Friday, April 13, 2007

Out of Time

Maybe now that they've come tantalisingly close to humiliating a woeful England side, Bangaldesh will start to get some of the respect they deserve from the British media. Even after their well-deserved victory over South Africa, they were still being tied together with the Irish under the label 'minnows'. You can imagine some of the crusty old fogeys at Lords spinning their globes frantically saying 'Bangladesh - where the hells that old boy?' (These are people who still refer to Ricky Ponting's home island as Van Diemens Land)

Let's face it, based on performances in this tournament to date, England should perhaps have been considered the underdogs on Wednesday and their subsequent victory be lauded as an upset. In beating India and South Africa, Bangladesh have beaten two top test match nations in the space of three weeks. That's two more than England have in the space of three World Cups.

However much Michael Vaughan might like to pretend otherwise (and his press conference statements are starting to sound like the 'studies in denial' rantings of Comical Ali during the Iraqi invasion) battingwise, England are in a mess. Yesterday it looked tentative and lacking in any coherent sense of certainty or direction. The skipper is so out of touch it's almost laughable. Had there been a viable alternative available he'd have been dropped by now. Strauss's very presence in the touring party owes more to the famouse Fletcher loyalty clause than any current form.

There is absolutely no impetus whatsoever at the top of the order - a situation that became sadly inevitable when the decision was made to favour Strauss over Mal Loye. Reading about Trecothicks 256 - at a personal rate of 13 an over, was rather bittersweet to say the least.

So, in a nutshell, the problems are tentative batting, and poor squad selection. I may be going out on a limb somewhat here, but I'd say that both those issues relate directly back to the man at the top.

All English cricket fans owe huge debt to Duncan Fletcher. The England set up is unrecognisable from the shambles we had seven years ago and you have the sense that there are very deep foundations for a system that will keep England in the top three test palying nations for the forseeable future. Fletcher must take credit for most of this, along with Vaughan, and Nasser Hussain who often gets overlooked when the plaudits are being handed round. In addition to all this, Fletcher gave us one unforgettable summer, but if that summer is not to start taking on the mythological proportions of Brigadoon, we need a change at the top.

Seven years is a long time in any job, let alone one as high pressured as England coach. it is inevitable that you reach a point where there is very little you can add to what you've already said - and very little you can tell or teach anyone who you've been teaching for such a long time. For example, what could Fletcher possibly tell Freddie that he hasn't heard already? He's done an extraordinary job with Flintoff, along with the rest of the England squad, but now the torch needs to be passed to a new man with a new outlook, new ideas and new solutions.

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