More chore than challenge

England’s run-chase at Perth ended 57 runs short, with Jimmy Anderson skying a top edge that plopped obediently into the gloves of Brad Haddin. And so this interminable ODI series ended, with a tired whimper of the “please make it stop” variety.

If ever England needed a salutary reminder that Australia are better than they are at the one-day stuff, this was it. But on the evidence of this Chinese water-torture of a series, that really isn’t saying much. While the hosts may have won 6 games to England’s solitary Australia Day victory at Adelaide, the standard of cricket on show from both sides was – with the exception of isolated individual performances – pretty damned excruciating.

In terms of England’s preparation for the World Cup, this series seems to have achieved nothing aside from crippling half the team, muddling team selection, and filling us all – players and fans alike – with a leaden sense of weariness at the prospect of a World Cup tournament that presents more of a chore than a challenge.

And that is just the start of a crazy, fucked-up international schedule more over-crowded than a Mumbai commuter train and dreamt up by some sadistic lunatic at ICC Towers yelling “more cowbell” while manically trying to shoehorn yet another meaningless one-day series into the one or two gaps left on his “Future Tours of Doom” spreadsheet.

I’m as guilty as the next man who, on waking up at some godforsaken time in the morning, wistfully ponders the possibility that there must be a cricket match going on somewhere in the world, and is duly rewarded with the thrill of impatiently stabbing the refresh key on a sporadically-updated scorecard of Ireland vs. an Uzbekistan XI. But then I’m not the one who has to schlep round the world doing this for a living while being spared the odd couple of days reacquainting myself with the wife and kids who have forgotten what I look like before I jet off half way round the world for the next tournament.

It is very easy to react with scorn, as many do (Ian Botham, to name but one) to players’ fears of burnout. “Whining, overpaid bunch of prima donnas”; “playing for one’s country should be a privilege”, etc, etc.

But this is ignoring the bigger picture – one of quantity over quality, of TV rights and quick-fix entertainment, of players burning twice as brightly but only half as long before their ailing, over-extended bodies land them on the international scrapheap, or  – worse still – depriving us of young talent that needs time to bloom, and, in cases of injury, to heal.

Eoin Morgan is a case in point. Disappointing in the series just gone, he will now not play a part in England’s World Cup campaign due to a broken finger sustained during the 4th ODI in Adelaide. That he continued playing must have been not only through the determination to play through any discomfort in the belief the injury was not serious, but surely, it must also have been motivated by the biggest fear a young player can have: that of being dropped from the team. As it turns out, the finger was not merely bruised: he will now need surgery, and Ravi Bopara will take his place on the subcontinent. As Andy Flower said during the announcement: “No one is irreplaceable”.

Morgan aside, the roll-call of England’s injured runs thus: Paul Collingwood (back spasms); Tim Bresnan (calf strain); Chris Tremlett (side strain); Ajmal Shahzad (hamstring) and Graeme Swann (knee and hip). Stuart Broad, whose side strain was not incurred during the Commonwealth Bank series, also faces a race against time to be fit.

Not that Australia have fared much better. Nathan Hauritz and Mike Hussey have been declared hors de combat due to injuries suffered in the ODIs. Hauritz, finally readmitted to the side at Hobart, went down with a right-shoulder dislocation while fielding, and Hussey is recovering from surgery to a hamstring ruptured while batting at Melbourne. Other ODI injuries currently being monitored are Brad Haddin (knee) and Steve Smith (groin).

They at least have the consolation of a rejuvenated Brett Lee and the fact that Ricky Ponting is confident he will be fit (though whether Ponting is still the one-day player he once was is another question entirely).

But for England especially, the prospects of World Cup success look distinctly bleak.

Kevin Pietersen, never backwards in giving his opinion,  has already expressed his dissatisfaction over the over-crowded international schedule, and the elongated format of the World Cup in particular.

“It’s far too long. How can the England team play once and then in six days’ time play again, and then in six days’ time play again? It’s ridiculous but there’s nothing we can do about the schedules. I wouldn’t say we’re going to be knackered because it’s going to be the World Cup and we all want to win this World Cup.”

Knackered, though, they will be. And while Pietersen may try to sound like he is not complaining, it does not exactly give the impression of a team firing on all cylinders and relishing the challenge ahead.

A weary England team arrived back at Heathrow this afternoon. On Saturday, they fly off again, to Bangladesh. While the important fact remains that England have won the Ashes, and that no one will really remember the 6-1 drubbing that followed, it’s the long term consequences to the well-being and success of the international team that will prove the most worrying.

Enjoy those three days on the couch, Kevin. They are the last you will enjoy for some considerable time.

2 Responses to “More chore than challenge”

  1. @AltCricket says:

    fantastically well written, top effort! N

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Pete Hayman, legsidefilth. legsidefilth said: BlogSideFilth: More chore than challenge #cricket #Eng #worldcup […]

Leave a Reply