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By Partab Ramchand
Probably the best thing about the Twenty20 World Cup was England’s unexpected triumph. Somehow it didn’t seem fair that they were the only one among the eight leading teams in the world not to have won an ICC Trophy. True on quite a few occasions they flattered only to deceive. But they were also unlucky on a couple of occasions and their best record – three times finalists in the Fifty50 World Cup and runners-up in the Champions Trophy in 2004 – clearly showed that they were right up there with the best in the business. They just needed that extra spark which they were able to ignite in the West Indies.
English cricket has generally been associated with solidity and textbook cricket. Very rarely are adjectives like flamboyant and swashbuckling used to describe England’s players. Once in a way a cricketer like Ian Botham might emerge but then there is only so much that even a dynamic player like him can achieve. Botham was a member of the 1979 and 1992 teams that made the final. In the new millennium came Andrew Flintoff who was Botham’s natural successor. But again there was only so much that even he could do and Flintoff was a member of the team that lost the Champions Trophy final.
Even as Flintoff was around there appeared on the scene Kevin Pietersen. While not exactly an all rounder Pietersen’s batting was just what the doctor ordered for England to do well in limited overs cricket. And now suddenly England seemed to have discovered the right personnel particularly for cricket’s shortest format. The top and middle order is choc-a-bloc with batsman who can play innovative strokes, make a mockery of field placings and maintain an excellent run rate. Eoin Morgan and Michael Lumb can be nightmares for the best of bowlers while in Craig Kieswetter England have unearthed a priceless talent who does not believe in honouring reputations. Pietersen still remains their most dangerous batsman besides providing inspiration to the others. Paul Collingwood can play the anchor role to perfection should the situation arise though he is not exactly a slouch when big hits are required. Luke Wright is a handy man to have down the order. The bowling too has the right balance with spinners Michael Yardy and Graeme Swann complementing the efforts of Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom and James Anderson.
Encouraged by the first ICC Trophy in their cabinet, Collingwood has now spoken in terms of building upon this victory so that the England team becomes as proficient in one day cricket and Test cricket. According to Collingwood the players having tasted success are now hungry for more and want to continue this kind of form so that they can take England to further triumphs.
There certainly will not be any lack the opportunity for England have a pretty busy 12 months ahead. They face Bangladesh and Pakistan at home, then travel to Australia to defend the Ashes before taking part in the next international tournament on the ICC schedule – the Fifty50 World Cup in the Indian sub continent in March next year.
Coming to think of it, England have not had a bad record in Test cricket of late. The twin jewels have been the Ashes triumphs of 2005 and 2009 which considering the fact that Australia had won eight consecutive Ashes series between 1989 and 2003 has to be among the finest triumphs in the history of English cricket. They also notched up an English record with eight successive Test victories in 2004 and last winter they did well in drawing a series in South Africa. In between however they have also suffered unexpected reverses and the nadir was certainly the 5-0 whitewash in Australia in 2006-07. The team has also not been helped by frequent changes in the captaincy but now with Andrew Strauss firmly in command they will be hoping for better things in the near future. That England comfortably got the better of favourites Australia in the title clash speaks volumes about the capabilities of their players and there is not much difference in the personnel
that will do duty in the Test squad. Perhaps the Twenty20 triumph will rub off on the team in the longer versions of the game too where England are currently ranked No 5 in both ODIs and Tests.
Former England batsman Graham Thorpe for one is confident that this team has the nucleus of a side capable of challenging very strongly for the Fifty50 World Cup and also becoming the best side in the world at Test level. Being the dominant side in the world in cricket’s traditional format will not be a new experience for English cricket. Whenever there is a debate about the all time greatest teams the West Indian squad of the 80s and the Australian squad of the new millennium generally dominate the discussion. But take it from me the England team of the fifties can hold their own against any side. They were the No 1 team in Test cricket for almost the entire decade, not losing a series at home from 1951 to 1960 and not losing a series anywhere from 1951 to 1959. The line-up during the decade of dominance included Len Hutton, Denis Compton, Alec Bedser, Peter May, Colin Cowdrey, Tom Graveney, Ken Barrington, Ted Dexter, Trevor Bailey, Godfrey Evans, Bill Edrich, Fred Trueman, Brian Statham, Frank Tyson, Jim Laker, Tony Lock and John Wardle. Perhaps it would be nigh impossible for any England team to match that all-conquering team but given the upbeat scenario England has it in them to match the Twenty20 triumph in ODIs and Test cricket too.