This is the second time I’m compelled to write about this ongoing ODI series. Not because there’s nothing else to write about—pre-Wimbledon madness, Copa America and the Euro Qualifiers are occupying airtime—but because this series, in the long run, could be a game-breaker for limited overs cricket.
Never have bowlers been so consistently plundered over a series of 5 ODI matches. Never have batting pitches—in England, no less—made bowlers want to go away and take up relatively safer jobs of firefighting and sword-swallowing. Never have broad bats had spots sweeter than Charlie’s Chocolate factory.
And never have England challenged their own tradition with such audacity and daredevilry. That this comes after yet another failed world cup campaign only underlines how the new management really meant it when they said they would ‘change English cricket forever’. It meant overhauling an entire system in place, and they seem to have done it in a matter of weeks. Though one shouldn’t overlook the contribution of the incoming English youngsters. It’s almost inconceivable that Alex Hales wasn’t picked for the World Cup.
They don’t play English, and they don’t look like they’re playing one of the best ODI sides in world cricket. They look like they’re playing a prolonged T20 bash, like they’ve discovered that a bat can actually loft a ball into the air for the first time. It’s like discovering fire, and they’re doing it with all the glee and madness that McCullum had injected into a dreary World Cup months ago.
In the fourth ODI at Trent Bridge, on a pitch that must have made the likes of RCB’s trifecta flush with greed, New Zealand once again broke the 300 barrier like the entire 50-over innings were a batting power play. They scored 349, with Williamson—who failed in the World Cup—reaching 3000 ODI runs faster than Virat Kohli. England had never chased down such a high total, but they plundered 97 off the first 10 overs, with Hales going nuts and setting it up for the rest. Then came Eoin Morgan, an embattled Irishman in charge of an English team that had imploded many times over. He showed that class is permanent, scoring one of the most dazzling ODI centuries while chasing, accompanied by the ever-reliable Joe Root, who helped himself to another century like it were his morning Earl Grey and Croissant. England won with 7 wickets to spare, with 7 overs to go. Let me say that again—the English ODI team chased down 350 with 7 overs to spare. This was their highest-ever ODI chase. This was the fifth highest ever ODI chase.
Outgoing international umpire Steve Davis conceded that this was the best series to retire after. He knows that he has probably witnessed a change of guard in a country’s sporting tradition, and English cricket may never be the same again. For better, not for worse. There are guys in the team many haven’t still heard of: Roy, Billings, Rashid, Willey and Wood. Talk about fresh faces.
McCullum, meanwhile, must be wondering how influential his own marauding style has been over the years. England seem to have caught his bug, and are practicing it better and faster than he has. He must be wondering if every other team will begin playing his Mad-Max cricket, and if New Zealand—the propagators of this exciting new world—will be left behind. It’s too early to tell. But imagine if every other team replaces its seniors with players who have nothing to lose. And everything to gain.
It will be Fury Road all over again.