Scintillating cricket

The brand of cricket played in the semi-finals of the 2015 Cricket World Cup has been scintillating.

What a finish in the New Zealand, South Africa semi. Well played Grant Elliott and how fitting it was that he sent the co-hosts through after sending the penultimate ball sailing into the crowd.

And again more top-class cricket was on display from Australia in the second semi against India, with Steve Smith’s mighty 100 and high-class bowling from Mitchell Starc.

These four nations have taken cricket as a sport to a new level, pushing the boundaries further and further. It’s a faster and more dynamic brand of cricket.

With flexibility, cunning guile and world-class ability, both the hosts have not just peaked at the right time but peaked throughout.

What is sad though, is how far England are behind the pack – light years. It’s evident that they have been left behind. We acted like a test team and played like a test team. That’s fine if you’re paying test match cricket.

It feels like we’ve missed the bus or not even been invited to the party! And what a party, a festival of cricket, where innovation and ingenuity have been showcased at the one day game’s highest level.

Cricket has changed for the better, but England have been left playing catch up.

May the best team win in the final. Whoever wins, cricket has been a winner.

It’s time to ditch the system

It’s time to rip up the coaching manuals. I watched England’s defeat to Bangladesh with anguish. As a former England player and now a passionate fan, I take a lot of pride in our national cricket team. This World Cup though I was upset and disheartened watching how England played and what happened, it hurt.

The Tigers should be congratulated, they rose to the occasion by playing positive cricket and fully deserve both the victory and their place in the quarter finals.

But let’s get back to England. For me it’s about the coaching, it has a lot to answer for. Modern coaching is killing the game. There is such an emphasis on level 3 or level 4 coaches, on stats, percentages and computers.

Whereas it should be about the game, the situation, conditions and the ball you’re delivering or facing. When it comes to the coaches themselves, why place such an emphasis on qualifications instead of relevant experience or individual expertise.

These days kids are told how to hold a bat, how to stand, how to play a shot. This is all fair enough if it makes an improvement but more often than not you are removing natural instincts and ability as well as individual thought processes. I have seen it first hand through my coaching at schools.

Instead, for me coaching should be about enhancing individual ability and skills not interfering with a player’s mind, filling it with stats and textbook techniques. Kids learn from playing the game. I see a lot of youngsters especially during my time coaching at CCA who play free-flowing cricket and that’s how it should be.

The 2015 England World Cup team didn’t add up to the sum of its parts. We should have done much better rather than crashing out of the tournament in such embarrassing circumstances. For me, the modern day coaching culture and those who practice and preach it, have got to take responsibility.

Another frustration I have over this World Cup campaign is our inability to pick horses for courses. This is where the selectors have got to take a share of the blame. Yes, we should have done better with the players we picked, but our selection was also wrong, it was like we were picking a Test match side.

In limited overs you need innovators, players who have the ability to be explosive but we picked a side better suited to the longer form of the game. Where was Micheal Lumb or Ben Stokes? Why didn’t we give a chance to those who excel in the one day arena like Peter Trego, Micheal Carberry, Varun Chopra or James Vince. Or former Leicestershire man Harry Gurney, he’s a left arm bowler which would add a bit of variety. New players can’t gain experience without opportunities.

But no, instead we pick a Test match side. We gave Alastair Cook the elbow in favour of explosion at the top of the order yet, but where were the sparks? Jos Butler could have delivered them but he wasn’t given the opportunity. He could be our AB de Villiers, who bats at 4, but he will never have a chance to excel if he’s batting with the tail where he has to take too many risks.

I am going to be controversial here, but where was KP? He’s our best batsman, surely we should be using the best players at our disposal. But no, what would be the point of that? We may as well just play with numbers and computers.

Having played in three Cricket World Cups for England, the former Leicestershire all-rounder is now an expert cricket consultant based in the county and an Associate of the City Cricket Academy.