England have had a woeful start to their World Cup campaign. Australia trounced them, New Zealand obliterated them, and then to add insult to an already injured team, Sri Lanka chased down England's holy grail - a 300 + score at a canter, for the cost of just a solitary wicket. This showing was achieved despite England having the kind of resources at their disposal that Sri Lanka would swap Kumar Sangakarra's weight in Kumar Sangakarras for, or New Zealand Brendan McCullum's weight in... well you get it.
Financially, the ECB have around 100 million pounds per year in revenue to pump into the England team, the counties and the game's grassroots but the ECB can't turn this money, even 400 million quid into results in the short form of the game.
Nor can they turn time into positive performances. England have been planning this World Cup campaign for four years. Even setting up the horror 10 test, two leg Ashes series that saw the England team fall apart mentally and physically and setting up a schedule where from August 2014 to Feb this year, they have only played ODI cricket.
The results from this 400 million pound, 4 year plan? A team that are at least 4 years behind they the rest of the major nations in one day cricket.
It's like the powers that be in the ECB wrote a plan in 2011 and rigidly stuck to it, while time flew past around them. If this plan featured building a time machine to travel back to the 2011, or 2007 World Cup and make a semi-final, then they have made excellent choices and preparation. Sadly armed with Rupert Murdoch's millions the ECB have not built a time machine, but they have built a team that seem tentative if not frightened and a blinkered stubborn management and coaching team that plan by numbers.
This whole obsession with game planning based on historical data is flawed because the game has moved so quickly. Let's have a quick look at how this works based on England v Sri Lanka. Assuming that a score of 300 wins matches may statistically be true at the Westpac Stadium (The Cake Tin) - it was a figure only passed 7 times since 2000, in a 26 match ODI history. That translated into #ECBmaths is a nearly 400% likelihood of winning a match at the stadium when passing 300, a match which was eventually lost by 9 wickets. In the context of this World Cup, 300 is a low score not a match winning score. It could have been defended, but only with sharp fielding and restrictive bowling in the middle overs and at the death. Neither of which have been forthcoming from England.
Take England's death bowling against Australia in the opening match on Feb 14th - now known as the St Valentine's Day massacre. The plan was to bowl short to take advantage of long square boundaries. Yet despite being hammered for 76 runs in the last 6 overs, the plan didn't change and the bowlers kept serving up boundaries.
This repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results is a common theme in England's limited overs cricket. The 'consistent section' (for which read pig headed) for example. England over and over again, pick a fast medium bowling attack with little variation or difference and the result is, that they are being quite literally assaulted, while a reliable spinner with an economy rate of 4.77 sits on the bench planning his next batch of homemade chutney. Then the batting. Three is the magic number for batters. Two number threes opening the batting forced to slog. A rusty test number three who bats down the order in limited overs in at three. While an in form number three is dropped down the order to number six to make way for the rusty number three at three. The captain batting a place too high. Only Root and Buttler seem in the right place in the order.
Even if England qualify by beating Afghanistan and Bangladesh, the later no certainty, they have a huge amount of catching up to do, about 4 years on and off the pitch of catching up condensed into just a couple of weeks. To get past the quarter finals and complete in limited overs cricket in the future.
I just hope we see some changes before their next game.