Opinion: England dancing the foxtrot to a One Direction song

England

England are like a grandfather at a school disco, dancing the foxtrot to a One Direction song, writes Peter Miller.

It has happened again. We are just months away from a World Cup and England are a shambles. This has happened in the lead-up to every single tournament since England made the final back in 1992.

That is 22 years of abject failure at the biggest cricket tournament in the world. More than two decades of England being a laughing stock. They are like a grandfather at a school disco trying to get down with the kids by dancing the foxtrot to a One Direction song.

England fans are intelligent enough to cope with the side losing. That is part of the rich tapestry that is sport and other such cliches. What you want is your side to compete. What you need to see is them moving in the right direction. From the loss in the Champions Trophy final last summer until now England have won just one ODI series, and that was played by the T20I side in the West Indies. Alastair Cook has overseen four ODI series losses in a row.

England have won just eight games out of 22 ODIs in that period, with two of those wins coming against Scotland and Ireland. They have reached 300 just twice since June last year, one of those coming in a losing cause. They have been bowled out inside their 50 overs eight times during that timescale. They are not going backwards, they are tumbling towards oblivion. Things cannot get worse.

During that time even the most staunch defenders of Cook's leadership have begun to get frustrated with him. On <i>BBC's Test Match Special</i>, Jonathan Agnew spoke of how Cook should walk away from ODIs. His reasoning was that England need him to win the Ashes. This in itself speaks volumes of how England approach the format. Despite the World Cup entering its 40th year they still don't take it seriously. It is a way to blood new players for Test matches.

There are changes that could be made. England could accept that Cook as a captain isn't the answer. They could tap him on the shoulder, thank him for his service and tell him that he can concentrate on Tests. They could look to the county game and pick different players. They could tear up the plans that are clearly outdated, and are obviously unsuccessful.

That might not lead to them doing any better at the World Cup, it might even see them doing a bit worse. But it would show a commitment to giving ODIs some primacy. They may be a flawed format, but they remain the way the big prize in the sport is decided. The Ashes is beating one team, the World Cup is beating them all.

The problem with all of this is that the same coaching staff and analysts would be their pulling the strings. In recent weeks Graeme Swann has been hugely critical of the way that England approach the game, calling it old-fashioned and outdated. As a man who was so recently a member of the set-up these criticisms are staggering.

"I've sat in these meetings for the last five years. It was a statistics-based game" Swann said on <i>Test Match Special</i>. "The whole game was built upon having this many runs after this many overs, this many partnerships, doing this in the middle, working at 4.5 an over. I used to shake my head thinking: 'This is crazy'."

This raises many more questions than it does answers, the first of which is did Swann raise these concerns at the time? If he did how seriously were they taken, if he didn't was the culture not one where such doubts could be raised. Cricket is won by runs and wickets. While having a 'moneyball' approach is not in itself a bad thing, if it takes over everything else it becomes the problem, not the solution.

Having a certain approach drummed into the head of players in team meetings is certain to muddle their thinking. No longer are they acting on instinct, instead they are having to think about any number of statistics that may or may not win you the game. But stats don't win ODIs, scoring more runs than the other teams does.

At Edgbaston England were destroyed for the third match in the row. They have not been close to competing in a single match of this series. As Cook once said "something needs to be done." Maybe Cook should get the ball rolling by doing the honourable thing…

<b>Peter Miller</b>

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