v West Indies, T20 international, Trent Bridge June 23, 2012

Callow England forced to build again

Missing their top three from the ODIs, as well as Kevin Pietersen, England are being asked to create a new team ahead of their World T20 defence

Stuart Broad may have captained before and all but one of his squad may have some T20 International experience but it was hard to avoid the conclusion that England were at the start of a new age as they prepared for Sunday's match against West Indies at Trent Bridge.

The England squad is not only without the recently "retired" Kevin Pietersen but also without their ODI top three: Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott. James Anderson, too, cannot find a place in this side. While the bulk of the team that won the T20 series in the UAE remains - 10 of the 11 that won the final game may well play here - it is increasingly hard to avoid the conclusion that England's schedule and their priorities are likely to count against them as a T20 side.

Indeed, such is the callow look to England that Stuart Broad, who will mark his 26th birthday on Sunday by captaining his country on his home ground, seemed to be playing down expectations ahead of the World T20 to be staged in Sri Lanka from September. "We are going to be a hugely inexperienced side going into sub-continent conditions," Broad said. "So we are not expecting the world."

While admitting that Pietersen's absence "didn't seem to effect the one-day team a huge amount" Broad accepted that Pietersen, man of the tournament when England won the World T20 in 2010 "is a world-class Twenty20 player so of course it is disappointing that he is not with us. But it's a great opportunity for someone else to put their hand up and stake a claim for that spot."

There is some irony in the annual hand-wringing and soul searching that invariably accompanies the start of the English domestic T20 season. While poor scheduling and dreadful weather have combined to dampen the early stages of this year's Friends Life t20, it is worth remembering that, only 10 years ago, county cricket was the birthplace of T20 and that England are not only currently rated as the No. 1 T20 side in the world, but they are also World T20 Champions. When you hear people insisting that England should learn from the IPL and India - a team ranked No. 7 in the T20 rankings - it tells you how easily style can mask substance in a world depressingly over-impressed by cheerleaders and fireworks.

That having been said, England's prioritisation of ODI cricket may have consequences. While it is understandable - having attained No. 1 status in Test and T20 cricket, they have set their focus upon a global ODI trophy - it may also come at a cost.

Judging by how few West Indies players attended their optional practice session, they must feel remarkably confident.

Not only has the five-match ODI series against Australia resulted in the Test series against South Africa being cut to just three games - a rare case of a cricketing encounter being undersold in modern times - but it has prevented England's core group of players participating in the domestic FLt20 competition. That, in turn, weakens a domestic event that was once strong enough to sow the seeds of England's World T20 victory. Anderson, for example, has played only one T20 match in the last two years. Cook has not played one in a year.

To compound the problem, England play very few international T20 fixtures. "It's been four months, then we have a one-off game, then it's another three months," Broad said. Those core players have little chance to force their way back into the T20 side.

They are also thwarted by a bulimic domestic schedule that starves its audience of T20 for the best part of 11 months before cramming, in several cases, three home matches in a week down its throats. By staging the whole competition in a mid-season window, it will always be at the mercy of the weather. The argument that it renders it easier to attract the most exciting overseas players can be negated by a quick glance at some of those involved this year. All are worthy cricketers; very few are box office.

The arguments for the introduction of a franchise system in the UK are equally fallacious. It presupposes that a country with a population of over 60 million and in which cricket is a niche sport can replicate the success of a country of well over a billion and where cricket is an obsession. It also overlooks the pesky fact that each of the IPL franchises is based in a conurbation of over six million people. There is only one city of that size in the UK.

Furthermore, it overlooks one of the great strengths of the county game: the presence of first-class teams right around the country. In an age when so little cricket is available on free-to-view television, that is an important factor. Besides, it seems most unlikely that the introduction of a franchise system would stop it raining or result in a less cluttered international schedule.

The truth is, given a fair chance, the domestic T20 program could still flourish. Were the T20 season scheduled on Friday evenings from late May to September, were England players available more often, were salary caps, young player incentives and other bureaucratic obstacles to be removed, then it would thrive once more. But, after years of tightening regulations, complicating the schedule and compromising the county game to the point of pawning its soul, there has been a sudden realisation from the ECB that they have diluted their own product.

The T20 at Trent Bridge also presents a final opportunity for West Indies to salvage some tangible reward from this tour. While there have been limited signs of progress, the fact is that West Indies have been beaten in all four of the international fixtures in which there has been meaningful play. Even the Black Knight of Monty Python fame - sans arms and legs - would struggle to "take the positives" from that.

On paper, they remain a side well-suited to the shorter formats. Many a wise pundit quietly fancies them for World T20 success. Broad rated Chris Gayle as "one of the best T20 batsmen in the world", while Sunil Narine, Dwayne Bravo, Dwayne Smith and Kieron Pollard are among those with IPL pedigree. Judging by how few of them attended their optional practice session on Saturday afternoon, they must feel remarkably confident.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on June 26, 2012, 15:43 GMT

    @tanstell87 on (June 26 2012, 10:20 AM GMT) - I don't think it's a case of Eng shouldn't bring KP back. I just don't see KP wanting to come back to play for a struggling side and by the same token I don't see Eng wanting to change a successful side (should they do well without him). I don't think anyone really knows how much effort either ECB or KP made to try and come to a compromise but it is sad not to have him. As for the WC - I'd say any side could win it - as I posted on another thread. Every major nation has at least 2 or 3 game changing players who on their day can take a game away from the opposition.I'd actually say that on paper Eng have the least big name/reputation players but maybe that's a good thing

  • Tanmay on June 26, 2012, 10:20 GMT

    @JG2704 on (June 26 2012, 08:50 AM GMT) - i dont know why Team India doesnt do well in T20Is...they play IPL for 2 months & have some of the world's biggest hitters....i think they always struggle with the bowling aspect in this game...if we take out the World T20 2007 then they have always struggled to win most T20Is...hopefully they will sort that out before World T20....anyways you are right ECB should not bring back KP even if England dont do well...!

  • John on June 26, 2012, 8:50 GMT

    @tanstell87 on (June 26 2012, 04:00 AM GMT) - Fair play , but India would have had to have dramatically upped their T20 form if they were given more games to get to those heights. Yes , I wish KP was still playing for England. Unfortunately it's a catch 22 situation. If Eng struggle without him I'm not sure ECB will pull out all the stops to get him back and in that situation and I could see KP being pretty stubborn too. If Eng do well , KP would probably feel he is missing out and might want to return but in those circumstances would you as a selector change a winning side for a guy who for whatever reason has retired from shorter format duties for England

  • Tanmay on June 26, 2012, 4:00 GMT

    @JG2704 on (June 25 2012, 15:54 PM GMT)- no what i meant by India's ranking was had they played more games then there was a chance that they could have been in top 3 even number 1...but BCCI doesnt like its team playing T20I...India lost to England on a very slowish Eden Gardens wicket,there should have been 1 more T20I in that series...but i do feel England with the bowling variations they have will be difficult to beat...India are playing a league game & it would be interesting to watch...as a fan of this game i wished KP to be part of World T20 because he is just right up there amongst the best !

  • John on June 25, 2012, 15:54 GMT

    @tanstell87 on (June 25 2012, 04:51 AM GMT) You did say "a big no" re Eng's chances of retaining the T20 in SL. I know T20 is often all about who has a good day and that we are up against it , but I wouldn't say a huge no either. Those last 4 overs cost us alot of runs but sometimes that can happen when you are bowling to guys like Pollard and Bravo. As an Indian you'll have seen what they can do in IPL. Also Eng did win their only T20 in India last year and beat Pak 2-1 in UAE and both after thrashings given to us in ODIs and tests respectively and our bowling was quite decent - restricting teams to lowish totals there. We prob won't retain the cup but I certainly wouldn't say no chance. BTW ICC rankings are calculated (on all formats) by number of ranking points divided by games played so if India played double or triple the games vs the same opposition and had exactly the same win percentage they'd remain where they are. Please publish thank you

  • Tanmay on June 25, 2012, 4:51 GMT

    @JG2704 on (June 24 2012, 08:53 AM GMT)- yes England bowling attack looks good they defeated Pakistan in UAE....but West Indies did manage 63 runs off last 4 overs off this attack...India have played only 9 games & are at 7...England have played 16....i would like to see India playing more T20I games as i dont like those franchise based IPL...India for that matter are playing 1against Sri Lanka & 2 against Kiwis before World T20...but this year's edition would be close with all teams looking good !

  • PS on June 25, 2012, 3:58 GMT

    @ ...( on June 24 2012, 10:50 AM GMT) - very amusing to read that "England are number one - whether you like it or not ... Those are the facts - simple as that, no opinion or discussion required. Plain, simple facts". I remember the vehement discussions on this and particularly other British columns and forums on whether India deserved the no. 1 position, during the period they were ranked no. 1

  • Jason on June 24, 2012, 17:36 GMT

    @Peter Walcott, Not sure what your point is, but England lost that series 1-0 with a team that was still in the process of being rebuilt after the Moores vs KP spat in 2008. As for whether the west indies will be able to beat england in the WI at the moment, its improbable, but we wont get to see until 2014 (i think)....As for the mantle of home boy kings, at least we can win against teams at home unlike the WI's, who have only managed 2 wins from 18 games in 3 YEARS.

  • Ranil on June 24, 2012, 17:03 GMT

    England looks good but it will be very difficult to defend their T20 title in Sri Lanka ,anybody watching the current resurgent Lankan team thrashing the Pak team would notice it well.KP's abscence to me is irreperable who had a wonderful tour in SL. Ranil Herath -Kent

  • Charles on June 24, 2012, 13:41 GMT

    Hugely informed and highly intellent comments by Randyoz as usual. Warner is a fine player but the England bowling attack is the reason that we are the test and T20 number 1. We may not hang onto these 2 positions but if we do it will be because of the bowling attack.

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