England travel to dubai recognised as the best cricketing team on the planet. Having come off impressive victories against some big names in world cricket such as back to back ashes wins home and away to Australia and a home series win again the then world champions of test cricket.
For me England have always wanted to be considered the best in the world and looking at their current form, many would find it hard to find an arguement to say otherwise. However a closer look and you begin to see the cracks and the alarm bells begin to ring.
The worlds top four test nations are no way as strong or consistent since the introduction of 20/20 cricket. Yes 20/20 has raised the dying interest in the game and has brought new fans.
The problem now is that a lot of the very best players are taking part in the IPL and really this is where the money is if you want to be in the limelight and displaying your talents for the indian teams to select you.
The importance of being the best team in the world is now in the balance because teams now have the added pressure of the 20/20. Players contracted to play in IPL, having to race back to fit into test cricket. Not every player can re adjust in 2 or 3 days and then play top quality test cricket.
The challenges on these players bodies must also be another concern with more players quitting the test arena earlier to concentrate on the shorter format of the game.
Others quit as a statement to their cricket boards at international level and use the shorter form to earn more money for spending less time on the field. Fair enough.
As a cricket coach trying to show players how best to execute their talent the 20/20 has put in the minds of some young talents that reverse sweeps and dillshan scoops are the way forward. Agreed they are when you have a rock solid foundation as a batsman and have the ability to use good shot selection, knowing what ball to attack and which to defend. Unfortunately when you are young you can be very impressionable leaving you vunerable to believing that batsman play this way all the time. Jaques Kallis would disagree.
Coming back to England. The away record for the World No 1 is shocking. They have won very few test series in the subcontinent and their upcoming defence is based there. From Pakistan whom are in great form at the moment in test cricket and then Sri Lanka. Both teams will have the advantages that the English have been enjoying and please don’t regard Bangladesh as the building blocks that England have turned a corner. Most recently England played in India In a one day series and the drubbing was just as bad as it was for India in England. Excuses can come and say it was a development squad but the full squad wouldn’t have done much better.
Key members of this England team will need to stand up and be counted. The first player that comes to mind is Graheme Swann. He has shot up to no 2 in the world bowling great in England. Now the real test for any class spinner is approaching. Will he have the same successes as he has had in previous seasons? History would say otherwise. He will need to have an excellent winter tour for England to succeed. Jimmy Anderson has grown as a bowler and not only has the experience of bowling in difficult conditions, he has proven to have matured into a top class bowler. He should have a good series. Trott should love the slower wickets which will suit his style in the longer format of the game. Look for his to post a huge total in this winter tour. A double hundred wouldn’t be of any shock to me. KP is KP and will take the approach to attack rather than defend, exciting, dangerous at times but are there any left arm spinners or slow bowlers whom will mess with his mind?
Strauss has grown into being a fine leader in his own right, with his own style very different to vaughan. His experience will be crucial.
Pakistan will come into this series with a point to prove and they will feel far more comfortable with surrounds more close to home. England have to prove they are No1 home and away and only Australia and the mighty West Indies before them have done this. Can England be the third great team in history?