England Cricket: How to make a bad position even worse

Stuart Broad has a tough task heading to the T20 World Cup
Stuart Broad has a tough task heading to the T20 World Cup

As embattled England announce their squads for the three-match ODI series against West Indies and the T20 World Cup, Ralph Ellis fears more bad results to come as, whoever does take over from Andy Flower, will start work with one hand tied behind his back...

"From there they head to Bangladesh and another measure of the winter’s debacle is that, just four years after Paul Collingwood lifted the trophy, England are seventh in the betting at 12.011/1 to win it this time."

The job specification for the next Director of English cricket gets more complicated by the day.

You can't pick your best batsman, because the ECB have already ruled that Kevin Pietersen is finished. You could well find yourself having to work with previous boss Andy Flower as the man responsible for "teaching leadership skills". It looks like you've got to have Alastair Cook as your captain. And you've got to pick up a shattered, dysfunctional dressing room.

If anybody at Lord's really thought that they could end KP's international career with a brief statement and everybody would wish him well and forget about it, you have to wonder quite where they have been for the last ten years.

Pietersen has been the modern Ian Botham. He's been the man who, when he walked to the crease, you had to watch. You knew it might end quickly in a mad dismissal. You knew, come to that, it might be over in a flash if he ran himself out searching for his first nervy single. But you also knew it might develop into a flurry of magnificent fours and sixes, of extravagant switch hits and awesome power.

Of course he's been a difficult man to manage. So at times was Botham. So has been just about any world class star in any sport you choose to mention. The best player operates under a different pressure to the rest - he knows he is expected to deliver something out of the ordinary every time he steps up. And if he is just ordinary - as Pietersen was this winter when he was top run scorer but merely second in the averages - it is regarded as a failure.

That's been the fate of the superstar right back to when Samson had his hair shaved off to please Delilah and carried the can for a lost battle with the Philistines. Nobody asked questions about what the rest of the Army did in that defeat, just as the likes of Michael Carberry, Ian Bell and Cook himself have largely escaped criticism for the Ashes flop.

Ashley Giles will be in charge of the squad - announced today - which goes to the West Indies this month for a three-match ODI series which is being used as a warm-up for the ICC Twenty20 World Cup.

The former Warwickshire spinner is currently 2.01/1 favourite to get the big job, and supported the decision to axe Pietersen. But a 4-1 thrashing in the One Day series at the back end of the disastrous Ashes tour, followed by a 3-0 T20 whitewash, hardly pushed his claims.

It's a measure of how badly everything has fallen apart that the early market for the West Indies series suggests that the home side will be favourites. Cook, who is supposed to be the One Day captain, is being rested. Stuart Broad will lead an untried team in that series and then three T20 matches in Barbados.

From there they head to Bangladesh and another measure of the winter's debacle is that, just four years after Paul Collingwood lifted the trophy, England are seventh in the betting at 12.011/1 to win it this time.

About the only attractive thing for whoever does take on the role as Director of Cricket is that you'd think you can't take the team any lower. Then again, with at least one hand tied behind your back with what's gone on in the last few weeks, maybe you could.

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