England have to marshal their resources better, writes Geoff Boycott
In snatching defeat from the jaws of victory at Delhi, England have created all sorts of problems for themselves going into the second TVS Cup ODI in Faridabad. For one, they have shown that the worrying tendency to collapse under pressure persists, no matter what the composition of the team. They have now done it twice in Pakistan, once in Mohali and now once in Delhi. If they don't rectify the problem soon, I don't see them having a particularly good time at the World Cup.
Take the way Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff got out after having the game virtually by the scruff of its neck. There's an old maxim in cricket that says when you're the batsman who's in and on top of the bowling, finish the job yourself; do not leave it to somebody else. As I see it, England badly need a few finishers.
Also, cricket is as much about mental application as it is about talent. You can have all the talent in the world, but it will come to nothing if you don't use your brains. Seems to me as though England's batsmen are not as good as they think they are, and that is an important distinction. And while it is easy to blame inexperience for the loss at Delhi, England's recent ODI record makes it clear that the picture remains the same even when players like Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick are part of the playing eleven.
Winning is the only thing
Great players make sure they win from winning positions. As the great Vince Lombardi said, "Winning is not everything, it's the only thing." So perhaps stroke-makers like Pietersen and Flintoff need to realise that in most situations, a slower 70 or 80 is of far greater value than a quick 40 that ultimately means nothing when the team loses, particularly in low-scoring games like Delhi. By all accounts, Faridabad will present a similar track, which is fairly unusual for ODIs, so England's work is cut out.
The most important thing about tracks like these is that you can never predict what kind of total will be enough. In Delhi, England made the mistake of thinking that 204 was easily achievable, not realising that when they had India on the mat at 80 for five, they should have gone for the jugular and not allowed anything more than 150. As the Aussies say, "Never give a sucker an even break." Instead, they let Harbhajan and Irfan score those vital 50-odd runs that made all the difference on a seaming pitch with variable bounce and with the ball swinging in the air.
England also have to marshal their resources better, and avoid huge mistakes like the decision not to play Matthew Hoggard arguably one of the world's best swing bowlers and one in prime form right now at Delhi. England simply do not seem to know who their best players are, and given the constant stream of injuries, a settled team seems a distant dream. But on a seaming pitch, bowlers like Kabir Ali, James Anderson and Liam Plunkett are simply not in Hoggard's category.
In contrast, India fought well, showed spirit and determination, and led by the brilliant Harbhajan, came up trumps. What augurs well for them is the way essentially attacking players like Pathan and M.S. Dhoni put their heads down and played sensible, unspectacular cricket on a tricky pitch. That ought to please the coach no end. These youngsters showed they were capable of using their brains as well as anybody, and I thought Dhoni was particularly smart. All they need to do is carry that into the next game and all the games thereafter.