Thursday, May 31, 2007

What England need in ODIs

Graham Thorpe suggests that Michael Vaughan retire from one-day internationals and England make Kevin Pietersen their captain for the limited overs version of the game.

Enough has been said about Vaughan’s performance (or lack of it) in the 2007 World Cup. His performance in one-day internationals overall hasn’t been glorious either. An average of a mere 27.15 over an 86-game career without a single century to his name speaks for itself. So may be he should do a Steve Harmison vis-à-vis the one-day game.

But should Kevin Pietersen be the captain? Will it be too early? (Memories of a certain Ian Botham come to mind.) Will the responsibilities of captaincy curb Pietersen’s free spirit? If Andrew Flintoff were to come back to full fitness, would he be a better candidate for captaincy? However, inasmuch as Pietersen (apart from Flintoff, when he is not on the surgery table) is the only automatic selection into the England one-day squad, may be his name should at least be discussed.

But captaincy is not the core of England’s concerns when it comes to the one-day game. Their bigger problem is that they just don’t seem to have grasped the gestalt of the game, notwithstanding the plethora of one-day games that are played as part of the county season. The so-called one-day specialists are too one-dimensional (Who was that opener who hit one swept six off the fast bowlers per game and nothing much else?) and journeyman-like; the test specialists are too rigid in adapting to the limited overs game (Vaughan himself and Ian Bell come to mind; Graham Thorpe in the past was not dissimilar either, with due respect). But its not about the players; the England management seems to be lost in terms of one-day strategies, team selections, and the like.

May be what England really need is a coach specifically for the one-day game. A coach who understands the one-day game. A coach who will build a one-day team for a few seasons and not tournament by tournament. A coach who will fill the team with the optimal mix of solid players and floaters. A coach who will get the team to take the one-day game seriously. And a coach who is not an Englishman.

It’s a challenge that can daunt a John Buchanan. And tempt him too. Imagine he takes up the gauntlet. And gets England to lift the big cup in 2011 (with a finals victory over Australia)? Won’t he go down the annals of cricketing history as the greatest coach ever?

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