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Feature

'England have created a new set of rules in white-ball cricket'

Fleming, Moody, Kumble and Mumtaz on what the T20 world champions do right and if it is feasible for India and Pakistan to follow suit

After England beat Pakistan in the final of T20 World Cup 2022 in Melbourne, they became the first team in men's cricket to hold both 20-over and 50-over titles simultaneously (they had won the ODI World Cup in 2019). On ESPNcricinfo's analysis show, T20 Time:Out, Stephen Fleming, Tom Moody, Anil Kumble and Urooj Mumtaz discussed England's approach to white-ball cricket, and if it is feasible for teams like India and Pakistan to follow suit.

Are England the greatest white-ball team ever in men's cricket?

Fleming: Not yet, for me. I think potentially there is a chance that they could push that close. There are still a couple of holes, a couple of areas, but keep in mind when they bring players like [Jofra] Archer back, [Mark] Wood back in there, then they're getting pretty close to a top-drawer side. Keeping in mind the T20 competitions have been pretty close in this cycle, a little bit of longevity, if they keep doing it for a little bit longer, then yes.
But they're certainly right up there and their transformation in itself is a very interesting story. And a courageous one as well. Because they made some massive calls, and they are still making big calls. I'm a big fan of what they have done with their split-coaching and split-captaincy. I know some traditionalists don't really like it. But I've been a fan of that for some time. I don't think you can have the energy to put into all formats of the game as a coach or a captain and do it well enough. So I'm a big fan of splitting the roles because the energy needed for these campaigns and tours at different times is now very demanding. And if you're going to be at your best, players have to have rest. I think they're ahead of the game with that.
And again, courageous calls. They've got Brendon McCullum at the helm of the Test side, which shows they are forward-thinking there. And Matthew Mott here with the one-day [white-ball] side, and Mike Hussey and others sort of gathered around. So it shows that they are really thinking and looking to be the absolute best that they can be. So yes, they are certainly right up there.

Is having separate white-ball and red-ball teams and coaching staff the way forward in international cricket?

Kumble: Definitely, you need separate teams. You need, certainly, T20 specialists. I think what this English team has shown and even the last [T20] World Cup champions Australia have shown is that you need to invest in a lot of allrounders. Look at the batting order. Today Liam Livingstone is batting at No. 7. No other team has a No. 7 of the quality of Livingstone. [Marcus] Stoinis walks in at No. 6 [for Australia]. That's the kind of team you have to build. That's something that you need to invest in.
I'm not really sure whether you need a different captain or a different coach. It all depends on what team you are going to pick and then choose how you want to build the support and the leadership around it.
Moody: I think there is no doubt that moving forward, whether it be player or support management, there needs to be a serious look into that separation. It seems England have quite a considerable difference between their red-ball squad and their white-ball squad. They've created a depth of quality.
With regards to England being the best white-ball team, I'm there with Flem. I don't think they're there yet. If they had won in the UAE at the last T20 World Cup, you could base an argument, but they weren't there in that one. So they've missed a World Cup there. They've missed that sort of dominance of a cycle. The demands on players and people around the team management these days with all the formats are huge and the price of having success is extremely draining. If you are going to be prepared properly, it's very hard to manage it with three formats.
Mumtaz: I think every team will have to have its own blueprint with regard to different coaches. But England have definitely shown the way and how to do it, and they are clearly reaping its benefits as well. India probably can because they have a number of players available to them. I think Pakistan will still need some time because a lot of their key players are all-format players. They are yet to create that distinction between a white-ball side and a red-ball side.
In white-ball cricket, England have definitely shown that the dynamic approach does pay off. Whether they are the world's best white-ball side, I think that will have to be a measure of global dominance over a long period of time. They did not have the best summer. They did turn it around in a 4-3 series win against Pakistan in Pakistan. So they are on the way there, but I agree with Tom and Flem that they probably need some time in the game with that dominance to shift the world's best white-ball side title towards them.
"That fearless approach without judgement... We have all been in sides where after a couple of losses, everyone gets a little judgy or a little bit edgy, but from the selectors down, they almost double down on their player to go even harder"
Stephen Fleming on England changing the rules

Would England's approach of split-captaincy and coaching work for India?

Fleming: I think doing the job [of a captain and coach] properly takes energy. I don't think you can have your eyes on every player across all formats, let alone be preparing for different challenges that come up. India now bounce to a tour in New Zealand, which is days away. And if you are going to do it properly, then you've got to purge what has happened in this World Cup and move on. But if it was a Test series, and I know not a lot of situations that teams would bounce from a one-day series or T20I series of importance straight into a Test series. I just think having the personnel or the energy from the top, with the management leading the way, can bring the energy and a real focus on what needs to be done rather than just rolling into another series.
The volume of cricket being played now is unprecedented. So you can't look at traditional models and still be the same. You can't keep rolling players and people out for a longer period just because the itineraries are getting full and you're expecting the same results. You've got to move with the times. And I think it's become very specialised as well. There are some excellent coaches out there that really specialise in the longer form or the shorter form.
You can still have the same players in the three formats. If they are the best in the world at what they do, they will be in all three formats. But I just think that around the coaching and having time away, so that your leaders come back refreshed, it's really important. Otherwise, it just becomes another day on the tour or just another international with not a lot of relevance, which is what we're trying to avoid. Just looking at trying to have the high performance or the maximum impact that coaches, captains and players can have in every tournament, in particular the big ones, you have to look at how you divide the time in your specialised areas.
Moody: I absolutely agree. I think one of the other things to consider, if you are across all formats as a coach in this day and age, with the volume [of cricket being played], you can also get clouded with your thinking. Around people's form, where they're at personally, all those really important factors that go towards high performance. But if you are coming in fresh, focusing on just white-ball cricket, for instance, or red-ball cricket, you're coming in with fresh energy, fresh ideas and seeing that person with a different set of eyes than someone who is seeing them throughout the whole year non-stop.
The other thing is that - in a way, India have done it and Australia have done it and a few countries have done it - where they have this excuse that, 'Well, we can manage all three formats because we are resting people.' Now if you're really serious about a particular format and you want to be world champions, you don't rest players leading into these tournaments, months out. Because you want your best players playing consistently side by side, sitting next to each other in the dressing room. You've got the continuity off the field, you've got the continuity on the field.
We're constantly trying to manage a high-volume calendar by, in a way, fooling ourselves that oh we'll rest and keep him away for this series and that series because we've got this Test series coming up or this 50-over tournament coming up. I think it's becoming more and more important to be able to define the difference between what it is actually we are trying to achieve and if we are serious about trying to achieve that.
"If England had won in the UAE at the last T20 World Cup, you could base an argument, but they weren't there in that one. So they've missed a World Cup there"
Tom Moody doesn't think England are the best white-ball side ever, yet
Kumble: No, I think it's important that you need all the stakeholders to be sitting in a room and then getting to understand that at the end of it, it's the players. It's the players who are going to win the game. You need to identify what kind of cricket you want to play and who are the guys you're going to… It's not like you already have them. You'll have to still develop a few players if you want to create that kind of brand and sustain it. It's not just about one match, it's not just about one tournament. It's about sustaining that kind of momentum as you go along. You may lose a few [games], but you should be willing to be able to accept that kind of brand and go along with it. So it's the players first.
Yes, it requires a buy-in from the management, and if it means you need separate personnel to handle all of that, so be it. What is critical is identifying the players you want to pursue with, the young players you want to develop, and how you are going to do that. All of this needs some introspection and some debate and an understanding of how you want to plan for the next two years. Because the next T20 World Cup is going to be in the West Indies in two years' time. From now till there, how are you going to develop those players who are going to win the World Cup for you? That's how I would see it. If it means that there has to be some continuity in the way you are going to approach that from a leadership perspective, then that's fine. But it's important that all stakeholders sit down and understand how you want to develop it. And you may still need a couple of players to play all three formats.

England have maintained their brand of cricket despite their captain Eoin Morgan and coach Trevor Bayliss leaving, and new guys coming in. Yet, whoever comes in seems to be familiar with the brand. What does it take to achieve that?

Moody: It's interesting, because having been involved in English cricket at the domestic level with the Hundred, it is that everyone is playing that brand of cricket. So it's filtering down to the domestic level. So all of your young batters coming through are playing like [Jos] Buttler, playing like [Jonny] Bairstow. So you saw [Phil] Salt, who we've only had a little taste of. Harry Brook, only a small taste of. All these next generation of players, they've all bought into what basically Eoin Morgan put his foot down for and said this is the way we are playing, this is the direction, and we are only looking at people who are prepared to play this brand because we believe in this brand.
We've also got to remember that there have been times over recent history when England have been blown away. They've been bowled out for next to nothing and it looks horrible. But you need to embrace that. That's part of the journey of getting to where you are world champions. So if you are going to have this shift in approach, you've got to accept there are going to be failures and it's going to look ugly at times. But you got to believe in the end result, and that's what England have done so well.

Are England also more ruthless or accurate with their team selection? India and Pakistan seem to be asking their players to play this way, instead of picking players who have this style of play ingrained in them.

Kumble: As Tom mentioned, once you embrace that type of cricket - okay, I'm going to only pick batters who score at 150 strike rate. And how consistent are they going to be? Jos Buttler plays that way, if he bats 40 balls, he is going to get 80 runs. But if he bats 20 balls like today and then score 30 runs, it's okay because Ben Stokes is there, that one batter who can [anchor] and Dawid Malan, that's their role. But if you look at the batters around him, a Liam Livingstone - I think his thinking is just going and batting 20 balls and getting that 30-40 runs. If he then continues, he just goes on, he doesn't hold back. Moeen Ali is similar, and everybody else is similar. So I think if you want to create that kind of playing XI, then you need allrounders. Because you can't just have seven batters or six batters and stop there. Then you can't get that kind of freedom when you're playing on all pitches and in all circumstances.

Can India and Pakistan afford to buy into that approach? And do they have to?

Mumtaz: See, England are currently the 50-over and T20 World Cup champions, right? Not quite so sure about India, but for Pakistan, Shadab [Khan], in a very recent interview, said that they are a good side, but they are not a champion side. And that says a lot because of how inconsistent they are. So I think for Pakistan, they will have to zoom out a little bit and have an overarching look at this.
"Look at the batting order. Today Liam Livingstone is batting at No. 7. No other team has a No. 7 of the quality of Livingstone. Stoinis walks in at No. 6 [for Australia]. That's the kind of team you have to build"
Anil Kumble
Firstly, they need to come up with what brand of cricket they want to play. It's almost like a bit from here and a bit from there. They try to get aggressive, but when it doesn't pay off, they go back into their default [mode]. So Pakistan, at least, will have to first sit down with all stakeholders to understand and agree upon a brand of cricket they want to play, which has to be abreast with where the modern-day game is going.
Then you need everyone to buy into it. That's when you pick coaches according to that brand of cricket and then sort of be slightly more aggressive with selections as well. No matter who the player is, if they're not buying into that, you almost leave them aside. I think the inconsistency tag with Pakistan is there because of a reason, and I think these are the things they will have to look at if they are to become a champion side.
Fleming: Yes, total buy-in. It is one thing having a part of the team, or components of the team, playing in a certain way but if it's not backed up all the way through… One thing England have done and done very well is they've created almost a new set of rules within their side. That fearless approach without judgement... We have all been in sides where after a couple of losses, everyone gets a little judgy or a little bit edgy, but from the selectors down, they almost double down on their player to go even harder. And that's where the courage comes from. That's where the pressure from outside starts to build and they've resisted that.
They've been able to just keep playing that way and create a new set of rules, where not finishing a game is a bit frowned upon if it's not in line with the way the player usually plays. All of a sudden they are talking a different language. They are pushing themselves forward in a non-judgmental way with an element of confidence. Whenever you get together with a team and say you are going to play fearless cricket, you hear the players go, "Uh oh, for how long?" Well, for how long has been a very long time with these guys and they're getting confidence now that when the decision-makers say that you are in for a while, get in there, play your way, play aggressive, they actually mean it.
There's a huge amount of trust that I think has formed within that squad and the whole of the top-end of England cricket where they are willing to support the decision-makers about selecting players, the captains in how they're using them, and finally, the team and individuals to play a certain way. You are seeing guys like Brook come out and dance down the wicket. Salt looks pretty fearless in what he does. Yes, there are going to be some absolute shockers along the way, but in between that they are just developing into potentially a dynasty of a formidable one-day team for a number of years.