Look and learn for England

It was probably predictable that the new, improved England would not make much progress in the so-called mini-World Cup. It is utterly astonishing that the two finalists for the ICC Knockout at the Gymkhana Stadium in Nairobi today are India and New Zealand.

It was probably predictable that the new, improved England would not make much progress in the so-called mini-World Cup. It is utterly astonishing that the two finalists for the ICC Knockout at the Gymkhana Stadium in Nairobi today are India and New Zealand.

When the tournament began it looked a stone-cold certainty that at least one of the last two would come from the big three: Australia, Pakistan and South Africa. That they all fell by the wayside - all well beaten, incidentally - is testimony to the quirky nature of the one-off limited-overs match.

In the case of the Kiwis it is also a tribute to the benefits of long-term planning. India's progress has almost nothing to do with that. They have been riven by match-rigging allegations and have lacked a full-time coach since Kapil Dev's resignation. Yet they have confirmed the irreplaceable assets of extraordinary individuals and the deserved rewards to be had by risking talented youth in the form of the 18-year-old all-rounder Yourav Singh.

If one of the Indian batting stars comes off today - and you can take your pick from Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Vinod Kambli - New Zealand's collective will may be insufficient. But whatever the result the Kiwis have demonstrated again that one-dayers are an art. They know a lot about it and they know what they like.

England can only watch and continue to learn. It is a pity that a couple of days after succumbing hopelessly to South Africa it should be revealed the Professional Cricketers' Association have written to the England and Wales Cricket Board expressing displeasure. The PCA, whose 400 members have never had it so good, want to protect players' jobs and wages and do not think the ECB are doing that.

One of the letter's signatories was the PCA chief executive, David Graveney, who is also chairman of the England selectors, which presumably places him under the umbrella of the ECB. If there is not a direct conflict of interest, it is difficult to understand how the selectors' chairman can lend such support to the continued employment of players who can never merit his attention.

Still, the ECB would be foolish not to embrace the PCA's wish for discussions. The game, lacking sponsors and short of gate money after the early Test finishes of last summer, needs all the ideas it can get. When the beer and sandwiches are brought into the smoke-filled room nobody will come up with a better one than regaining the Ashes.

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