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England will cope with the disappointment of missing out on the Champions Trophy by getting straight back on the international treadmill
June 24, 2013
They may not have kept calm, but they will certainly have to carry on. Hours after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory at Edgbaston, the England team must focus on the next date in their never-ending tour. There is no time to mope.
When the international schedule was announced for the 2013 summer it is doubtful that the eyes of anyone, anywhere focused on the two T20s against New Zealand and felt their heart quicken with excitement. Squeezed between the Champions Trophy and the Ashes, the games are one of the most visible manifestations of over-commercialisation that the game in England has encountered. That both games are sell outs is tribute to the excellence of The Oval's marketing department - rivals should take note - and the enduring appeal of the format. The snobs may not like it, but T20 remains cricket's gateway drug.
The New Zealand fixtures are not, in themselves, the reason for a lack of reserve days in the Champions Trophy. They are a symptom of a far greater problem: a system built upon a need for cricket boards to increase revenues to meet demands - not least the demands of the top players - and an insatiable appetite of broadcast companies to fill their schedules, which has to be satisfied in order to sustain the cycle. If England play less, the broadcast companies will pay less and something will have to give: maybe it would be funding to the counties, maybe it would be funding to grass roots schemes, maybe it would be the investment made into the England teams.
It is no-one's fault, really. You may as well try to convince a lion of the merits of vegetarianism than attempt to explain the long-term dangers of over-commercialisation to administrators. The system is flawed.
England's solution is pragmatic. Their current T20 squad contains very few Test players and a fair number that are on the fringes of the ODI side. They have accepted, quite rightly, that the demands of involvement in three formats are unsustainable for players and coaches and embraced the concept of rotation and large squads.
But all the while, it compromises the strength of the county game that produces the players that the England teams need. Twenty four England-qualified players have been withdrawn from county action this week for national duty of some description and it speaks volumes for the diminishing value in which the domestic T20 competition is held in England that its 2013 launch on Tuesday coincides with an international game. Increasingly, it is given little chance to succeed and the gap between domestic and international cricket can only grow due to the lack of availability of top players.
Once the Ashes starts, though, Ashley Giles will have time to reflect on the progress his ODI side, in particular, has made. With the World Cup in 2015 the next major target, he must decide which members of the side that lost the Champions Trophy final should still be involved and which members of the T20 squad should be promoted.
The evidence at this early stage is that Giles will stick, in general, to those players that really should have won the Champions Trophy. While doubts may linger about Graeme Swann's fitness and, perhaps, Kevin Pietersen's appetite for the international treadmill, Giles was proud of the performance of his team.
"Consistency is always important," Giles said as he reflected on defeat to India. "So you give guys a right and proper chance and because you lose a game of cricket, even if it is a final, you don't chop and change even in this age. I can't fault the guys in this Champions Trophy.
|"I believe this group of players can not only get to the 2015 World Cup, but can make an impact there" Ashley Giles|
"You don't just discard people. We've got a good group here, they work hard they get on well and work for each other. You can tweak squads as you move forward but I don't see why the majority of this squad wouldn't play a part in the future and it is quite exciting for me as a coach because it is a good group of players.
"It is not as though they are all at an age where they are falling off the ladder. I'm pleased with everything they've done and we have to move on.
"I believe this group of players can not only get to the 2015 World Cup, but can make an impact there. There are always going to be some changes, but I don't see any reason why any one of these players couldn't be there.
"I can't decide players' futures for them, or say whether they want to play one-day cricket any more. But they've all got scope to go forward and play in Australia in that tournament and we should be encouraged by the way we've played in this tournament."
There will be a temptation to suggest that, had Pietersen been available, England may not have collapsed in such dramatic fashion in the final. It is true, certainly, that his skill and big-match temperament remain a huge asset and his return to the team should be without question.
But, in Pietersen's absence, Joe Root took his opportunity well and demonstrated an ability to contribute in the field - he took a difficult and possibly match-defining catch against New Zealand at Cardiff - with the ball, where his offspin is improving rapidly, and most of all with the bat, where his ability to adapt his game to the situation rendered him one of England's most valuable performers. In short, he made himself impossible to leave out.
That means that Pietersen may have to return elsewhere in the team. Bearing in mind that the last ODI cricket he played has been in the top three, then it may well be Ian Bell whose place comes under most scrutiny. The likes of Alex Hales, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow will continue to push for selection, too, while James Taylor, who has inexplicably fallen out of favour with the selectors of late, should not be discounted. A List A batting average over 50 tells its own story.
Those arguing for a change of method from England may well be disappointed. Giles argued that England's progress to the Champions Trophy final "vindicated" the tactic of the batsmen building a platform and suggested the same method would be appropriate in the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
"There has been some talk about the style of cricket we've played," Giles said. "But I think we've been vindicated in the way we've played and we can take that on into conditions in Australia where there isn't any great difference. The wickets might go through a bit more and might be a bit pacier than here so that might help us.
"We're going to be low for a while, but at the same time we've made every effort to prepare and to plan to get it right. Sometimes, on the day, you just get outplayed or you just don't get it right. I think it was a mixture of those things in the final against India. We have to pick ourselves up and go again."
The relentless schedule allows nothing else.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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