Dubai: England were unbeatable in recent times in all formats and after becoming the first team to hold dual World Cup titles of both 50-over and Twenty20 formats, they entered the World Cup with great expectations.
The aggressive Bazball approach also allowed them to steamroller several top opponents with ruthless precision. All these gave them an aura of invincibility, something that the West Indians enjoyed in the 1970s-1990s. They put their rivals under tremendous pressure and forced them wilt in that circumstances.
But in this World Cup, they have lost two of the three matches with the lone victory coming against the misfiring Bangladesh. It was a performance not expected of a team of such calibre, with almost 11 all-rounders playing in the team. It is still early days and with the point difference being just two to four between most of the top contenders, so it is not impossible to overturn such deficit. They could still go on to win the World Cup, but Gulf News takes a look at five reasons for England’s troubles.
Missing Bazball effect
The fans around the world are now accustomed to seeing the champions play a certain way — the aggressive Bazball way. It is a move that came into existence in 2022 under skipper Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum and that approach was adopted in the other formats of the game, which only enhanced their reputation as the world-beaters. It is that aggressive approach that helped them win the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia, adding to their 50-over World Cup they won edging out New Zealand in the final at Lord’s in 2019. But that aggressive approach is totally absent from the team in this World Cup. The body language doesn’t suggest that England are the defending champions in this tournament. One of the reasons for the lack of confidence is the hammering that they had received at the hands of New Zealand in the opener, but they need to overcome that as this is a long tournament. The sooner they do, the better their chances are.
Buttler’s ineffective role in the middle order
Jos Buttler is one of the most-feared openers in world cricket and has the capability to dissect the rival bowling with clinical precision. But in the last three matches in the World Cup, the 33-year-old wicketkeeper-batter is coming down the order and is not able to get the same timing that he normally gets with the old ball. The lack of hitting the sweet spot and missing the sweet music from the bat the he gets from a new ball has been his woes, which were compounded by the spread-out field. Hence is not getting the same freedom that he used to operate as an opener. Buttler moving down the order is to offset the imbalance created by Ben Stokes’ absence, but that’s another negative way to look at the campaign. Buttler is known to score centuries on the trot as an opener in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and on the same pitches. So his move up the order will give the missing momentum to England.
Absence of Ben Stokes
Stokes is the saviour for England, and missing his presence in the last three matches means there is no dependable crisis man down the order. Stokes is also a dangerous finisher. He displayed his crisis-management skills during both the finals, against New Zealand in 2019 and also in the Twenty20 World Cup final against Pakistan in Australia. Without those two knocks, England might not have won both the finals. Stokes, after conceding 24 runs in the 2016 final, has transformed himself as the leader of the pack across all formats. His return, even as a batter, will give the much-needed boost to the middle order.
Pacers leak runs on placid wickets
Indian wickets are a deathbed to the pace bowlers. Even the best has struggled to make a mark on the perfect batting pitches that allow the ball to come on to the bat at a good pace and bounce, giving the batters easy opportunities to score. It is here that England are going wrong. Firstly, England have got their team composition horribly wrong. Four pacers are a luxury on Indian wickets, which England can’t afford to. Chris Woakes, Sam Curran and Mark Wood have not found the right length to bowl nor they vary their pace to a great length in conditions where there is very little lateral movement.
Spinning all-rounder Moeen Ali is key
Moeen Ali is in his new avatar after his stint with Chennai Super Kings, under skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The former Indian captain has seen a new genre to Ali’s game and used it to the hilt. Ali was one of the main reasons for Chennai winning their fifth-IPL title this year and the off-spinner could be a handy fifth bowler, instead of Woakes or Wood, who are conceding far too many runs. Ali is a capable batter, who could come in No 4 or No 3, should there be an early wicket. Not playing an additional spinner, along with Adil Rashid, is not an ideal situation. The wickets will only be more spin-friendly as the showpiece goes on, so England will be looking at making that key change in the next game.