England need to win a one-day game for a change
If you accuse someone of not trying, you have to prove it, says Geoffrey Boycott
I have been reading a few reports in the press about England's apparent lack of interest in the one-day game, so much so that they don't seem to be even trying to salvage a series already lost. The trouble is that if you accuse someone of not trying, you have to prove it, and I don't see how that can be done in this case. In fact, I think the opposite is true: rather than not trying, England are trying, but are simply not good enough.
Against this backdrop, it is easy to misinterpret Matthew Hoggard's comment about why winning the Ashes is more important than the World Cup or any other one-day international tournament, though not in so many words. From an Englishman's point of view, I understand why he said that. If you look in your history books, you will be able to count on one hand the number of times England have beaten Australia in Australia, and that goes for all teams.
Actually, with everyone trying to knock Australia off their perch, defeating them is such a huge event that when England won the Ashes last year at home after 18 years of being pathetic, anyone even remotely involved with the team got to go to the palace to meet the Queen. So, as I say, I understand why Hoggard thinks the challenge of beating Australia on their territory is a bigger one than winning the World Cup.
However, I also have to say that it isn't the smartest thing to say when your team has just been beaten 4-0 and is in danger of losing the remaining two games of the series. Not only does it sound as though England doesn't care too much about losing the ODI series, in a backhanded way, it somehow undermines the achievements of the Indian team.
He did not mean it
Now Hoggard is one of the nicest chaps you can meet and I'm sure he didn't mean his comment to sound the way it did, but it is an inescapable fact that India are far better prepared for the World Cup than England, and you can't put down a tournament as big as that casually, and neither can you dismiss the one-day game. In fact, I think England have got to get used to ODIs and to the fact that the World Cup is just round the corner.
No matter how big the Ashes, there will probably be more English spectators at the World Cup than those from three other countries taken together. The English keep going there on holiday, and I remember a Test in Barbados that almost felt like a home game because there were almost 8,000 English spectators in a 12,000-capacity ground. That is a big reason why England are playing all their World Cup games in St. Lucia, which has the highest capacity of all the grounds in the Caribbean. The organisers know that the ground will be packed with English fans.
Besides, after so many one-day defeats, losing has become a bad habit with the English side. It is all very well for Duncan Fletcher to say he knows his 10 best ODI players, but it is another matter altogether to get them on the field. No team has so many players flying home from a tour as England does, and they haven't bowled well in a one-day game for a while now either at the start or at the death. No one has really replaced Darren Gough, who handled the tremendous pressure of bowling at the death with aplomb, unlike Hoggard and Steve Harmison, who are length bowlers and get smashed during the closing stages of a match.
Going into the heat and dust of Jamshedpur, it wouldn't hurt England to win a one-day game for a change. They can't keep treating one-day cricket like a poor cousin of the longer version, and Fletcher, who never played an international Test but featured in six ODIs, should be the one to explain that to them.