Over the past two years, England have seen their once proud one-day thoroughbred transform slowly into a tired old pit pony, forlornly limping its way to the glue factory of inevitable World Cup disappointment.
It has been a drastic and total reverse of fortunes for the side who, in the two years following the last World Cup, were statistically the best-performing team of the eight major cricketing nations.
Now however, with less than three months to go until the sport’s biggest tournament, they are the worst, at the back of the pack and crashing hopelessly into nearly every fence in front of them.
Perhaps ordinarily the latest humiliating defeat in Colombo could have been more easily ignored, and with five games left in this series there is of course plenty of time for England to come back, and yet for all the talk of self-belief and fresh starts in the wake of the eight-wicket loss, there is an inescapable sense that this side need to make some changes fast.
Following his latest social media sideswipe at Alastair Cook’s ODI captaincy, the England team may not want to talk about Kevin, but there can be no denying that with Pietersen thrown out of the England pram and fellow South African-born mainstay Jonathan Trott not yet back in the picture, this team is crying out from some performances from its senior figures.
Cook’s position in the side, as captain and opening batsman, is unarguably receiving the most heated attention and with the left-hander now going 55 innings in Test and one-day international cricket without making a century, other options look better suited and more exciting by the second.
England’s resolve to stick with their skipper no matter what has been so stubborn that it feels almost as if they are determined to play at a disadvantage to the other nations – just to make things fairer they’ve decided to tie an arm behind their back.
However to heap all the blame on England’s skipper, unsuitable as he would appear for this format, would be to overlook the other worrying cracks in this creaking vessel.
For all Cook’s struggles with the bat, he still averages more this year than Eoin Morgan – the man hailed as England’s best one-day player – who lurches from one disappointing innings to the next, frittering away his wicket almost absent-mindedly.
Ian Bell too, for all that he is soon to surely become England’s leading ODI run-scorer, all too rarely convinces, which for a man who’s just earned his 150th cap is not exactly good enough.
If they cannot pull their weight, then with Alex Hales and James Taylor as well as Gary Ballance, who was almost inexplicably left out this squad, waiting in the wings, other options must be tested and tested soon.
Who knows, perhaps it is too late to rescue this side from ritualistic humiliation at next year’s World Cup, but without at least trying some adjustments then they are surely cantering to their doom with ever-increasing certainty.Reuse content