England’s one-day cricketers have taken all sorts of abuse while wending their losing way around the world. The coach has been told to go and the players questioned about their desire, but no one has considered the ”socio-economic” roots of their game — until now.
”England are one of the few teams that don’t have to have a successful one-day side, because financially they don’t have to rely on it,” says John Bracewell, the free-thinking New Zealand coach whose side were the first to qualify for the semifinals of the ICC Champions Trophy. ”They are just about the only country that actually survives on Test cricket.”
Bracewell is highly qualified to talk about English cricket. Before starting his current job three years ago, he turned Gloucestershire into England’s premier one-day side, lifting five cups in two seasons. ”We grabbed hold of one-day cricket and stole a march on everybody,” he says.
The lack of commitment to the short form of the game has, in Bracewell’s view, serious implications for Duncan Fletcher’s England squad, whose recent Champions Trophy game against West Indies was rendered meaningless by their humbling defeats to India and Australia.
”I’m not sure they have the resources in terms of athleticism, in flexibility. They are always a one-pattern team as opposed to one that is flexible for different conditions,” says Bracewell.
”England have had a very good, disciplined Test programme … but that doesn’t necessarily cut it in one-day cricket. All around the world it’s smart pace-bowling that counts.”
Bracewell concedes that most teams suffered on India’s slow wickets, but whereas England crumbled twice, New Zealand learned to adapt.
He regards the Champions Trophy as the perfect preparation for next spring’s World Cup in the West Indies, where he expects similar playing conditions.
”With the power plays and in these particular conditions, strategy is important.” It’s about the skill in who can hit the ball furthest and hardest, and stopping them. The modern thing has been to try to attack and take advantage of the power plays.
”Here you have really got to take a more conservative, traditional approach and make sure you have wickets left going into the last 15 overs and possibly six wickets left going into the last 10, which England didn’t manage. Sides have gotten used to attacking the new ball ÃƒÂ la the Trescothicks and the Gilchrists. That’s been difficult to do and even [Adam] Gilchrist has changed his game.”
So, given their failure in India and a record that shows 19 defeats in 24 completed matches against Test-nation opposition, do England stand any chance of winning the World Cup for the first time? ”With the World Cup it’s the side that goes in winning that has the best chance,” said Bracewell. ”So if England have a great Ashes series, go well in the VB series over there and are on a roll, then anything could happen.
”They’re a side that’s reliant on the vital few as opposed to the group, the greater number. If the vital few hit form at the right time, they are in with a shout.” — Ã‚