It is less than a year since England, under the same captain and coach, beat India by ten wickets in Adelaide en route to winning the Twenty20 World Cup.
How wonderful this semi-final humiliation was from an English perspective. How masterful England’s white-ball cricket still seemed. “Whatever happens in the final,” I wrote in Mail Sport, “we will always have Adelaide.” Then England also beat Pakistan in Melbourne.
Apparently nothing had happened to stop England’s continued dominance of limited-overs cricket, not even the sudden resignation a few months earlier of the greatest architect of its transformation from no-hope to two-time world champion: Eoin Morgan.
But now, almost 12 months later, against all odds and out of nowhere, England are suffering the worst of miserable World Cups – and there have been a few – and India were the ones on Sunday who seemed to be dishing out a beating on their way to winning that World Cup title.
England suffered a 100-run defeat against World Cup hosts India in Lucknow on Sunday
England appear to be a shadow of the team that won the T20 World Cup last year
So it was educational and fascinating to see Morgan back in the commentary box for Sunday’s role reversal in Lucknow after a short paternity leave at home.
No one expected this humiliation, but the former captain’s stance carries more weight than most. Morgan remains close to the England dressing room and he will already know where the bodies of this World Cup will be buried.
Perhaps it was expected that Morgan would defend his successor and former lieutenant Jos Buttler out of loyalty, but it is clear in his comments on Sky and in an interview with Al Jazeera that he does not blame the man at the top for this bastard.
More intriguing is Morgan’s suggestion that something other than form is responsible for such poor performance that it cannot simply be dismissed as one of those things and must now be treated with the same seriousness as the 2015 debacle. “I think there “There must be something else going on.” “There must be,” Morgan said, and that comment will set the rabbit in motion when the inevitable investigation into this sad saga begins.
Could Morgan be referring to the increasingly important analytical advice England are receiving? Or, more likely, perhaps more and more question marks are looming over the name of coach Matthew Mott, T20 World Cup winner last year or not?
Mott appears to have already reached the delicate stage that comes with insufficient knowledge of English, and he said last night that he would seek out Morgan to find out exactly what he meant. And how good it would be to be a fly on the wall at this meeting.
Everything has gone spectacularly wrong for England at the moment and who but Australia should be waiting in Ahmedabad to put the finishing touches to England’s demise on Saturday? It’s really impossible to imagine England getting anything out of this game in this mood.
So England should really start looking to the future, deciding who will be at the next 50-over World Cup in 2027 – assuming it hasn’t been cannibalized by the T20 franchises and the Hundred by then – and acting accordingly choose a side.
England’s white-ball coach Matthew Mott is under pressure after a dismal World Cup
Surely Harry Brook has to play against the Aussies, even if the suggestion of dropping Joe Root or Ben Stokes would have been unthinkable before this tournament. And surely Gus Atkinson needs to play to give a rare fast bowling talent as much top-level 50-over experience as possible.
My instincts still tell me, at least from a distance, that Buttler and Mott have earned the right to lead England’s defense in the T20 World Cup next June in the Caribbean and the USA.
But how could either of them do with a huge improvement over the next three dead surfaces in India? The ICC has suddenly decided that qualification for the Champions Trophy depends on England finishing in the top eight at this World Cup, but as embarrassing as it would be to miss out on a 50-over tournament in Pakistan playing in two years’ time not matter.
What matters is whether England’s downfall is permanent or, like the form, only temporary. And with so much top-class talent in the squad both in India and at home, Buttler and Mott will have to prove that they are still the right men to make the most of the riches at their disposal.