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World Cup 2011

MacLaurin slams 'crazy' England schedule

Andrew Miller

February 7, 2011

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England captain Andrew Strauss addresses a press conference in Melbourne, January 15, 2011
Not a lot to smile about: England's captain Andrew Strauss has endured a tough winter, and the end is not in sight © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Mike Atherton | Lord MacLaurin
Teams: England

Lord MacLaurin, the former chairman of the ECB, has laid into the "crazy" schedule that England's cricketers have been subjected to in Australia this winter, but believes that their 6-1 thrashing in the one-day leg of a four-month tour will have little bearing on their performance in the forthcoming World Cup.

The England team arrives back in the UK on Tuesday afternoon, almost exactly a month after retaining the Ashes in style with an innings-and-83-run victory in the fifth and final Test at Sydney.

At the time, the achievement was rightly hailed as one of the most meticulously planned successes in the history of English cricket, with the ECB's planners and the team's back-room staff earning as much credit for their efforts as the players themselves. However, in the wake of their one-day drubbing, the team's welcoming committee is unlikely to be as rapturous as might have been the case in the immediate aftermath of the Test series.

What is more, the players themselves are unlikely to be particularly high-spirited either, seeing as they will be reconvening at the airport on Saturday after just three days with their families, ahead of their departure for Dhaka and a further seven-week stint at the World Cup. England's coach, Andy Flower, voiced his own frustration at the end of the Australia tour, and called for a greater say in the team's future plans.

"I think it's a crazy itinerary," Lord MacLaurin told ESPNcricinfo. "You are asking a load of guys to go out to Australia for 100 days, and concentrate on a Test series in which they did extraordinarily well, so I'm sure they would say that the one-day series is after the Lord Mayor's show. Do you really want to go into seven ODIs when you've been at high-pitch Test cricket for a number of weeks, especially when they did supremely well?"

During his tenure as the first chairman of ECB from 1997 to 2003, MacLaurin was credited with a number of initiatives that transformed the standing of English cricket, including the standardisation of the team's uniform and a better presentation of the players when at home and on tour. In many ways, the 2010-11 Ashes was the ultimate statement of the team's new-found professionalism - however, no-one has been able to legislate for an itinerary that has been designed to exhaust.

On the morning after the series win in Sydney, the players were sent on a long-distance coach trip to Canberra to prepare for the ODI series, and amid an itinerary that included a further eight internal flights, they have succumbed to a host of injuries - the most recent of which is the broken finger that now jeopardises Eoin Morgan's participation in the World Cup.

"I think we'd all agree that the past seven matches have been a bit futile, and I don't think anybody's learnt too much about each other from that," said MacLaurin. "The Ashes campaign was a magnificent effort from all concerned - it was very, very well planned and all credit to them - but I wouldn't worry about the one-day defeat, to be quite honest with you. I think the team needs a bit of a break, and I think they will do reasonably well at the World Cup."

The situation mirrors that which England encountered in the winter of 1995-96, shortly before the start of MacLaurin's tenure as ECB chairman, in which they went to an Asian World Cup on the back of a tiring Test series in South Africa and a subsequent 6-1 ODI defeat, and were humbled by Sri Lanka in a seminal quarter-final in Faisalabad.

While MacLaurin maintained that, ultimately, the volume of international cricket was an ICC concern, he believed that the professionalism of the current squad was such that they would be more than capable of rising to their next challenge.

"I think the whole thing is better managed these days," said MacLaurin. "I don't think anyone particularly wanted these seven matches, but I'm sure there's a lot of steel in this side, a lot of determination, and a lot of very good leadership, and we probably didn't have that all those years ago - in fact I'm sure we didn't have it."

Mike Atherton, England's captain during that 1996 campaign, reiterated MacLaurin's faith in the current set-up. "This squad is better able to cope with the itinerary, because they have been very successful over the last two years," he told ESPNcricinfo. "Beating Australia in the Tests, actually hammering them, will give them a deep well of confidence going into the World Cup.

"A pounding in the ODIs is not ideal, but they are better able to come back from that, for a number of reasons," Atherton added. "They are far more experienced in the subcontinent than our squad was, and these days, they are playing a style of game all year round, in England and abroad, in which they go out and try to whack it from ball one. You just feel it's not going to affect them as much as it would have done ten or so years ago."

"I have huge confidence in the abilities of Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower, and all those associated with the ECB," added MacLaurin. "I've been vocal about one of two things about the ECB since I left office, but you have to give credit where credit is due, and the set-up there now is good, and to win the Ashes is a huge, huge achievement. I still think we might surprise a few people in the World Cup, and I wouldn't take too much notice of this last 6-1."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
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