Dominic Cork: Too tired? Nonsense. We are talking about professional players
Outside Off Stump: James Anderson should be on the team sheet. He will have the burning desire to put things right
Wednesday 16 March 2011
They play too much cricket. They've been hurt by injuries. Conditions have conspired against them. This World Cup has thrown up any number of talking points where Andrew Strauss's team are concerned but the bottom line, with which no one can argue, is simple: England have not been good enough.
Not good enough, not clinical enough and not disciplined enough. And the only saving grace is that we can still add the words "so far". Tomorrow's game against the West Indies gives them one last chance to earn a place in the quarter-finals – depending on other results, of course.
It should never have come to this. They had chances against both Ireland and Bangladesh to ease their way through the group but weaker opponents were allowed to take the game away from them.
Letting Kevin O'Brien do what he did with the bat and failing to finish off Bangladesh when they had them eight wickets down smacks of ill discipline: a failure to do the basics when basics were what was needed.
I don't think you can blame tiredness after a long winter away for England's shortcomings. We are talking about professional cricketers, playing at the highest level, but the end product has been very disappointing because they are a much better side than has been apparent up to now.
The million dollar question is why England, who were on such a high after their Ashes triumph, have been unable to rise to the occasion on the sub-continent.
There are plenty of theories but the only people who can come up with some answers are the players. Apart perhaps from Jonathan Trott, no one has done himself justice and, equally surprising, these individuals have not really gelled as a team.
Thankfully, all is not lost. We have seen some signs of what England are capable of producing, against India and South Africa, and each game is a fresh start with past performances not counting for very much when it comes to limited-overs cricket.
So, can I see England beating West Indies? Yes. Will I? I hope so, but I do think they are up against it because West Indies are dangerous opponents who should never be written off.
Some people have wondered out loud whether, subconsciously, a few England players are already on the plane home. Well, if that is the case, and the selectors have got wind of it, then those individuals should be dropped. But I would be very surprised, and dreadfully disappointed, if any member of Strauss's squad was thinking about anything other than how to beat West Indies and keeping alive their World Cup ambitions.
We need people out there tomorrow who are desperate to play for England, whether we are winning the Ashes or in a hole.
For me, one of those names on the team sheet would be Jimmy Anderson. I accept Chris Tremlett would not be a bad option and everyone knows Anderson has not bowled anything like he can. But he does have the experience, and I know he will have the burning desire to put things right.
As for the other end of the order, I think England must stick with Matt Prior as opener. And he was the choice to go in first with Strauss until the idea to promote Kevin Pietersen came out of the blue.
But it is not just Anderson and Prior who need to produce something special tomorrow. All the players need to have a good look at themselves and then come out fighting.
There is no point any of them moaning about the criticism they have received. When people were telling them how good they were in the Ashes they were happy to accept the praise so it is a case of taking stick where it is deserved. The great thing is that you are only ever one knock, one over or even one catch away from doing something special – and that is what England must focus on now.
Don't quit, Strauss. England need you
Speculation about Andrew Strauss's future in the one-day game is already rife with suggestions he will retire from 50-over cricket after this World Cup. But I would be surprised, and disappointed, if it worked out that way.
Strauss is relatively young, he scored a superb century against India recently, has proved himself a good leader and still has a lot to offer. If England do crash out of the World Cup this week there will be a big inquest, but blaming the captain when things go wrong is often nothing more than the easy option.
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