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    What went wrong with the English team in the 2023 World Cup (Part 3)
What went wrong with the English team in the 2023 World Cup (Part 3)
English team. Source: NDTV

What went wrong with the English team in the 2023 World Cup (Part 3)

Missed Opportunities and Missteps

Matthew Mott, England's head coach, lamented the lack of local expertise within the team's support staff during their T20 World Cup campaign. A year earlier, the team had brought in consultants David Saker and Mike Hussey for their deep understanding of Australian conditions. However, for the tournament in India, their only local hires were a sidearm thrower and a massage therapist with ties to Kolkata Knight Riders. Mott suggested that having someone with deep knowledge of Indian conditions could have made a difference, as they would have emphasised the intense heat and perhaps recommended strategic batting.

Mott observed that the team's insularity had grown, with players focusing more on individual issues rather than team cohesion. The mistake made at the toss became glaring in hindsight, but there had been little discussion about it beforehand. Reece Topley's injury exposed a communication breakdown. Despite being labelled a "reserve," Jofra Archer was sent home just a week into the tournament after reporting elbow pain, with Brydon Carse being flown in as a replacement.

Matthew Mott, England's head coach. Source: Sky Sports
Matthew Mott, England's head coach. Source: Sky Sports

When England arrived in Bengaluru to face Sri Lanka, their title defence was in dire straits. The team had targeted six wins to secure a semi-final spot but treated their third loss as if it had ended their chances, although New Zealand advanced despite four losses. Joe Root spoke to the media to alleviate pressure on captain Jos Buttler, but inadvertently questioned the importance of the 50-over format.

This raised questions about the players' commitment to the World Cup. Unlike the 2019 triumph or the 2022 opportunity to solidify their legacy, the 2023 tournament seemed almost an afterthought. Eleven of the squad members had already won a World Cup final, and their hunger to win another was in doubt. Rob Key, managing director of England men's cricket, had to announce central contracts mid-tournament, fearing leaks about Ben Stokes turning down a three-year deal. While contracts hadn't been on players' minds, the timing of the announcement was awkward.

England reverted to their initial strategy of relying on a core of all rounders in the lower middle order, sidelining their third-highest run-scorer, Harry Brook. They recalled veterans Livingstone, Moeen, and Woakes. This faith in the old guard meant fielding an XI where all players were 30 or older. In their match against Sri Lanka, Buttler opted to bat first, but England's batting line up, including himself, failed to find any rhythm, collapsing for 156 runs. Sri Lanka easily chased down the target, with Angelo Mathews, returning to international cricket, playing a pivotal role.

England had once mastered the art of cruising through the middle overs, maintaining a steady run rate while taking minimal risks. In the 2019 World Cup, they averaged nearly 60 runs in overs 11 through 40 at a rate of over six runs per over. By 2023, these numbers had plummeted to 29 runs at 5.5 per over. Across the group stage, only the Netherlands lost more wickets in these critical middle overs. Key admitted that while other teams had caught up with England's batting strategy, they had failed to evolve.

Unexpected result

Buttler, in shock after the Sri Lanka defeat, expressed disbelief at how a team with such talent and skill could be in this position. He insisted that England's struggles were due to their own shortcomings rather than any systemic issues. As they prepared to face India, the tournament hosts and favourites, former captain Eoin Morgan harshly criticised the team, suggesting there might be deeper issues beyond just losing form.

Eoin Morgan. Source: Sky Sports
Eoin Morgan. Source: Sky Sports

Despite Morgan's claims of a potential dressing-room rift, the team publicly and privately denied such conflicts. However, some players were unsettled by what they perceived as Morgan stirring trouble. Mott firmly denied any internal issues but acknowledged that Morgan's comments did not help.

In the match against India, England's performance initially looked promising as they restricted India to 229 runs. But as they collapsed to 129 all out in their chase, a controversy erupted off the field. The ICC announced that World Cup finishing positions would determine qualification for the 2025 Champions Trophy, a detail the English team only learned about during the match. The ECB’s oversight left the team feeling blindsided.

The tournament also saw David Willey announce his retirement after England’s narrow defeat to Australia in Ahmedabad, sealing their fate. Chris Woakes took four wickets, questioning the decision to drop him earlier in the tournament. England's batting struggles continued, with Buttler's dismal performance epitomising their woes. The team's ageing squad and lack of dynamism in the field were highlighted as Australia outplayed them.

Livingstone’s final appearance in the tournament saw him contribute little with both bat and ball, symbolising England's failed attempt to rejuvenate their squad with experienced players. Despite their late surge, including wins over the Netherlands and Pakistan, these victories only served to underscore their earlier failures. They did manage to secure a spot in the 2025 Champions Trophy, alleviating some pressure on Buttler and Mott.

English team. Source: India TV News

England’s disappointing campaign in India should be a wake-up call rather than a cause for upheaval. Their recent history as reigning champions in both men's World Cups is remarkable, but their spectacular collapse in 2023 is a stark reminder of the volatility of sports. As England's players travelled from city to city, their title defence crumbled, marking an end to a historic era. Yet, this should not overshadow their achievements; rather, it should inspire a renewed focus on the future.

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