England news February 8, 2011

Jaded England return home


At least the sun was shining, because there wasn't much else to be cheerful about as England's cricketers arrived back at Heathrow Airport, more than 100 days after their departure for Australia back in late October. In between their journeys through customs, the team found a perfect pitch around the 60-day mark of their tour, as the Ashes were sealed with a pair of thumping victories at Melbourne and Sydney, but thereafter it descended into tedium and acrimony, with Eoin Morgan's World Cup fate providing the perfect bum note on which to end a peculiar odyssey.

When Allan Border's men regained the Ashes after a four-year hiatus in 1989, they were treated to a tickertape parade through the streets of Sydney, and as for England's own exploits, the events of 2005 remain engrained on the retinas of fans of a certain age, with open-top buses and packed receptions in Trafalgar Square marking the end of a remarkable summer's contest.

Andrew Strauss was involved then, as he was now, but whereas 100,000 delirious fans had acclaimed the homecoming of the urn six years ago, this time England's emergence at Heathrow was greeted by a smattering of gawping spectators, and a solitary burst of applause from a man who might conceivably have been taking the mickey, given how listless the team has been during the 6-1 drubbing in the one-dayers.

It all felt distinctly unfair, to be honest. "I'm a little bit jaded because I've been on a plane for 24 hours," admitted Strauss, as he faced the media, dressed in his best bib and tucker and with (an oversized) replica urn from the Lord's gift shop perched on the table in front of him. Waxing about an event that culminated more than a month ago was hard enough in light of the travails that the team had encountered in the interim, but there was something rather absurd about the situation as well, given that the World Cup - of all immense contests - is looming quite so large, so soon.

"The nature of international cricket is you always move onto the next thing," said Strauss. "When we are old and grey we will sit down and look over the footage of that Ashes series, and we'll still be very proud of what we've achieved, and it will go down as one of the highlights, if not the highlight, of our careers. But now is the time to look forward to the World Cup, and if we were to complete the double of the Ashes and the World Cup in space of six months, that really would be the highlight of our careers."

Strauss was half right. Now, in fact, is the time to go into hiding for 72 hours, and suck up as much family time as possible before reconvening on the soulless Bath Road in Hounslow on Saturday, ahead of a ten-hour flight to Dhaka. Although the Prime Minister, David Cameron, had expressed a desire to greet the squad at 10 Downing Street, as Tony Blair had famously done in 2005, all such fripperies are completely off England's agenda. "I'm not going to go and knock on his door," joked Strauss, adding that the one person he would most definitely not be speaking to in the coming days is his sidekick, Andy Flower, with whom he has been in daily cahoots since the last week of October.

100,000 delirious fans had acclaimed the homecoming of the urn six years ago, this time England's emergence at Heathrow was greeted by a smattering of gawping spectators

Whether or not England have a realistic chance in the World Cup, the loss of Morgan is a cruel blow - albeit one exacerbated by some unusually lax work from the management and medical team, who allowed him to play on through two ODIs before finally realising that his performances were being hindered by something more serious than bruising. Nevertheless, there was a clear note of frustration in Flower's typically measured assessment, as he shifted the blame away from a player who had proved willing to push through the pain, and put it instead on an itinerary that allowed such an accident to occur so close to a major event.

"We've played three-and-a-half months of high intensity cricket, so we will pick up injuries, that's the nature of the sport," said Flower. "To have the tour ending just before the World Cup starts doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I think that's the lesson to be learnt."

There are some positive aspects of England's current situation. With positive news about the other five injury concerns in the squad, Strauss believed that the chance for rest and recuperation would ensure that they return to action with extra motivation - particularly the frontline bowlers, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan, whose understanding of their roles and ability to work in tandem had been integral to England's fortunes throughout their run of five ODI series wins in a row.

"The atmosphere at a World Cup will be very intoxicating and motivating," said Strauss. "All the best players in the world will be there, and ultimately only one team will walk away with that World Cup. Of course we would have liked to have won the one-day series as preparation, but a few of our guys haven't been involved and have had an opportunity to have rest through being injured. They are going to come back into the fold and hopefully add a huge amount of impetus for us moving forward. They should be fit, but they need to find some rhythm pretty quickly, because I believe our attack is a match for anyone in the world."

Once a wide-ranging press conference had been completed, it was time for Strauss to step out into the sunshine, and pose with the urn with his back barely 50 metres from the perimeter fence of Heathrow Airport. The incongruity was impossible to ignore - almost as incongruous, in fact, as his earlier opening statement had been. "Without a doubt this is the best and most successful tour I've been on," he had said, a fact that had rung so emphatically true in Sydney on January 8, but which felt wistfully hollow in London on February 8.

All of which begged the ultimate question. What exactly has this past month been all about? Answers on a postcard, please. But make sure it's addressed to the Sheraton in Dhaka. Because by the end of the week, there will be no-one at home to reply.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on February 11, 2011, 5:25 GMT

    The ODI series was poorly planned and has proved very costly to both England and Australia. It's not the length of time of the tour itself, it's that the ODIs were played so late, after the tests and before the World Cup. Australia were the better motivated side and their bowling was less affected than England's, so they won. In England in the Summer of 2010, England won almost equally easily, taking the first three games of a 5-match series before Aus won a couple of dead rubber games. The real issue is the number of injuries both sides suffered. Aus have definitely lost two of their squad and England one so far. Other players are having to come back off injuries in the World Cup ganes- not the best preparation. The ECB and CA will only have themselves to blame if neither side does well.

  • ian on February 10, 2011, 7:57 GMT

    'Never again!" Should become the joint mantra of the ECB and the ACB re: 7 ODIs following a major 5 Test series in which the majority of participants remain the same across both formats. I have, however, a suggestion that can satisfy commercial as well as purely cricketing interests as there is a perceived need to take international cricket to many distant corners of Oz, or RSA, or wherever: it is as follows - an agreement that at least 7 (say) participants for any ODI team should be drawn from a player pool outside those who have played more than two of the recently concluded test series. This has the further incentive of involving a larger number of players and therefore more players will feel that they are in with a realistic chance of selection. Immediately prior to a WC, this gives management a chance for a play/rest rotation of top players and a chance ot check on the form of a number of possible contenders for final squad selection. This looks like a win-win solution to me, eh?

  • M on February 10, 2011, 4:48 GMT

    Come on guys - these are professional athletes - don't we expect that they can perform for what amounts to about 40 days of cricket out of 100 days? of which (with the exception of Cook during the recent series) about half that time is spent sitting on your bum in the change rooms whilst your team is batting... ... It was long, tiring and high intensity (well the tests were -regardless of some one sided victories) ... but fair suck of the sav - the injuries are part and parcel of it all and good teams manage those best. ... ... Apart from greed and the almighty dollar (or Pound for you guys), Australia has 6 main venues and it gets tough telling a cricket loving public (that rate Aus-v-Eng the highest) that they won't see a ODI during their summer. 6 is not a good number for a series so 7 becomes the logical number. That last is my reasoning only and not supported in any way other than my twisted mind saying it is so.

  • Karl on February 9, 2011, 21:58 GMT

    Biggus makes a good point about Alastair Cook, he is a very good player in One Day county cricket so he should definately be included in the ODI side but he deserved his rest after scoring 766 test runs. It's a shame that the last 4 weeks of the tour turned so sour with poor cricket and mounting injuries but maybe next time they will play 3 ODI's before the Ashes. England had won 5 ODI series in a row, including against Australia last year so they were bound to come up short sooner or later. I hope we can make it into the Quarter Finals at least .

  • joel on February 9, 2011, 19:50 GMT

    It was not a big surprise that England lost 6 - 1 in the odi to Auatralia . We lost by the same margin last time we played the Aussies . England and there fans dont care about 1 day cricket , we never have really . We care about winning meaningfull test matchs , like the ashes for example .

  • Ashok on February 9, 2011, 16:05 GMT

    Another reason for using the term "Jaded" may be an excuse for possible failure at the forthcoming World Cup. If England do well then they have the bragging rights. England has to set its priorities. You cannot play 5 test matches + 7 ODI's + 1 T20 in 100 days & be "fresh" for the WC 10 days later. Is this enough time for players to recoverPhysically/mentally? Answer is big NO. KP and Lord McLaurin speaking out against "crazy schedule" is clearly a political move.Now England have Swann, Broad, Morgan, Bresnan & others on injury list.Morgan is already out- possibllity of more injuries during the WC games. Suddenly Bopara emerges from the closet after being discarded for over 12 months- with "his outstanding abilities". If he was so good as to get 3 consecutive centureis for England, why was he dropped? Some people want to play politics both the ways as it suits them - Sad, Eh!.. England will have tough time beating B/Desh & WI in WC, let alone other teams - Good Luck Englaand!

  • Ashok on February 9, 2011, 14:11 GMT

    There has been so much whinning about the taxing schedule of the England team. First of all the 7 ODI's could have been reduced to 5 or 3 with mutual agreement between ECB and the Australian board. This would have allowed at least 15 days break between the WC and the Aussie tour. So the #1 culprit here are the 2 Boards for not looking after their own schedules, knowing the WC dates. The main reason for this may be just greed for money in terms of match fee. There is absolutely no reason for 7 ODI's after a big test series.Injuries could have been reduced and a fresh England team playing in the world cup.

  • Julian on February 9, 2011, 12:42 GMT

    I feel that is all rather an indictment on sport reporting in the UK, and perhaps attention spans too. I for one couldn't give a tuppence halfpenny about England losing the ODI series. Well, OK, maybe a shilling. Let's emphasise the positive. England retained the Ashes by playing some of their best cricket ever, condemning the Australians to three innings defeats for the first time in a home season. As an England cricket fan what could possibly get better than that. Not even an overdue World Cup victory will exceed that.

  • Powderdubdub on February 9, 2011, 9:46 GMT

    Ashes were the real business. Test match is the true marker, I would rate the tour a success.

  • Dummy4 on February 9, 2011, 9:45 GMT

    Mr Miller, go stand in a corner and stay there until the World Cup is over. The majority of England fans couldn't care any less about the ODIs. England went over there to beat Australia and retain The Ashes, and that's exactly what they did, and all three victories were by an innings. All the ODIs did were cripple both sides due to the level of injuries. I'm at the opinion that you shouldn't have 7 ODIs, especially if you've had two T20s before it. An Ashes Tour should be Five Tests, Two T20s, and no more than Five ODIs, or only one T20 and Three ODIs.

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