Opinion: England need radical ODI changes

Blog Opinion

England are rubbish at one-day cricket. There's no way of putting a positive spin on it. They are. Graeme Swann was right that they don't have a 'cat in hell's chance' of winning the World Cup and they only have themselves to blame.

England are rubbish at one-day cricket. There's no way of putting a positive spin on it. They are. Graeme Swann was right that they don't have a 'cat in hell's chance' of winning the World Cup and they only have themselves to blame.

Every four years, the World Cup seems to sneak up on England. Like no-one had warned them it was coming, it seems to come as a surprise to them. "Oh look, we have to go and play in a World Cup. Oh no, it appears we're still rubbish at one-day cricket."

For the three years and six months that lead up to a World Cup, no one in England cares about one day cricket. The administrators see it as nothing more than a source of cash, the media only cover it because they feel they should and even then it's scant and supporters brand one-day series as pointless, meaningless and uninteresting. I suspect if the players were allowed to be honest, they'd probably say the same too.

In England, Test cricket is the be all and end all, and for many of the casual cricket watching public it's the Ashes or nothing. That's fine, if that's what we want. If we want to prioritise Test cricket above everything else, put all our focus on one series against one country every 18 months, that's fine.

But we can't then be surprised when we go to World Cups, stink the place out and come home again. We can't have it both ways. Either we don't care about one day cricket (and therefore can't really moan if we exit World Cups early) or we do.

If we do, then a radical re-think is required. A bigger picture strategy is required that runs right through from the county one-day competition through to having a dedicated one-day England set up.

As things stand, bi-laterial series are tacked on the end of long Test series meaning players are rested or those that aren't are battle weary. Coupled with the fact they've not played any one-day cricket domestically because the myopic greedy scheduling doesn't leave any room for them to do so.

So other than in the immediate run up to a world cup, England never have their best XI available and those that are available are either worn out on the back of a Test series or haven't played anywhere near enough one-day cricket to be ready to step up.

Seven years ago, the Schofield Report recommended that England prioritise one-day cricket. In fact, they've done the opposite. The County game has been weakened with endless tinkering, silly scheduling and too much cricket.

The International games are an after-thought and are there simply for TV cash and ticket sales. No one seems to care that England are consistently hopeless (they've lost five of their last six ODI series) and no one seems to care that they aren't even entertaining in their hopelessness.

That is, until we are a few months away from a World Cup – then suddenly people do seem to care.

It's the same with our national football team. No one cares about England matches in between World Cups or European Championships. International football is almost an inconvenience that gets in the way of league football. Then somehow we're surprised when England go to an international tournament and look like a team of work experience boys.

It's a shame, because with a couple of key personnel changes (getting rid of the skipper for a start), England's current crop have the makings of a decent one-day team.

If they throw away the previous England ODI manual and play in a less formulaic way, change their captain and bring in a couple of the wildcard big hitters from county cricket – there're the makings of a decent team.

We're just not giving them the best chance. They're hampered before they even start. Everything is stacked against them because of how little importance we place on one-day cricket, the slightly snobby way we look down on it as a format and because England hardly ever pick the best team available.

There's a weird obsession that our one-day team must be made up primarily of the players who've performed in the Test arena. Once upon a time maybe that worked. It doesn't any more.

If there is any desire for England to be competitive in the one-day arena, there must be a big shake up that starts now in preparation for the World Cup in 2019. It's going to need a radical re-think.

England play seventeen Test matches in nine months next year, there's no way that those players can also play all of the ODIs that are scheduled in. It's simply not possible without finishing them off.

The schedules have already prematurely ended the careers of at least four players in recent times and there's a danger they will do the same to Broad and Anderson fairly soon if England aren't careful.

A dedicated one-day squad needs to be identified. With a dedicated coach and coaching staff. It's a nonsense that the coach needs to be the coach across all formats. He doesn't.

The reason it didn't work with Andy Flower and Ashley Giles wasn't a problem with the principle of split coaching, it was a problem with Andy Flower not wishing to relinquish any control leaving Giles impotent to do the job properly. It doesn't have to be like that.

The domestic one-day matches need to be scheduled so they don't clash with ODIs and those England players playing ODIs need to be available to play as much one-day cricket as they can.

Winning a World Cup requires a four year strategy, not just a five month panic one. And we don't have to choose between winning the Ashes or winning a World Cup – we can have both. With a desire and a bit of planning, we can have both – the Aussies did it for years.

And just like one night you might fancy a beer and the next night you might fancy a glass of wine, we can get the cricket watching public to love both formats. But that's all a dream.

As it is, England will go Sri Lanka to play seven matches in conditions that won't in any way prepare them for the World Cup; they'll lose; they'll have their confidence further battered; there will be more pressure heaped on them and Alastair Cook.

Then they'll go to play in a tri-series for which they are not prepared and are under confident; they probably won't make it to the final of that tri-series, their confidence will take a further battering.

Then they'll go the World Cup, make an early exit, come home and everyone can stop talking about one-day cricket for another three and half years.

And so the cycle goes on. And we've no one to blame but ourselves.

<b>Lizzy Ammon</b>