Tuesday, 25 October 2011

England's ODI Wake-Up Call

So England have been humiliated in an ODI series. I suppose it had to happen - for all of the talk of a new dawn post-World Cup under Captain Cook, not an awful lot had changed, and rain affected wins over disinterested Sri Lankan and Indian touring teams had papered over some sizeable cracks. The time is right to rethink the ODI strategy, be ruthless, and sort out the only format that doesn't see England sit on top of the rankings in.

As bad as England have been this series, it isn't all doom and gloom. England's bowling, when all fit, is up there, and it shouldn't be forgotten that this is an England team missing it's two main bowlers. (Yes, India have missed a few of their gun batsmen, but that's by the by). Jimmy Anderson, the oft quoted "leader of the attack" can be devastating against any side, and Stuart Broad has developed into a world-class ODI bowler. While Anderson may start to need the odd bit of strength and conditioning rotation every now and again, Broad is now coming right into his peak as a cricketer, and can become the spearhead of England's ODI bowling. The pair bring a lot of international experience (something that's been obviously lacking this series) to the attack, and combined with the also oft quoted "best spinner in the world" Graeme Swann, they provide the backbone to a more than handy bowling unit. Those three, when fit, should be automatic no-question picks, and will certainly make England a lot more competitive (at least) then they have been thus far this series.

They'll be complemented by either Tim Bresnan, who has come on leaps and bounds as an international bowler despite a poor tour here, and Steven Finn, who is probably the only England player who can hold his head up high this tour. Bresnan bowls with plenty of guile, and as proved with a very good World Cup, is suited to subcontinental conditions. While he isn't quite good enough to bat at number seven, the "all-round" (that isn't a pun on his weight) string to the bow certainly helps his argument for selection. Finn has spent a lot of time in county cricket learning his game over the past year, and it has clearly paid off. He's added a couple of yards of pace to himself (and can quite possibly be called the most consistently quick bowler in world cricket) and his one-day game is developing into a world-class standard. The only bowler to come out of this tour with any credit, it would be harsh to see him miss out, so he and Bresnan will likely vie for that final out-and-out bowling position.

Any good ODI team has a number seven who is a genuine batsman first and foremost, which is why Bresnan playing there just isn't a viable selection. Samit Patel has done well in spells and could retain his place, but long-term it's clear that England see Ben Stokes fulfilling this role. Whether he's quite up to it at the moment is debatable, but once he's over his finger injury the extra dimension that his bowling gives should help see him get a game. Personally, it would be nice to see Peter Trego given a go, but it's looking fairly unlikely.

While England's bowling is fairly sorted, it's clear that the batting needs a bit of work. Quite simply, mediocrity has been not so much tolerated as it has been celebrated, and widespread cuts should be made immediately to the batting line-up. For someone to play so many games for England and only average 29 as a top-order batsman is criminal, and while he does offer the bonus of a bit of trundly medium pace, Ravi Bopara should be cut. While Ian Bell is one of the world's best test batsmen, he simply has never done it at ODI level, and has had too many last chances. Craig Kieswetter, who is one of the worst wicket-keepers in the country and hardly one of the best batsmen is charged with opening the innings and donning the gloves, and we've seen too many dropped catches and not enough runs from him, which means someone else should have a go. And Kevin Pietersen, who only a few years back was probably the world's premier ODI player, has fallen away so badly in the format that it might be worth not using him to keep him fresh for his test and T20 travails.

So that just leaves Cook (who has to stay, as he's the captain - and to be fair he has done well since coming back into the side), Trott (who despite all of the hate is a vital part of the team due to anchoring nearly every innings), Bairstow (a clean striker who can be used to good effect in the final powerplay, as well as potentially taking over as wicket-keeper), and England's trump card Eoin Morgan. It's the basis of a good batting side, and if the likes of James Taylor, Alex Hales and Jos Buttler are brought in and take their chances, it could develop into a very good team.

England have been humbled fairly humiliatingly by India this series, but for the World Champions to beat a touring team who have notorious subcontinental troubles isn't that surprising. England do have a lot of work to do if they are to get to India's level, but it can be done, and if the big calls are made now, we could start to see a marked improvement in their ODI fortunes. This series has been an alarm call for the England management, but it remains to be seen whether they wake up and make the changes that England need.

England's potential new ODI team:

Alex Hales
Alastair Cook (c)
Jonathan Trott
Eoin Morgan
James Taylor
Jonny Bairstow (wk)
Ben Stokes
Stuart Broad
Graeme Swann
Steven Finn
Jimmy Anderson

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