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For ability to blossom, England must break shackles of decadent thought

England faced a shock defeat to Bangladesh as they were knocked out of the Cricket World Cup on March 9.

England, England World Cup 2015, 2015 World Cup England, England v Bangladesh, EngvBan, BanvEng, Cricket News, Cricket England were knocked out of the World Cup 2015 by Bangladesh on March 9. (Source: Reuters)

A line I read last year has stayed with me ever since because it raises an extremely uncomfortable thought. It explains why some of us become irrelevant and I think it can explain why England are going to be on a flight home rather than to Melbourne.

I read that influencers in society are often ten years behind reality. It is a good issue to debate, I believe it is true, but it is certainly uncomfortable for some. Influencers are often successful people and sometimes, successful people become imprisoned by their success. They fail to see fresh thought because it challenges them and their success. And so while the world moves on, the preachers stay in the past. That is how opinion leaders suddenly become irrelevant and I think that is why England cricket is struggling in the shorter form.

I must clarify these are my thoughts from a distance and I have no intention of preaching to England for, heaven knows, I have been irritated when the reverse happens. But I hear influencers, I read what they write and I can’t help thinking that the disdain, even the contempt, with which they hold modern developments in the game is preventing England from becoming contemporary, is holding their players back.

READ: Put Peter Moores in charge of kids, says Michael Vaughan 

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There is no way this England team, with the fairly substantial skills it possesses, should not be in the quarter final of the World Cup. It is not about their ability, it is that it is being stifled. Certainly that is the impression from afar.

Increasingly 50 overs cricket is a longer form of T20 cricket. 350 is being scored not just because of bats and two new balls and field restrictions but because imagination has been unshackled by T20 cricket. What was considered ungettable was challenged by thought, and as a consequence, by actions. When you make 180 in a T20 game regularly, you start believing you can make 350 in a 50 over game too. But if you look down on T20 cricket, on what it is doing to the game, on the instincts it is encouraging in players, you deny yourself access to modern trends. You look progress in the eye and recommend it to the neighbours.

READ: Bangladesh send England packing

England’s influencers detest the IPL, the players want desperately to play in it. There is a reason. The IPL isn’t only a celebration of the wealth of Indian cricket, it is not only the garish spectacle that opinion leaders want to believe it is. Beyond the matches, beyond what you see, it is world cricket’s festival. Players come there not just to play but to learn, to share ideas, to refine their thoughts, their game. They have dinners with the stars, they follow their work ethic, they eavesdrop on their minds. It is like going to a trade exhibition to know the latest trends. It is like doctors going to a convention to know what the rest of the world is doing.

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But if you hold what is not yours with contempt, you are condemned to miss out on the knowledge it is freely dispensing. This was a good England side condemned to play poorly.

The reverse can be true too. If all you want to do is play limited overs cricket, or T20 cricket, you become a bad Test team. You can have good players who don’t become the players they can be. But I mention T20, and it is fair to include the Big Bash and the CPL too, because this is the World Cup and we are talking limited overs cricket.

T20 has also pushed cricket towards becoming a numbers driven game but numbers are an aid to strategy, they cannot become strategy. If 275 is a good score at Adelaide, it doesn’t mean it will always be good. On Star Sports we show a lot of numbers too but at all times, we realise what we are showing is correlation, not cause and effect. If 275 wins you, say, 83% of matches, that is what has happened in the past and is an aid to the future. But whether or not 275 is good enough, is a decision to be taken on the day. I fear England got obsessed with a target (hence the “check the data” quote from Peter Moores) and their players couldn’t look beyond. It isn’t the first time it has happened. When you take away freedom, you get programmed players.

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But there is the core of a team ready here; a team to be built around the strengths of Joe Root and Jos Buttler and many more like those who must be playing cricket in England. But it will have to be a team that is defined by freedom and joy. And as part of a system that is contemporary, open to fresh thought and relevant to the generation playing cricket for it. If mindsets are way behind the reality of today, you will get a team playing dated cricket.

I believe that if England can break the shackles of decadent thought, they will become a very good limited overs cricket team very quickly.

First published on: 12-03-2015 at 01:39:19 am
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