The Champions Trophy – Strauss The Builder

If you want a preview of the competition, in the form of a team-by-team analysis, I’m sorry, but you won’t find it here. The Cricketer has a half decent one, if you can stand purchasing something that #39 holds so dear to his heart, and I’m sure other blogs will be keen to take up the reins. But that’s not for us. We don’t have the time, don’t think you are that bothered, and so we’ve taken an editorial decision that we won’t do it.

Here at BOC we are more interested in what this 50 over jamboree represents. We’ve been building towards the Champions Trophy in that inexorable pursuit of a World 50 over event triumph ever since Comma and Empty Suit marched into Lord’s two years ago, with a white ball focus in their hand, and the trusty shield of trust to protect them from a 355 gun. Here’s where Andrew Strauss and the boys assess the ground floor structure. Is it suffering subsidence, and need to be knocked down to start again? Is the building on track, with some finishing touches required? Or should we stop here, have a damn fine bungalow, and start building another in the same mould for two years time?

Because in a couple of weeks’ time we will know whether Comma is a Cowboy or a Construction genius. That this is a competition that garners little or no interest when we are not hosting it is not the point. While all agree the format is pretty good (not perfect in my eyes) the sheer fact that India could brazenly not declare a team until well after the deadline shows the contempt it is sometimes held in. There was a review of the tournament when it was held in South Africa on TV the other day. I’ll bet we hardly remember the semi-final that we lost to Australia.

England have put a lot of eggs in this basket, and the view is that a semi-final place is a bare minimum, another defeat in the Final a setback, and only victory would really do. The England batting reminded everyone in the past week why we have a decent shot, and why we should, as we always should, caution people not to get too far ahead of themselves when it comes to this team. As we go into the competition, with group games against Bangladesh, Australia and New Zealand to come, there are some question marks.

Jason Roy’s alarming lack of form, a case of the IPL apparently hindering not enhancing a player, at the top of the order has some clamouring for Jonny Bairstow. I’m torn – where’s the evidence stacking up here? Roy has been poor, Bairstow not. Where’s the evidence that Jason is going to pull out of this tailspin? Hope? Belief? Confidence. This is where management is damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Keep him and he fails, and the hindsight squad will be in full effect. Change him and YJB fails… well, it was a panic measure showing little consistent thought. So whatever they do had better succeed. Money is on Roy staying. Good luck, Jason. (After I wrote the draft, Morgan has confirmed Jason Roy will remain in place for the duration of the tournament.)

Ben Stokes is now injured – there’s little point in covering this up, and little point in the England squad doing anything that jeopardises his long-term future. We know how this goes. Stokes will want to play, and will. The miniscule damage to his knee will get worse at some point soon, where he might be told to rest for a bit. He’ll come back and the knee won’t improve and he’ll be under the knife and out of the Ashes, maybe. This is potentially the Freddie Flintoff scenario all over again. The difference here is England needed Freddie the bowler more than Freddie the batsman. The opposite is true here.

The bowling is always a question mark, but that goes for all teams. This is a batsman’s game and the reaction to a track and weather conditions that allowed the ball to nibble a little on Sunday shows what happens when it isn’t. England’s bowling can be a bit up and down, can be a little samey, but can also have some inspirational moments. It may not have the pace of the Australian team, but in Woakes, Wood, Plunkett, Stokes and Ball, it has some solid performers. Rashid and Moeen have the potential to be two-way players, spinners that can bat a little.

England have massively improved, but so have Bangladesh, who lest we forget knocked us out of the previous 50 over shin-dig. Australia are the World Champions, and New Zealand are always game opponents. England should get out of the group, but they might not. Failure to do so may result in more hits for this bad news blog, but it will also be a wakeup call to those riding the ODI horse along the way. Comma has a lot riding on these two or so weeks. Vindication or vilification. It’s a fine line. A rain-affected game here, a bad day at the office there…..

For what it’s worth, Australia to beat India in the final. India having beaten England in the semi-final.

And on the other side of the fence, there’s the two comments in The Cricketer debate on the new ECB T20 competition. #39, our hero, believes that the new competition is more important than the feelings of a few disgruntled county members. Yet again I see the loyal supporters of the game denigrated by those who they watched play all those years ago and, to a good degree, paid their wages. I’m getting a little bit sick and tired of this casual approach to people with roots so deep in the game that pulling them out and away would take much effort and pain. But hey, if that’s not enough, John Etheridge reckons that if you are opposed to the new dawn of T20, then you are a dinosaur. That’s right. A dinosaur.

News comes from the other side of the globe that the Big Bash lost A$33m in the past five years. While this is obviously part of the ongoing pay negotiation battle Down Under, and both sides are spinning that number better than Drug Cheat in his pomp, it still is an interesting cautionary tale. We know the two markets are totally different. Cricket is eminently more visible in Australia than it is here. The culture of the sport is markedly different. AFL may be all consuming in Australia, but it doesn’t compare to the all seeing, all knowing, all pervasive Association Football in the UK. I’ve just seen the ECB Accounts. They’ve lost a fortune in 2016. The reserves, at £70m+ the year before, are down to the £35m now. That’s not great. No wonder the T20 desperation.

I’ll comment more on the Accounts, which can be found on Companies House if you look, later. What impressed me is the blanket media coverage of this loss. Did I miss it?

Anyway, enjoy the Champions Trophy. England v Bangladesh tomorrow – comments below.

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