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ICC World Cup 2023: Understanding England’s Spectacular Collapse at Global Stage

#CWC23 | What triggered defending champions #England's spectacular collapse at the #WorldCup?

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World Cup
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The English are wired differently to us in India.

Back in 2011, when India won the ODI World Cup at home, we went around telling everyone we are the world champions. India forgot that they were world champions in just one of the three formats.

India ended up being bruised in Test cricket 0-8 away from home in both England and Australia. They ‘mocked’ India, but we did not care. Why?

That is because we were the world champions, you silly one.

We knew how to celebrate, if not ride the crest of a wave that we set sail on the night of 2 April 2011. It took us nearly two years to be brought down back to mother Earth. Most of India’s 2011 World Cup winners disappeared from the scene within a year, but we still did not get the hint.

#CWC23 | What triggered defending champions #England's spectacular collapse at the #WorldCup?
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Contrast that to the way England celebrated their big ODI triumph back in 2019. They danced merrily on the night of 14 July 2019, for sure. But very soon, they started pontificating about the viability of the 50-over format. In domestic cricket, the 50-over format was reduced to a footnote. That tournament started getting played with third-string players as newer formats were being embraced.

Even in international cricket, England did not play any ODI game for about seven months after the World Cup triumph in July 2019. Then, pandemic struck and the T20 game took centre stage worldwide.

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The Changing Priorities of England

England had another problem of their own as they began toying with the idea of a new The Hundred format to disrupt the already crowded cricket circuit back home, and around the world. This left them with a confused set of cricketers, who were keen to make the most of the growing franchise market in the sport.

More T20 competitions have emerged in the past couple of years in newer markets, making the English players alongside the West Indies and South Africans the most wanted lot of players around the globe. Also, for obvious reasons, Pakistanis, despite being T20 specialists at best, do not get picked in some of the new competitions.

Elsewhere, The Hundred began crowding an already packed domestic calendar. They now have three different formats of white ball cricket being played at the domestic level in England. The priorities are very clear: List A (50 overs) is at the bottom, T20 Blast is somewhere between and the Hundred is right at the top with the crème de la crème featuring here.
#CWC23 | What triggered defending champions #England's spectacular collapse at the #WorldCup?
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Focus Shifted To Red Ball

In between all this, ODI cricket was almost a forgotten format in England. For those of us in the subcontinent, this was blasphemous to even think about, but the English are wired differently.

England went on a mission mode post the 2015 World Cup debacle to become the 2019 ODI World Champion. Then they suffered another major debacle at home and away in Test cricket, their first love. So, then they got into another mission mode to get better at Test cricket.

They wanted to continue to be the best white-ball side in the world across ODIs and T20Is, but now also were keen to boss the red-ball format too. To that end, they brought in a new managing director for their men’s cricket in Rob Key, and divided the coaching set-ups for both the formats. Once again all was well in English cricket as Brendon McCullum transformed their Test squad under Ben Stokes with Bazball.
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At the other end, Eoin Morgan teamed up with new white-ball coach, Matthew Mott. But Morgan began struggling with form even as the new regime took shape. Morgan then retired mid-way through 2022, leaving Jos Buttler with just about four months to win the T20 World Cup in Australia.

Buttler’s side won the tournament in typical style and it seemed like the white ball domination would continue. Their template for T20I cricket was simple, bat aggressively, pack the side with all-rounders and the vagaries of the format would do the rest.

But ODI cricket was by now starting to look differently. The difference in the length of the contests was starting to separate the wheat from the chaff. You could tell it in the way certain sides have performed in the ongoing ODI World Cup.
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England’s Disregard Towards ODI Cricket

In the middle of all this, Stokes retired from the ODI format. Jofra Archer continued to be injured and England were never really with their best available squad for bilateral ODIs. While the same has also been true for the Indian setup, no noises emerged about the viability of the format from anyone.

With 2023 also being the year England were hosting the Ashes, the first part of the year went in trying to win it back. All the focus was on the storied rivalry with Australia and all the drama associated with it. That they did not win the Ashes is a different story.

The only ODI cricket that England had before the World Cup was a four-match series against New Zealand and a three-match contest against Ireland. Stokes had to be persuaded to return to the ODI format, while just days before the World Cup a different squad turned up against Ireland.

All this pointed to a certain disregard for the format, especially the fact that their talisman cricketer did not think the format was viable for him any longer.
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Morgan had very little time before the 2015 World Cup, but he had a longer build-up before the 2019 event to stamp his authority on the squad. The current England white ball squad hence is essentially Morgan’s so Buttler does not really have his imprint on the set-up.

What has also not helped matters is that the squad is essentially four years older than what it was in 2019. The bowling lacks bite with the trio of Archer, Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett separated for a variety of reasons. Wood is still there but is facing the brunt of being an express fast bowler on the flat pitches of India, while Plunkett is away in the United States of America.

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Next World Cup’s Planning Should Commence Now Itself

The most disappointing performance has been by the batters who were these marauding lot who bossed bowlers around the world. India would testify how they were pummelled into submission in the 2019 World Cup. But that fear has now gone to the men in green, South Africa who are batting like men possessed. England simply forgot to update their operating system.

They would probably need to restart their mission mode for the next ODI World Cup from now on, if it is still going to be played as a 50-over format. They will probably need a new set of white-ball specialists to take over from here.

But a lot of it has got to do with how they treat the format itself back home in domestic cricket. Accord it the respect that it deserves if it is around to once again be the world champion. Already former Test captain Joe Root has spoken about expanding the 50 over domestic competition at the expense of the T20 Blast. Just why you would have three different white-ball competitions is beyond comprehension. But then that is England, they are wired differently to us.

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One thing that they did like us though was bring their best available squad to the World Cup, unlike in 1987, when the tournament was first held in the subcontinent. At that time, their top stars David Gower and Ian Botham refused to turn up much like some of the other superstars of the time.

That has certainly changed about the English and other squads. Much of it has also got to do with the riches on offer in the hot months of April and May annually in India. At that time though there was no talk about air quality etc like what Root mentioned was one of their worries in the ongoing World Cup. This was usually part of the long list of excuses alongside Delhi Belly, smog, poor hotels, travel arrangements etc till the 1990s.

Then it changed completely as Nasser Hussain took charge.

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Contracts Need To Be Done Differently

Also strangely in the middle of the ongoing World Cup, they announced a new set of central contracts for three years for some players and varied lengths for others including Stokes. Three-year contracts in itself is a little strange, but Stokes as Test captain is only being offered a yearlong contract.

England must do it differently because most of their white-ball specialists are just waiting to be poached by franchises, mostly based out of Mumbai, to become their global roaming players.

With all this in the background, it is hardly a surprise that their title defence in the ongoing World Cup is in complete tatters.

The English are indeed wired differently to us in India.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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