England’s two World Cup campaigns under captain Jos Buttler and head coach Matthew Mott could not have been any more contrasting.
The duo led England to the T20 World Cup title a year ago but now to the bottom of the table in the 50-over version, with elimination confirmed after a sixth defeat in seven and fifth in a row.
England entered the tournament as defending champions – following their thrilling win over New Zealand at Lord’s in 2019 – and one of the fancied sides, behind home team India. However, their hopes of retaining the trophy are now over and have been for a while.
Australia may have smashed in the final nail in Ahmedabad but England’s tournament was already done following a series of losses, defeats that were insipid at best and dreadful at worst.
They have gone from trying to win the World Cup to trying to scramble into the 2025 Champions Trophy, with only the top seven sides, plus hosts Pakistan, to make that event in two years’ time.
England’s cricketers, who have the Netherlands and Pakistan left to play, could experience their own Euro 2008 moment – a reference to when the nation’s footballers last missed out on a major competition.
That abject campaign, culminating in a 3-2 loss to Croatia at a rain-soaked Wembley, cost umbrella-holding coach Steve McClaren his job.
Now managing director of men’s cricket Rob Key must work out whether this cricketing nightmare, one in which it has metaphorically poured, should lead to the dismissals of Buttler and Mott.
Does he stick or twist?
Decision time for England after awful World Cup
There are obvious arguments for change.
The World Cup table and England’s batting returns make for harrowing reading and everyone seems at a loss to explain how a talented, if aging, group of players has endured such a woeful time. Sky Sports’ Eoin Morgan, captain in 2019, feels the fall from grace has been unrivalled in global sport.
Morgan said earlier in the tournament that England seemed “unsettled”, while after elimination was rubberstamped he suggested the communication from the team had been jumbled.
“The messaging coming out was always mixed, even before the tournament started,” said Morgan. “As defeats then rolled on the messaging was different from every player, the captain, the coach.
“There are clearly small things that have chipped away over time and taken them so far from the game took them to World Cup winners and No 1 in the world. They have continually got it wrong.”
Muddled selection. Poor decisions at the toss. Publicly announcing David Willey was not receiving a central contract while he was not only in the XI but one of England’s better players.
It has been a comedy of errors at the World Cup, one supporters will not have found very funny. At least the misery is almost over.
Key must surely take some responsibility for the Willey situation but the selection errors and also opting to bowl first against South Africa in the sapping Mumbai heat come down to captain and coach. They built up plenty of credit at the T20 World Cup but have lost some of that here.
England must also determine whether Buttler being skipper is the best thing for such a key asset. Usually one of the most devastating white-ball batters on the planet, and surely his country’s best of all time in that format, Buttler has had an awful World Cup with the bat, averaging a lick over 15.
“My own form has been the biggest concern, it has hurt us,” lamented the captain, who seems to take every defeat a little more deeply than predecessor Morgan. For England to turn their limited-overs fortunes around, they need Buttler back at peak performance with the bat.
Atherton would keep Buttler as captain
Taking the captaincy off him may be one way to achieve that – but it is not what Michael Atherton would do with another T20 World Cup taking place in the USA and West Indies in June 2024.
“I don’t feel like I felt at the end of the Ashes in 2021/22 when it was as clear as day that their needed to be a wholesale change of management,” Atherton told Sky Sports.
“Given the close proximity of the T20 World Cup and that England should have a good team in that and a really good chance, I don’t quite see where the sense would be in making a rash change, unless they then differentiated between 50-over and 20-over cricket.
“That is something they may think about as we have been down that route before, when Stuart Broad was T20 captain, and there is a need to revamp the 50-over side. But given we have a T20 World Cup next summer, I think it would be wise not to make too many rash decisions.”
Key will be thinking longer term than just the T20 showpiece and now could be the time for Buttler and Mott to forge a new side having largely worked with Morgan’s group since their appointments.
There will be definite churn, with only four players of England’s initial World Cup XV (Harry Brook, Reece Topley, Sam Curran, Gus Atkinson) below 30.
That might be minimal churn ahead of the T20 World Cup but will then surely be substantial churn after that tournament as the ECB look ahead to the 2025 Champions Trophy – if England do indeed qualify – and then the next 50-over World Cup in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia in 2027.
Buttler hamstrung by World Cup build-up
Morgan had 88 ODIs over a four-year period between 2015 and 2019 to turn England from white-ball also-rans into 50-over champions for the first time but in the same timeframe between 2019 and 2023, the team played just 42 matches, many with a second-string side as Covid-19, plus a focus on Test and T20 cricket, rendered the ODI format an afterthought.
Buttler has rarely had his best 50-over side available to him during his 16 months in charge, with the build-up to this World Cup nowhere near as precise and well-plotted as the previous one.
England World Cup results and fixtures
- October 5 – Lost to New Zealand by nine wickets
- October 10 – Beat Bangladesh by 137 runs
- October 15 – Lost to Afghanistan by 69 runs
- October 21 – Lost to South Africa by 229 runs
- October 26 – Lost to Sri Lanka by eight wickets
- October 29 – Lost to India by 100 runs
- November 4 – Lost to Australia by 33 runs
- November 8 – vs Netherlands
- November 11 – vs Pakistan
“When I was in charge, there was a clear emphasis on having your best players available in the year leading up and trying to get absolute role clarity in every position possible. Jos has not had that,” Morgan told Sky Sports ahead of what has since become a chastening World Cup for England.
In the 50-over format at least, the end of the World Cup should mean a fresh start.
Expect Brook, Atkinson and Curran – the latter albeit after a difficult time in India – and players like Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Rehan Ahmed, Josh Tongue, Will Jacks and maybe Ollie Pope to form the nucleus of new 50-over England. Buttler and Mott will hope to be kept on to oversee the transition.
Both captain and coach can point to last year’s T20 World Cup as an illustration of what can happen when they get things right, while Mott’s reputation was built on World Cups with the Australia women’s team, as he helped a supremely strong side hold the 50-over and 20-over titles simultaneously.
It is not like England have chumps in charge but after a World Cup so horrid, batting totals so low, and defeats so heavy, neither Buttler nor Mott can have many complaints if they are replaced.
If Key and co stick with them, they will just hope the 2024 World Cup is much more 2022 than 2023.
Watch England’s penultimate Cricket World Cup match, against Netherlands in Pune, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 8am on Wednesday (8.30am first ball). You can also stream the tournament without a contract through NOW.