ICC World Cup: Rebuilding on the cards as humbled England introspect

Tomorrow could be my last game of cricket for England, don't know what the future holds, says Dawid Malan

Dawid Malan (left) and Joe Root of England at a net session in Mumbai (photo: Getty Images)
Dawid Malan (left) and Joe Root of England at a net session in Mumbai (photo: Getty Images)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

For Jos Buttler’s England, it has mostly been an embarrassing case of shifting goalposts since the ICC World Cup got underway a little over a month ago. Coming into the tournament as one of the hot favourites to make it to the semi-finals, the defending champions now find themselves locked in a struggle to finish among the top eight nations and qualify for the ICC Champions Trophy in 2025.

England’s campaign has ranged between the indifferent and the abysmal this World Cup. This, for a team that successfully laid down the template for white ball cricket in the last six to seven years on its way to becoming world champions in 2019.

This time around, the team had as many as eight survivors from that champion side led by Eoin Morgan, but they were still not good enough to avert the downslide — unlike their archrivals Australia, who bounced back after two straight losses.

The buzz around the England camp is that of a rebuild in the near future — and senior opener Dawid Malan hinted at such a possibility. "I don't know what my future holds, whether that be my choice or the team’s choice. After this tournament probably, I have a bit of reflection time and see where I'm at and see what the future holds for me. Tomorrow could be the last game of cricket for England for me and it could still be the start of another journey. Who knows? We’ll only find out when the dust settles,’’ he said on Friday, approaching their last league game against Pakistan.

The left-hander has been the highest scorer for England in the tournament with 373 runs from eight innings — being the only batter from his team to feature among the top 10 run scorers. "You can talk about your personal form or runs or wickets, whatever it is but at the end of the day you want the team to do well and to win games of cricket. We’d have hoped to come here pushing for a semi-final spot and preparing for that, but we just haven't been good enough," said Malan.

There is every possibility that the golden generation comprising skipper Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali may start to disintegrate soon. While speculation is rife over Buttler’s future as the white ball captain, it’s also a long shot if the team management can persuade the multi-tasker Stokes to continue in the 50-over format after retiring from it only last year to manage his workload.

Asked to place a finger on where England may have gone wrong, Malan said, "I saw Mo (Moeen Ali) said something that we hadn’t seen it coming. You know, we’d still been playing good cricket as a team leading up to this. So, I don't think it was anything that was sort of showing over the last year or something like that. We just haven't performed as a group."

It’s with this mindset that England, now in seventh spot in the tournament table, brace to take on Pakistan on Saturday in their last group league outing. "It’s a huge game for us. We haven’t performed the way we wanted to this whole trip, and we would like to leave India putting in a proper performance. So, yeah, it’s a huge game for us,’’ Buttler had said after securing a 160-run win against Netherlands in their last game.

If anything is at stake for the defending champions now, it’s the challenge to redeem partially an eminently forgettable world cup campaign.

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