Things about England teams usually carry a lot of hype. Every time their football team goes to a big event, they are spoken about in the same breath as the favourites by their fans. Inevitably, they stumble. Friendly win against Germany starts talks “soon to be champions.” Defeat to The Netherlands is termed as “perfect wake-up call.”
England cricketers, unlike their footballers, don’t hog the limelight. Apart from the Ashes, other events hardly seem to matter to the English press. In limited-over formats, for long they lived in hope that the team would some day play a brand of cricket that makes people take notice.
They tried, with wrong men in charge, and by choosing wrong players and suffered. A year ago, Alastair Cook’s team failed to qualify for the second stage of the World Cup, raising questions over the way they play the modern game. They were branded old school and seen as kids competing with wizards. Then something changed. For the first time, the board turned to an Australian — Trevor Bayliss — as chief coach.
After regaining Ashes on home soil, captain Cook wasn’t too keen to acknowledge his role so soon. “Trevor has just turned up. Let’s not give too much credit,” he had said on a lighter note.
But when it comes to their limited-over resurgence, credit should go to Bayliss for transforming underachievers into potential world beaters. In many ways, he has been to England what Gary Kirsten was to India. Unlike his predecessors, he hasn’t been on the forefront and chosen to remain backstage.
For a team that relied heavily on data on opponents to look for solutions, this side seems to have concentrated more on basic elements of the game.
There is plenty of firepower and players who can win matches on their own. After losing the opening fixture to West Indies, it seemed the old story of faltering in big events will reappear. But England’s willpower has dispelled that notion.