Interview of Cricket Fans – 129 – ENGLAND
J – Thank you for your participation in this interview, tell us a bit about yourself as a cricket fan and your early memories of this sport.
I got into cricket as an 8-year-old in the summer of 2004. At that stage, England were building an exciting team under Michael Vaughan with the likes of Flintoff, Trescothick, Strauss and Harmison all performing well. My earliest distinct memory was the Lord’s test that year against New Zealand where Nasser Hussain scored a hundred in his final innings in test cricket. But it was the following year and the famous summer of the 2005 Ashes that sealed my love for the game. That series happened to mostly coincide with the school holidays and over those six weeks KP, Flintoff and Warne became my heroes. I suppose in terms of my passion for cricket, I’ve never looked back since. The subsequent 16 years of my life have been marked by late nights or early wake ups as I’ve followed the England cricket team whether it be in Brisbane, Bangalore or Bridgetown.
J – What is it like growing up in England where Cricket is one of the popular sport there?
Growing up in England, football is always the number one and eclipses other sports in terms of popularity. I was very lucky though to grow up on a cul-de-sac which meant there was very little traffic on our street – ideal for cricket! At the first sign of spring, we stuck some tape onto the garage door as a makeshift set of stumps, grabbed a bat and tennis ball and played until the light forced us to abandon play for the day. The kid who lived opposite was my main competitor but we were often joined by my brother and other kids on the streets. The games got competitive – sledging and disputes about the rules were commonplace – and there were plenty of nervous car owners on the street as we got older and our ability to give the ball a decent whack increased!
One day while playing we were approached by a guy who lived on the street who revealed himself to be the 3rd XI captain of a local club. He was short that weekend and since he always saw us playing cricket thought he’d enquire as to whether we’d fancy a game. That weekend, both me and my friend made ducks and went wicketless but fortunately, the club persisted with us. A few years later I was opening the batting for the 1st XI and my friend was the club’s premier allrounder.
J – The year is 2015, event – ICC Cricket World Cup, England have just been knocked out of the tournament, what were your thoughts as a fan back then?
It was a horror show! From selection to our mindset, England’s approach looked a million years behind the top teams. Everyone talks about the defeat to Bangladesh that sent us crashing out or the mauling we received at the hands of New Zealand in Wellington, but for me, it was the Sri Lanka game that epitomised everything wrong with English white-ball cricket. On a pitch as flat as a pancake, England never got out of second gear and seemed quite content to make just over 300 on a pitch where the likes of Australia and New Zealand would have been targeting 350. The Sri Lankan batsmen made a mockery of England’s target with Thirimanne and Sangakkara peeling off fine 100s against an England attack that contained 4 right-arm medium-fast seamers and an orthodox finger spinner. The bowling looked as uninspiring, unimaginative and predictable as our batting. The following game England ODI cricket reached its nadir, dumped out of the tournament by Bangladesh and reduced to a laughing stock. Surely the only way was up?
J – Now the year is 2019, the event is the same, and Jofra Archer just bowled the final ball one could possibly bowl in a World Cup final and won England the game, what were your thoughts then and how were you celebrating the win?
It was pandemonium. I had a bit of a Justin Langer moment of having to restore the contents of my parent’s bookshelf after my celebrations sent several of my mum’s novels flying across the room! To take you back a few hours, I was due at my parent’s house that day where my father – who is from New Zealand – was hosting a barbeque. I headed around early to watch the game with them and I have to say it was a weird day. Not usually the calmest watcher of the England Cricket Team, I recall the first half of the game being very subdued. England managed to keep New Zealand in check throughout the innings and whenever they threatened a partnership, England made a breakthrough and ensured they never got away. I felt pretty confident chasing a target of 242 but how wrong I was!
To be honest most of the England innings was a blur to me, throughout that afternoon I probably resigned myself to the game having slipped away a dozen times, only for a sweetly struck Stokes six or outrageous piece of luck in that deflection raising my hopes once again. When Buttler broke the stumps with Guptill short of his ground there was about 30 seconds of chaotic celebrations followed by a bit of a pang of guilt that my dad had seen his team come so agonisingly close. I also felt for New Zealand who are my second team. That said, seeing Eoin Morgan lift the World Cup trophy after the journey they’d been on as a team over the previous four years was pretty special. A journey that started following the Bangladesh defeat had now reached its fitting end.
J – And now they are White ball giants, and possibly favourites for the next ICC event as well as Kohli mentioned in the press conference, did you imagine your team being this powerful in a format where they have generally struggled?
As England fans, we’ve probably become so accustomed to white ball excellence that we forget what a departure the last five years have been from the norm of English cricket. There have been plenty of strong England test sides in the past, most recently Andrew Strauss’ side of 2009-2012, but white-ball cricket has always lagged behind. Between the 1992 World Cup, which was England’s last respectable showing before 2019, and Morgan’s white-ball revolution, there have been Ashes wins, a test series win in India, an ICC mace, but limited-overs successes have been few and far between. I suppose there was the 2010 T20 World Cup triumph in the West Indies, but that felt like a very self-contained success and didn’t represent a wider shift in white-ball thinking.
Nothing is certain in life, and particularly not in T20 cricket, but England fans are right to be cautiously optimistic for the T20 World Cup later this year.
J – Do you feel their red-ball game has gone down during the transitional phase?
I think there is an element of truth in that, although I feel a lot of England fans are too quick to write off the entire Trevor Bayliss era as a complete disaster in test cricket. There’s no doubt Bayliss was brought in primarily as the man to take England to ODI glory and his partnership with Morgan always felt more comfortable than with Root. However, England remained unbeaten in the home test series under Bayliss, won in Sri Lanka and triumphed in 2015-16 against a South Africa team still containing some of their greats. I think when it worked under Bayliss it looked really good, England played some attractive attacking cricket in their 3-0 whitewash in Sri Lanka in 2018. But when it went badly… it was gruesome – the defeat in early 2019 in the West Indies particularly showed up the shortcomings of that brand of cricket. Bayliss’ last series as a coach – the disappointing 2-2 home Ashes draw in 2019 – and the fact our ODI redemption had been completed that summer, probably focused minds that the test team needed a bit more love and attention from management. Silverwood looks to be a decent appointment and despite the setback of the India tour, I feel England have the building blocks of a team that can compete down under next winter.
J – Favourite England vs India memory?
So many to choose from! After the Ashes, India tours are always the ones I look forward to the most. I’ve been lucky enough to be in the ground for some pretty special England v India moments including Cook’s final 100, Pant’s maiden 100 the following day, India’s incredible victory at Lords in 2014, the Women’s World Cup Final of 2017 and England beating India at the Oval in 2011 to become the number one Test team in the World. If I had to choose a favourite I’d probably go for Day 5 of the Lord’s Test in 2011. All 3 results were possible and Tendulkar (who was on 99 international 100s) was due next. I was 15 years old and didn’t have a ticket so travelled into central London the night before and slept on the sofa of a family friend so I could get to the ground early. I queued for a couple of hours but it was absolutely worth it! There was an incredible atmosphere that day and India fought hard to take it into the final session before England claimed victory.
J – What is your all-time England-India combined XI?
I reckon this ODI combined XI of active players would beat anyone: