England have a habit of turning up at major tournaments in a state of confusion. Every World Cup campaign since 1992 has been mired in poor planning and it is fair to say the team and tactics are far from settled with the ICC World Twenty20 on the horizon.
Sunday’s heavy defeat by West Indies brought back memories of November’s Stanford debacle. Once again an efficient performance from the home side highlighted the deficiencies of an England cricket team that does not know its best starting eleven and is incapable of doing the basics right.
The omission of the in-form Matt Prior was strange and the sight of England’s captain scratching around for runs at number six was one that came as no surprise; Andrew Strauss’ new-found positivity at the crease might well be transferred from Tests to One Day internationals – Twenty20 cricket might be a step too far.
This is just one selectorial headache. The openers continue to rotate with such regularity that the construction of a partnership is impossible – the throwing in of Steve Davies with the tournament imminent is systematic of England’s muddled thinking.
The subject of specialists is always relevant and England have veered from one extreme to the other - Jeremy Snape and Darren Maddy were called-up for the ill-fated 2007 World Twenty20 campaign, but the Stanford squad was dominated by familiar faces in a crude attempt at continuity.
It is surely too late for the likes of Joe Denly and Graham Napier to receive call-ups, so the team that was hammered by West Indies can be assumed to form the basis of the likely starters, with the addition of Andrew Flintoff and Graeme Swann.
England’s best Twenty20 days (Australia at Southampton 2005, New Zealand home and away last year) have been based on aggressive wicket-taking opening bowling spells and Strauss’ men might have to bank on this tactic in June.
The wickets at Lord’s, the Oval and Trent Bridge might have some life in them, suiting James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Flintoff. It isn’t much of a plan, but it’s all England have got at the moment.