The biggest lesson from England’s debacle in the World Cup is that cricket matches are not won by data mining — which has been the subject of so much discussion by coach Peter Moores in recent months — but by talent, passion, intelligent planning and deep ambition.
I would be silly to argue that the England players lacked skill. But if the other attributes are not present in decent measure, the outcome can still be disastrous, as we saw in Monday’s match against Bangladesh.
These are attributes that can’t be fed into hard disks and pen drives to come up with match-winning game-plans; they come from picking the right combinations, building confidence in players, getting them jell together for a common cause.
Excessive theorising can throw any endeavor into a tailspin of doubt and dilemmas. In sport, and particularly cricket given its rhythm and tenor, there is need for dynamic thinking; sometimes out of the box and occasionally even diabolical.
If anything, England’s ouster before the knock-out stage itself is a case against `over managing’ a side. There is a place for incorporating systems and processes in training drills, fitness regimens etc, but if making players happy and believe in themselves are overlooked, the consequences can be shambolic.
There is not much that the England administration and tour management has done right in this campaign. I’ll refrain from arguing for Kevin Peitersen because I’m not thorough about the whys and wherefores of his ouster from English cricket.
Obviously, losing a player of Pietersen’s calibre would hurt. But there have been other, more damaging decisions: like the virtual last-minute appointment of Eoin Morgan as captain. How much time was he given to prepare — mentally and emotionally — for this major task? How was the rest of the squad expected to adjust to a new man at the helm so quickly.
Every other team in the World Cup had their captain in place at least six months — if not a couple of years — in advance. Morgan was condemned to grapple with this onerous responsibility, unsure of where he stood vis-à-vis his team. Consequently, England’s best ODI player became the team’s biggest liability.
Team selection in the tournament also seemed cock-eyed. Gary Ballance, with feeble credentials as a limited overs cricketer, was given precedence over specialist Alex Hales. By the time Hales got the nod, it was almost too late.
The composition of the bowling attack also looked to be confused. Anderson was off-colour for the most part, Broad completely unproductive and the support seamers unsure whether they were wanted or not.