Up until the last few weeks, the England cricket team have been pretty clueless when it comes to the one day format. The recent ODI series against New Zealand, however, which culminated in a thrilling English victory, has been the most exciting of any that I can remember.
Suddenly they look like world beaters and the Barmy Army are optimistic about our chances against the Aussies next month.
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Following a dismal World Cup in the spring, a new policy surrounding tactics, player selection and coaching has led to an immediate improvement in fortunes.
In terms of team performance, whoever is really in charge of Newcastle United could learn from these lessons to prevent another season of unremitting embarrassment.
After a year in which NUFC barely survived without an apocalyptic breakdown, they couldn’t possibly do any worse by adopting the cricketers’ new system.
Lesson 1 – Always play for the win
At the start of this year England were a generation behind their rivals in terms of strategic philosophy. Whereas pioneers like New Zealand were smashing unbelievable scores from unrelenting attacking play, back home our players considered certain scores ‘impossible’ to achieve. Simply by embracing a mindset of gung-ho offensive play, the team’s batting record went through the roof.
Newcastle need a belief that any team is beatable and any goal deficit can be overcome. Tiote’s incredible equaliser against Arsenal in 2011 proves that this can be done in football.
Few fans ever actually enjoyed Pardew’s drab, conservative tactics. Why can’t we try to score from the first minute rather than save all our attacking threat until the last ten?
Lesson 2 – Give players a fair chance
Few of the new English ODI squad have many caps but a lot of excitement is generated by the Durham lads Ben Stokes and Mark Wood.
Before now, Stokes’ statistics were terrible yet his performances are improving because he can trust the selectors to trust him beyond a few bad dips in form. When someone like Wood finally gets his big opportunity, it is not simply for a handful of games. Nor is he binned if he fails to make an immediate impact.
For a developing player like Rolando Aarons, he should not be judged until he has had at least half a season’s worth of regular appearances.
Even though his fitness is a key factor, it does nobody any favours if his place on the teamsheet is changed every week. The same goes for any new signings this summer – in the unlikely event that any are actually completed…
Lesson 3 – Don’t pick players on reputation
Alistair Cook, Ian Bell and famously Kevin Pietersen have all been dropped from the limited overs squad in recent times.
Similarly star bowlers like Stuart Broad and James Anderson have either been rested or politely told they weren’t playing. Kevin Pietersen is certainly England’s most skilful batsmen but the decision to keep him out of the team due to dressing room issues, appears to have been justified by success against the Kiwis.
It is hard to say if Newcastle have any more big reputations left, after so many of Mike Ashley’s characteristic discount sales during the transfer windows. But if you need a past example then Hatem Ben Arfa could very well be a kindred spirit of KP.
If any iconic figures materialise this season, Steve McClaren should not have to fear the wrath of fans if he makes a decision to reduce their involvement, when worthy replacements are available.
Then again, this is the coach that had the genius idea of placing Scott Carson in goal for a crucial European Championship qualifier.
Something tells me his methods will be same old, same old….