Time for England’s ‘Musk-eteers’ to deliver against Australia - Chris Waters
Amid Elon Musk’s dystopian vision for humanity, delivered in conversation with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London on Thursday, a sliver of comfort at least emerged.
On that basis, England will have no need to worry about performing at future World Cups.
Why, all they will have to do is send out a team of robots onto the field to do the job properly, armed with sensors, cameras and real-time information.
Meanwhile, up in the press box, or the “Musk” media centres, as they may then be known, robots with laptops will be able to trot out this sort of piffle while the mechanical action unfolds on the pitch, saving newspapers trillions.
“We are seeing the most disruptive force in history here,” Musk told Sunak on stage after the AI Summit, “something that will be smarter than the smartest human.”
As he spoke, one strained to catch glimpse of a white cat in his lap and a trapdoor beneath Sunak’s seat, leading to a pool of piranhas, but the eyesight is not quite what it was.
Alas, in the absence of any robotic Joe Roots or Jonny Bairstows, any automated Mark Woods or Liam Livingstones, England’s brave ‘Musk-eteers’ must look to their own facility to apply a semblance of respect to a sobering campaign.
Five defeats in six for the defending champions advances the case for cricketing AI without need for persuasion; indeed, England might have fared no worse had Musk and Sunak taken the new ball.
Now they face Australia on Saturday in Ahmedabad, where another defeat would mathematically confirm their exit.
Australia can still reach the semi-finals but will be without two key all-rounders in Mitchell Marsh, who has returned home for personal reasons, and Glenn Maxwell, the former Yorkshire player who fell off the back of a golf cart - as you do - and suffered concussion.
England say they have pride to play for - is there any left? - and the extra motivation of needing to win at least two of their last three games (with Netherlands and Pakistan to follow) to qualify for the 2025 Champions Trophy.
It emerged last week - in a development that rather summed up the campaign - that 10th-placed England have to finish in the top eight in the World Cup group table to make that competition, which will be held in Pakistan.
One could hardly think of a greater incentive, therefore, for England to lose their last three games, seeing as the Champions Trophy is yet another tinpot tournament we could well do without, clogging up an already clogged-up schedule.
However, Matthew Mott, the embattled head coach, naturally views things rather differently, although one does wonder, given that the prospect of winning the World Cup itself and usurping what they achieved in 2019 didn’t do the trick, how the dubious carrot of a Champions Trophy appearance will have the necessary effect of galvanising his men.
“It gives us a lot of focus that we need to make sure we don’t just turn up,” claimed Mott, as though the honour of representing one’s country and pocketing huge salaries were not sufficient spur.
“We’ve got to turn up and play and win those games, so that’s plenty of motivation for us to pick ourselves back up off the canvas and keep trying to throw punches.”
At least Ben Stokes made no attempt to sugarcoat matters.
The Test captain, who has revealed that he will undergo knee surgery after the competition, put it well when he said ahead of Saturday’s game: “I think the problem is that we’ve been cr*p.”
Great player though he is, Stokes’s return has had the unfortunate effect of throwing England off course.
His decision to reverse his one-day international retirement, although understandable, has left the team looking rather unbalanced.
Harry Brook has been mucked around; the Yorkshire batsman should surely have been playing throughout, and selections and tactics have been questionable at best.
Had they been better, and were it possible to start the tournament afresh, England would surely not be in such dire straits as they are, a fact that reflects poorly on the wider management, particularly given the imbecility of announcing central contract decisions halfway through.
Still, none of this will be a problem when the World Cup takes place in Yorkshire in 2071 - the first time that the competition will be held solely in one county.
Right from the opening match at Bradford Park Artificial Intelligence Avenue, England will be magnificent, their superb robots posting a perfect one-day international total of 1,800-0 from 50 overs as every ball is hit for six.
After their opponents are then bowled out for 0 in 10 balls, England will gain similarly empathic successes from Scarborough to Sheffield and all points between, winning the “Musk” Trophy - sponsored by “X” - with ease.
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