9th March, 2015 was something of a watershed moment for English cricket. England faced Bangladesh in a must-win situation in their penultimate group stage match of the 2015 Cricket World Cup. They already had lost to Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, all quite embarrassingly, and had just a solitary win against Scotland going into that match. Chasing 275, England fell short by 15 runs and were knocked out of the World Cup in the group stages.
It’s fair to say that was one of the lowest ebbs in the history of English cricket. The then coach, Peter Moores, was startled following an utter embarrassment. He went on to say the following in the post-match press conference, which made England a laughing stock, as if they weren’t already, after their spineless performance in that World Cup.
Peter Moores: “We thought 275 was chaseable. We’ll have to look at the data.” Genuine quote! #CWC15
Andrew Strauss, The Director of the ECB, and the other members of the board must be given huge credit for what followed.
Moores was sacked and an experienced and calm head in Trevor Bayliss took over. Eoin Morgan was retained as captain for the limited overs formats and the likes of Stuart Broad, Ian Bell, and James Anderson, all stalwarts of English cricket in their own rights, were shown the door in the shorter formats of the game. Change was imperative at the time, and the right change was essential to salvage England’s pride.
And boy, didn’t it come through?
England play their cricket in an unrecognisable manner to that side. More than a change of personnel, what has been more crucial to this revival is the change of mentality and thought process when it comes to limited overs cricket. It’s quite obvious that England never took ‘slam-bang’ cricket seriously and this is one of the reasons why they’ve never won a 50-over World Cup. It took a catastrophic performance in a major tournament for people to realise the importance and dwell over this. But as they often say, better late than never.
Peter Moores said immediately after the tournament: “If we had a lot of experienced one-day players that we weren’t selecting it would be different but we haven’t got that. We’re not overloaded with high-class one-day players.”
Maybe, just maybe, he got that horribly wrong, like many of his decisions during his tenure as a coach. Trevor Bayliss and Eoin Morgan were quite clear and focused in their approach of playing an aggressive and positive brand of cricket with nothing to hold them back. This approach has done wonders and you are forced to think what if this approach had been employed much earlier.
The likes of Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Joe Root and many others were thrown into the deep end in the ODI series vs New Zealand and ever since they’ve never failed to perform. There has been a consistent rise in their quality and their approach to pressure situations is nothing short of commendable.
Since the end of the 2015 World Cup, five batsmen have scored over 1000 ODI runs. Four of them, albeit quite unsurprisingly, are from England; namely, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Alex Hales and Eoin Morgan. This shows how much has changed. England have started taking all formats equally seriously and given enough importance to each of them. This approach nearly culminated in them winning the World T20 earlier this year, if not for final over where Carlos Brathwaite unleashed and smashed four consecutive sixes to seal victory for West Indies.
Although the loss must have been heart-wrenching for England, it showed how far they have progressed in their game and the fact that they were so close to winning a world title in alien subcontinental conditions must have given massive confidence to them. The role Morgan and Bayliss have played in overseeing this change, by giving complete freedom to each one of their players to express themselves in the best way possible, cannot be understated.
While the batting and all-rounder spots look settled with Chris Woakes and Stokes vying for places, one slight cause of concern would be the bowling department which doesn’t have a settled look to it. David Willey, Steven Finn, Reece Topley, Chris Jordan, and several others have all been given numerous chances, you could say that no one has nailed on to one of the spots, thus far. Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali have done a decent job as spinners but they will be expected to pick more wickets and contribute more in the near future.
With the Champions Trophy being held in England in less than 10 months time, who is to say that England are not favourites for it? Knowing the conditions well, having a settled unit and playing the style of cricket they are, it’s hard to look beyond England when it comes to being the favourites for the tournament.
The World Cup is in three years time, also held in England. Who knows, could England complete the cycle by lifting the ultimate trophy at Lord’s in 2019? We can only wait and see.