For England the one-day future starts today. This has been a regular process in the past 20 years with each reinvention – usually no more than a copy of the patent long since registered by others and already bordering on obsolescence – ending in failure.
England have rarely been the innovators in the short game, content to follow reluctantly. Their enthusiasm and determination have always seemed a shade false, conveyed in the knowledge that there are more important matters, largely if not exclusively the Ashes.
By the time of each of the last six World Cups, the one tournament definitely sure to persuade the juices to flow, it has inevitably been too late. England have arrived at tournaments from India to Australia only to be as good as vanquished from the outset.
But now there is a more determined mood in the air. Promulgated by the new director of cricket, Andrew Strauss, the aim is to develop a radically different team with an all-out attacking style, one fit for the 21st century, which has been alien to this country.
Strauss’s anointed captain, Eoin Morgan, outlined England’s renewed ambition yesterday while making no attempt to conceal the depth of their shortcomings. “We want to be unclouded in the way that we play and put opposition sides under pressure as much as we can,” he said. “For a long time now, we’ve been behind the eight-ball in one-day cricket and we’ve fallen behind by a long way, and it’s time for a catch-up.
“It still might take a little bit of time but certainly I can get my views across, things can be a lot clearer and I’ll certainly be involved in selection so I’ve got the squad that I’ve wanted.”
The declared objective is for the team to have progressed sufficiently to compete properly in the Champions Trophy of 2017 and the World Cup of 2019. England are the hosts of both and although they have previously reached two World Cup finals and two Trophy finals at home, they have never prevailed in any of them.
A coach has been appointed in Trevor Bayliss who has had success in all one-day formats with all his teams. That was a key reason for his being persuaded to take the job. But Bayliss can only advise from afar now and will not formally take over until later this month.
The recent World Cup in Australasia convinced England, prodded by Strauss, that something had to be done. Thus, they have selected a team of modern combatants who play in the contemporary way and will be given licence to play expansively.
It is perhaps unfortunate that they are coming up against the masters of expansiveness. While England were falling on their face in the recent World Cup, wondering what on earth was happening around them, New Zealand played thrillingly, fully embracing the tournament and reaching the final where they came up against a hard-nosed Australia side whose oafishness belied their talent.
The pool match between England and New Zealand embodied all that was wrong with one side’s outmoded approach and all that was right about New Zealand’s vibrant method. The Kiwis won by eight wickets – bowling England out for 123 and then knocking off the target at 10 runs an over. It was glorious.
Now they meet again. The first of five matches is at Edgbaston this afternoon and it is difficult to think that England can win three to take the series. England must have feared the worst when the ground had to be evacuated yesterday because of a kitchen fire, interfering with their training.
New Zealand are more seasoned campaigners, at home with their method developed on mutual trust. But the underdogs have at last selected a squad based on the way the game is played now instead of some long-ago orthodoxy. They seem to be prepared to grasp the new conventions.
But the Kiwis know how to keep coming as they demonstrated amply in the recent Test series and they are well versed in the approach in one-day cricket. They have probable newcomers of their own but there is nothing foreign to them about a method of play promoted at every turn by their captain Brendon McCullum.
He seemed as excited about England’s reinvigoration as they are (presumably he was fed up of playing a team with antediluvian ideas). “It’s obviously a little bit raw but it’s full of talented players who are pretty aggressive with bat and ball,” McCullum said of England’s team. “England have got some really dangerous players and judging by the comments coming out of their camp they’re looking forward to branching out a little bit,” he added.
England will have a new potentially exciting pair of opening batsmen in Alex Hales and Jason Roy and will also give opportunities to the left-arm seam bowler David Willey, and the leg spinner Adil Rashid. They have the chance to change things forever.Reuse content