It is coming up to a year since the 2015 Cricket World Cup. Anyone familiar with cricket will remember it as one of the darkest days of English cricket—comparable even with the 5-0 drubbing the Test team took a year before in the Ashes. Played in Australia and New Zealand last spring, the 2015 WC was a disastrous affair for England. It was the first time they had failed to qualify to the knockout stages in the history of the tournament. After being demolished by Pakistan, Australia and Sri Lanka, England needed to beat Bangladesh to qualify. On paper, this should not have been a difficult task. Yet again England were embarrassed, succumbing to a 4th defeat that ultimately summed up their tournament.
Yet, over the course of just under a year, the fortunes of the ODI team have changed massively. At the time of writing, England are embroiled in a One Day series in South Africa. They led the series 2-1 with two matches left, playing cricket of an unparalleled quality when compared to the World Cup. So, what has changed in the space of 11 months?
As expected, following the calamitous WC alterations made in the coaching department, Trevor Bayliss replaced Peter Moores as head coach, while Paul Farbrace was retained as assistant coach. Bayliss and Farbrace had previously worked as a coaching team with Sri Lanka; this familiarity, as well as a similarity in ideals, has reflected in the improved performance of the team. Bayliss and Farbrace offered a different outlook to the old regime. Where previously the emphasis had been on statistics and stringent analysis, they put forward a more relaxed, and uncluttered strategy. Each player is given licence to play their own game, whether that is fast and dynamic or more methodical. In the context of the ODI team, the emphasis is on dynamism and high-scoring; giving the players greater freedom to play how they want has been hugely beneficial to team performance.
A new team ethos required an overhaul of personnel. This was initially implemented by Farbrace, acting as interim coach during the ODI series with New Zealand last June. Three big names of English cricket—Bell, Broad and Anderson—were relieved of One Day duties, and were replaced with younger, and more exciting players such as Jason Roy and Ben Stokes. The batting lineup was revamped. Explosive openers Roy and Alex Hales were chosen for their attacking mindset; their ability to immediately put England on the front foot in an innings. A middle order boasting Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Stokes and Jos Buttler was intended to complement the openers with similarly explosive players. The template set by Farbrace for the ODI batting lineup has been maintained by Bayliss as head coach: it is the modern day formula. New Zealand were pioneers of this formula during the fateful 2015 World Cup; they finished 2nd in the tournament. Headed by players such as Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson, the New Zealand team discarded all notions of conservative, accumulative play, asserting a new brand of high-octane, big-hitting cricket. While it sounds relatively simple, the way in which they executed this style within the tournament situation was remarkable. And England were right to attempt to emulate it.
Since Farbrace and Bayliss took over, England’s ODI performances have markedly improved. In June 2015, they secured a 3-2 series win over New Zealand, posting 3 scores of over 350+ in the process. England had scored 350+ only twice ever before this. The trend continued into the ODI series with Australia (the reigning WC champions) at the end of the summer. Despite losing the series 3-2, England continued to play their new brand of cricket, contesting a series they would previously have been steamrolled in. Following this, in November 2015 they played an ODI series with Pakistan in the UAE, recording a 3-1 victory overall, thus continuing on the team improvement. Finally, again at the time of writing, England are playing a series in South Africa, 2-1 up with 2 matches to play. An ODI series win would cap off a memorable tour (England have already secured a Test series victory there). However, even if they lose the series, the ODI team have continued their upward trajectory which is most pleasing.
Following the embarrassing defeats at the 2015 WC, the England ODI team is finally now something to be proud of. They are an exciting team that people should look forward to watching. While the players should be credited, it is the coaches that deserve the highest praise. They have revolutionised the English cricketing philosophy, while at the same time achieving results. The future is undoubtedly bright.