With the Champions Trophy this year and the World Cup in 2019 taking place in England, this could be a seminal period in the history of English cricket. Since time immemorial Test cricket has stood as the most important frontier for England’s cricketers, but change could be afoot – for the first time, white ball cricket could supersede red ball in the pecking order.
Ever since the disastrous 2015 World Cup campaign, with its usually woeful preparation and lead up to the tournament married to abject failure at the main event, England have ripped up their out dated copy book and said ‘sod it, let’s have a right go at this.’
As soon as Alastair Cook, then Paul Downton and Peter Moores had departed, things took a drastic turn for the better. Paul Farbrace, keeping the hot seat warm before Trevor Bayliss arrived, instantly revolutionised the way England approach limited overs cricket. In his first series, against New Zealand at home, England passed 400 in an innings for the first time and haven’t looked back.
Ably led by Eoin Morgan, England have taken an exciting, attacking game to everyone. Finally, their ODI cricket is the match of their international peers.
The contrast with the Test side couldn’t be starker. Stuck with the conservative, confused and often atrocious captaincy of Cook, the Test side has often looked stuck in neutral, devoid of any direction. The clarity of thought within the ODI and T20 sides is a welcome break from this.
The fortunes of the two sides have been laid bare in India and Bangladesh this winter. The ODI side won the series against Bangladesh – the Test side didn’t. The ODI side was every inch the match of India in an enthralling series – the Test side too often rolled over and died.
This England side also came within four whacking great blows of Carlos Brathwaite’s bat of winning the World T20 in India last year. They came so close through constant positivity. They are now the match for any side in the world through the same philosophy.
Whilst Bayliss and Farbrace have tried to instil this same philosophy within the Test squad, it hasn’t worked. The side has failed to win its last three series – of those, home to Pakistan and away to Bangladesh were winnable. No one expected victory in India to replicate the 2012 tour, but they ended up suffering a demoralising defeat with a merry-go-round of players coming and going from the side.
As confusion reigns supreme in the Test ranks, there is genuine excitement around the ODI and T20 sides.
Will this on field revolution lead to one off the field? White ball cricket, for so long the bridesmaid, is taking its chance to shine in England. The Test squad will be bumbling along under the same tried and tested leadership, whilst the ODI side has the opportunity to enthral fans and win a first piece of ICC silverware in the 50 over format this summer.
The ODI side has scarcely looked back since ridding itself of Cook. Maybe the Test side is ready for a similar revolution, lest it is set to play to second fiddle for the first time in English cricket’s history.
By Miles Reucroft