PAUL NEWMAN: Eoin Morgan was a brilliant leader and Jos Buttler just doesn’t match up… England’s World Cup collapse marks the end of an era
- England have lost three of their first four games at the Cricket World Cup
- Needing a win against Sri Lanka, they collapsed with the bat in Bangalore
- They now sit 9th in the World Cup table, only above the Netherlands on run rate
It was always going to be a big ask for England to win the World Cup in India to add to their 50-over and Twenty20 titles of the last four years. But nobody expected this.
Nobody expected England’s greatest white-ball side, the team who have set such dizzying standards since the nadir of 2015, to capitulate as spectacularly as this.
Nobody expected captain Jos Buttler and coach Matthew Mott who, lest we forget, led England to the T20 title in Australia a year ago, to be in charge of the worst side in this underwhelming World Cup, perhaps with the exception of the Netherlands. And we will not know for sure until England meet the Dutch.
How it has got this bad so quickly will dominate the thoughts of Buttler, Mott and Rob Key, who is facing his first crisis since becoming managing director of England cricket, in the next few miserable weeks when they will be playing simply to nurse their wounded pride.
Buttler told Mail Sport ahead of this tournament that ‘it is not our last dance but some players might consider their futures after this World Cup’.
Jos Buttler has claimed he still believes he is the right man to captain England’s one-day side
England coach Matthew Mott has come in for heavy criticism for the dismal World Cup display
Rob Key is facing his first crisis since becoming managing director of England cricket
Well, those decisions will be made for this ageing England side, all of them in Bangalore 30 or over, because it is surely the end of the road for many of them. In 50-over cricket at least.
Perhaps the warning signs were there right at the start of this totally unexpected sorry campaign when national selector Luke Wright named what he insisted was the final squad for what remains the most important trophy in limited-overs cricket.
It felt strange at the time that it was not Mott or Key making the announcement but a man who, by England’s admission, does not hold anything like the same influence as the previous selectorial incumbent, Ed Smith.
Stranger still when both Mott and Buttler then lined up to contradict Wright in saying this was actually a provisional squad and there was still time for Harry Brook, the notable omission, to fight his way in.
As indeed he did at the expense of a stalwart in Jason Roy who, in common with the rest of the squad, had been told he was definitely going to India.
Wright also intimated there would be travelling reserves — there were not — with the exception of Jofra Archer who would accompany the side in India to continue his rehabilitation after injury with a view to being a potential fast bowling injury replacement.
Instead Archer only turned up for a brief spell in Mumbai and when the unfortunate Reece Topley was injured yet again, Archer was ruled out of playing any part and instead a call was made to Brydon Carse to fly out from a somewhat different climate in Durham.
England suffered their fifth successive defeat to Sri Lanka at the World Cup since 2007
Since the start there has just been a catalogue of errors, from muddled selectorial thinking in chopping and changing the side, to baffling decisions at the toss and, above all, to strangely half-hearted, timid cricket reminiscent of the baddest of the bad old days.
Attention will inevitably fall on the captain and coach. Buttler remains the greatest of all England white-ball players and it is hugely positive he has just signed a two-year central contract rather than the multi-year deal the Rajasthan Royals have been tempting him with.
But even though he stood in admirably for Eoin Morgan during England’s rise to the 2019 crown, most notably when the then England captain refused to go to Bangladesh, Buttler is clearly not the outstanding leader his predecessor was.
It is not easy for any keeper to be a captain and Buttler appears to have missed the influence of his right hand man Moeen Ali, left out for the bulk of this tournament, not to mention the initial absence of talisman Ben Stokes from the side with injury.
Buttler should be allowed to stay in charge for England’s defence of the T20 world title in the Caribbean and USA next June but after that a new captain should be sought to lead what remains an England side brimful of talent into the next white-ball cycle.
Then there is the Australian. It should be remembered Mott won two World Cups last year — he was in charge of the highly successful Australia women’s side before arriving in England — but his position has to be questioned after this.
Mott was chosen by Key in part because of his good relationship with Brendon McCullum and there is so much cricket now that a two-coach system does make sense.
Adil Rashid was embarrassingly run out after switching off at the non-striker’s end
But Mott does seem a very different operator from the laid-back architect of Bazball.
It looks suspiciously like Mott is a big data man — see him scribbling notes during matches whenever the TV cameras focus on him — when so much of what England have achieved in white-ball and more recently Test cricket has been based on instinct.
The last England coach accused of being too obsessed with data — harshly at times — was Peter Moores and he had two unsuccessful bites of the international cherry before returning to be one of the best coaches in county cricket.
Mott still has credit in the bank after that T20 win in Melbourne last year and will probably survive for now but he too will be under extreme pressure when that short-form defence in the Caribbean comes round all too quickly next summer.
Maybe this wasn’t quite England’s last dance as a white-ball force but a side known to enjoy their social lives are certainly drinking in the last chance saloon now.
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