No silver bullet solution to England’s white-ball woes - Chris Waters
There has been talk of getting rid of the present captain, Jos Buttler, or whether his heart is still in the role.
Fingers of blame have been pointed in the direction of Rob Key, the managing director of England men’s cricket, not least for his handling of the central contracts issue that has rumbled on in the background and had an unsettling influence.
Other negatives propounded include the impact of The Hundred that clashes with our domestic 50-over tournament, a general reduction in the number of one-day internationals played, insufficient preparation/acclimatisation for the competition in India, questionable selections, decision-making, tactics and so on.
Why, the only thing that has not been blamed, it seems, is the boogie.
Everyone has been left scratching their heads as to what’s gone so wrong for England, double white-ball champions of the world, no less, but somehow sitting bottom of the 10-team group table at the World Cup after five defeats in their opening six games.
But there is no silver bullet solution as they seek to move on from a nightmare that few, if anybody, saw coming - one that continues with fixtures against Australia, Netherlands and Pakistan before they can finally go home, lock the door and close the curtains on the outside world.
At times like this, amid crushed hopes and expectation, there is a desire, a need perhaps, for people to pinpoint an exact reason for a troubling problem, a one-size-fits-all solution that will have England back up-and-running faster than you could say “The Hundred is the worst thing since unsliced bread”.
Alas, matters are rarely that straightforward which explains why, in football for instance, the simple act of binning off the manager might seem a good idea at the time only, a few weeks later, and with results no better, for the same process to be repeated by desperate owners.
Sport, of course, has always gone in cycles, and this England team is now at the end of its cycle, a team top-heavy with thirty-somethings and players in the twilight of glorious careers.
As Yorkshire found out during a run of only one County Championship title between 1968 and 2014, for many of their supporters an unthinkable drought, no team has a divine right to win anything and confidence and form are never guaranteed. In all probability, England’s failure is an amalgam of everything, with only those in the thick of it – the dressing room – best placed to judge.
This campaign, however, seemed cockeyed from the start when Harry Brook was not named in the squad only for Mott and Buttler to then say that the door was not closed on the young Yorkshire batsman, who has been left out of the last two matches despite possessing the second-best average of England’s frontline batsmen in the tournament (32 to Dawid Malan’s 39). Likewise, the return of Ben Stokes has not been successful, impacting Brook's situation and unbalancing the team.
Stokes has so much credit in the bank - not to mention an England record one-day international score of 182 just seven weeks ago - that no one in their right mind would have suggested that he should have been left out, and yet his desire for one last 50-over hoorah is turning into the sorriest of encores, with just 48 runs in three innings after a hip injury kept him out at the start of the competition.
Reading the runes, it would seem that Mott is coming under increasing pressure amid a general feeling that all is not well.
Morgan’s recent remarks on television - “I think there’s something else going on, there has to be” - do not, by implication, reflect well on the coach, particularly as Morgan is close to Buttler and has not been critical of the players per se.
Ultimately, though, as Morgan would doubtless concede, the buck must stop with the players while mindful of the “no team has a divine right to win anything” caveat, for the performances, collectively, have not been good enough.
Anybody can be affected by poor management/leadership in any walk of life; equally, there are many times when people still perform in such circumstances, their talent and professionalism pulling them through.
The World Cup statistics for England make grim reading.
Of the batsmen, only Malan and Brook are averaging in the 30s, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow are averaging in the 20s, Jos Buttler is averaging 17 and Stokes 16.
Of the bowlers, the only ones averaging below 49 are David Willey (27) and Adil Rashid (33), with Reece Topley (22) having gone home injured and Gus Atkinson (30) only picked for one game.
They say that things can only get better, but will they?
Only time will tell.