Switch the skipper, drop Root...and don’t panic!
After England were finally put out of their misery in India, our experts discuss what they must do to hit back
It has been one of the worst defences of any World Cup by any major sporting team. So what has gone so badly wrong for England in India? And what must they do to return to their world-beating best? Mail
Sport’s expert panel — former England captain Nasser Hussain, former England coach David Lloyd, cricket correspondent Paul Newman and Wisden editor Lawrence Booth — attempt to find the answers.
Why have England been so bad?
NASSER HUSSAIN: I don’t think I’ve seen a great side implode quite like this. But it’s not like 2015 when England were trying to put 20 bad years of limited-overs cricket behind them. this has been four bad weeks. If you stay at the same level — and there are reasons why England have done that, like the focus on test cricket and lack of 50-over internationals — others will go past you. that’s what’s happened here.
DAVID LLOYD: I’m totally shocked. I’m doing all right with India, Australia and South Africa as my predicted semi-finalists but my banker has gone — and it’s our lot! Preparation was very poor but I thought England had the players to overcome that. they’ve been exposed. Bottom of the table! We’re Scunthorpe!
PAUL NEWMAN: Everything has been wrong from the moment England asked Luke Wright to announce the squad rather than Rob Key or Matthew Mott. He said it was the final World Cup squad — it wasn’t. And he said Jofra Archer would be a full- time travelling reserve — he wasn’t. It’s been downhill with their decision making and mixed messaging ever since.
LAWRENCE BOOTH: A combination of factors: poor preparation, inconsistent selection, bad luck (especially the injuries to Ben Stokes and Reece topley), poor decisions at the toss, alien conditions and improvement of other teams, with South Africa ousting England as cricket’s big hitters.
Is this the end of England’s white-ball domination?
LLOYD: Yes. We seem to be just as hesitant a team as we were in the 1990s, not really knowing what way to go when batting and ending up with 250 to 270 — if not worse. that’s just not good enough in the modern game. the bottom line is other teams are better both tactically and in their overall play. England are playing catch-up again.
HUSSAIN: It is a last hurrah for some players and the end of a 50over era but not the end for England as a white-ball force. they don’t have to tear it all up and start again. they just need a bit of a reset.
BOOTH: England’s 50over team has been falling away for a while — they just didn’t want to admit it. the twenty20 side is another matter: if they can defend that title next year, they will argue all is not lost. But their reputation has taken a battering.
NEWMAN: It doesn’t have to be the end. I’m afraid 50-over cricket is dying worldwide and England’s ‘ it’ll be all right on the night’ approach to this World Cup reflected that. But they won the t20 last year and could easily win it next year.
What needs to happen now?
NEWMAN: this doesn’t feel like some of the spectacular fallouts of England’s recent past — and I’ve seen a few. ‘Sack the lot of them’ doesn’t feel right for this.
BOOTH: they need to be honest about why they’ve failed and why they’ve departed from the attacking instincts that worked so well. If I hear once more that there is no ‘magic bullet’ I will scream. HUSSAIN: there’s a t20 World Cup in June and I would keep a core of experienced players and introduce young talent around them. the key is not to panic in the same way Andrew Strauss didn’t panic in 2015 when he could have axed Eoin Morgan. How this era evolves and transfers into a new one will be the challenge. LLOYD: We need to make 50-over cricket meaningful again domestically, either in a league or a straight FA Cup-type knockout competition. It’s been downgraded and the result is staring us in the face. Should Mott, Jos Buttler or both lose their jobs?
LLOYD: I’d expect the coach to be safe, he won the t20 World Cup. the captain? that’s down to him. Jos has scored no runs and it’s not easy keeping and being in charge. Why not go back to the ranks?
HUSSAIN: I didn’t hear a single person criticising Mott as coach or Buttler (left, with Joe Root) as captain before this tournament. they have to take responsibility, and along with Key look at their decision making because it has been very poor. take the confusion over Jason Roy’s role before the World Cup and Archer as a possible replacement. But it’s not time for Mott and Buttler to go.
NEWMAN: My gut instinct is that Mott has earned the right to defend the t20 title he helped win. But he was brought in to work with Morgan and perhaps he is too similar to Buttler as a character. Buttler has that haunted look he had towards the end of his test career. He’s too good to waste as a player. Maybe it’s time for a new captaincy broom.
BOOTH: the last two games, against the Netherlands and Pakistan, are crucial. If England lose either of those, and miss out on qualification for the 2025 Champions trophy, it’s hard to see how Mott stays on. But I’d be surprised if they sack the captain as well.
Morgan’s comments have raised a few eyebrows. Is he the man to bring back glory days?
BOOTH: Not necessarily, because India and South Africa are so strong. But he would not have allowed the kind of defeatist public statements we’ve heard repeatedly out here. Morgan understood the importance of positivity — which is easy to mock but even easier to mislay.
HUSSAIN: It’s too easy an option. Eoin was a great captain and was always going to be a tough act for Jos to follow. If he wants to go down the coaching route I’m sure it will be a good option for him in future but I think he’s happy where he is at this stage.
LLOYD: When Morgan first spoke it smacked to me of ‘gizza job!’ But with my broadcasting hat on, sometimes your words come out wrong and he has backtracked. the players were quick to come out and deny there was something wrong in the camp. And in my
experience, if they agree with something like that they just stay quiet. I’m in close contact with one player and he says, ‘We’ve just been rubbish. Simple as that.’
NEWMAN: Morgan’s record as captain means he would have to be taken seriously if he wants to become coach but I’m not sure he wants that to be now.
Was Rob Key’s announcement of central contracts midway through the tournament badly timed and does David Willey’s international retirement hint at trouble in the camp?
HUSSAIN: I don’t think it hints at trouble in the camp, it hints at trouble for David Willey. I do think the timing of the contracts announcement was odd.
LLOYD: David Willey is nearly 34 and there’s no room for sentiment. He’s been a Trojan but there comes a time to move on. Key is spinning plates with the spectre of multi-year franchise deals in the background and is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. He had to get details of these contracts out there.
BOOTH: This is a red herring, because the contract details were known in September. Willey’s decision reflected his own frustration, not something deeper. That’s not to say the new multitiered system won’t cause envy and resentment. The players are only human.
NEWMAN: Tricky one. It was not a good look for Willey to arrive at Lord’s ahead of the trip to discover he was the only World Cup player without a contract. But the threat to international cricket from the franchises is all too real so Key had to act quickly.
Does the new white-ball era begin in West Indies next month? Do you expect a newlook squad? Who should be at the forefront of that new era and whose days are numbered?
HUSSAIN: Some for the future are already here like Harry Brook and Gus Atkinson and they should be joined by Ben Duckett, Will Jacks and Phil Salt. And make grown-up decisions on the older players. There are some alltime greats in this squad so be careful. Nothing knee-jerk. People told me we should get rid of Caddick, Stewart, Atherton and Thorpe when I first became captain. We didn’t and our reset was all the better for it.
BOOTH: The 50-over team has to start again with a view to the 2027 World Cup — that means picking Duckett, Jacks, Brook, Rehan Ahmed and Atkinson, to name a few. It should be thanks and goodbye to Ben Stokes, Dawid Malan, Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood.
NEWMAN: Surely we have seen the last of Root in England’s coloured clothing. I can’t see why he, Stokes, Malan, Woakes, Wood, Moeen and Adil Rashid would play any more ODI cricket for England. But other than Root they should all still have a T20 role. I don’t want to underestimate the scale of this disappointment but it’s not like the aftermath of the Ashes in 2014 or 2021. England have the depth to hit back.
LLOYD: There is not one player nailed on to go to West Indies. It’s a clean slate and I’d be excited if I were picking the next squad. There are some likely lads coming to the fore. I’ll throw in a few other than the obvious ones — James Rew, Jamie Smith, Dan Lawrence, Tom Hartley and Josh de Caires. I’d love Saqib Mahmood to be fit, too. And all eyes will be on who the captain is!