World T20: Why are England so bad at Twenty20 cricket?
Six reasons why they don't stand a chance in Bangladesh, and one reason they could win it
CRICKET'S biennial Twenty20 jamboree gets properly underway in Bangladesh this weekend, with England classed as rank outsiders to claim back the title they won as recently as 2010.
That triumph, England's only success in a limited-overs world championship, came during what will now be seen as an all-too-brief golden age, the end of which was emphatically confirmed in Australia last winter.
Cricket fans hoping that the World T20 tournament would raise the spirits after the debacle Down Under look likely to see their hopes dashed after Stuart Broad's men, lacking the intimidating presence of exiled Kevin Pietersen, slumped to two bad defeats in their warm up games, and have lost seven of eight T20 matches this year.
But why are England so bad at Twenty20?
They don't love the format
England are "a team who have achieved the rare and even strangely admirable feat of taking the most agreeably lightweight format yet devised and transforming it into a lead-weight formality to be joylessly endured," says Barney Ronay of The Guardian. "The current team isn't simply lacking in skills, but energy, innovation and any real sense of wanting to do anything but poop the lucrative cricketing party currently taking place beyond its own sphere of control."
They lack the X-factor The absence of Pietersen may, if the ECB is to be believed, have brought harmony to the dressing room but it hasn't helped the batting. "As hard as they practise, as hard as they plan, as hard as they try, they still appear to be lacking the twist of the extraordinary required to prevail in these tournaments," says Jonathan Liew in the Daily Telegraph. "They had a little of that not so long ago, if you remember. But they sacked him."
They have not evolved
T20 has "changed substatially" since England won the title in 2010 and it is now "a much more power-based, dynamic, six-hitting game", says Michael Atherton of The Times. "The suspicion is that England have not moved with the times." Grahame Thorpe reckons England have a "puncher’s chance" if they get to the knock-out stages. "Any lumbering slugger with a decent right hand can land a knockout blow," agrees Atherton. "But usually it pays to have your money on the man who can actually box."
The English weather doesn't help
"The conditions in England are an outlier, demanding a certain type of limited-overs cricket that is ill suited to success elsewhere," notes Atherton. That may explain why so many of England's successful T20 players are imports who learned their cricket overseas, adds Ronay of the Guardian. It means that England must rely on the luck of the draw and cannot fall back on the "products of any coherent and repeatable domestic sporting culture".
They can't play, or bowl, spin
"Opponents will target England's weakness by using spin in the first six overs in Bangladesh," states Richard Hobson in the Times. While Atherton notes that in this format, nine of the world's top ten bowlers are spinners. England's best bowler, Jade Dernbach, is a seamer and ranked 19th in the world.
They have no momentum
"If England’s aim is to avoiding peaking too soon in this tournament, then they are succeeding admirably," says Liew in the Telegraph. The current England team is so used to defeat it could "take the positives out of an Ibsen tragedy", he claims, but at the moment the players' self-esteem "must be roughly a notch below Kafka's".
But they could still win it
"T20 cricket is famously unpredictable," says Alex Bowden on Cricinfo. "No sane person is predicting an England win, but pretty much every other team has been tipped by someone or other. If the format truly is unpredictable, that leaves only one possible winner." Atherton agrees, and says the game's "inherent unpredictability" means "predictions are for mugs", and the result is that England do, after all, stand a chance.