Back to normal. Defeat in the World Cup doesn’t seem to have stung as much as on previous occasions, perhaps because rather than being unlucky this time, England were simply outplayed by a superior side in the end. But perhaps the striking thing was that in many ways, football did come home, as a youthful, inexperienced side managed to engage the public both on the pitch and off it. The use of social media by the players added to the sense of being “our” team, and the normal dismissal of them as millionaire, uncaring young men was placed in abeyance.
In years to come, it may be that this is the most striking element of this World Cup, and yes, its availability on free to air television to truly engage with the nation is a huge part of that.
But it’s more too, an establishment of principles, a desire to play a certain way and the willingness of the players to be a part of that, to sacrifice their personal roles for the whole. Above all else, the generation of hope for the future is what has been taken from it.
And so to cricket, where the feeling of envy for what football has achieved won’t go away. It has happened before, in 2005, but those days are long gone and more than anything, there’s no sense of any possibility that they will return. Sadness and a deep anger at that is a constant refrain.
Thus we begin the ODI series, and in an ideal world this would be the antidote to disappointment, another national side to rally around. If only. Though if even through the newspaper reports, a nation would dearly love to see an England side victorious, and grab at any bit of success there is.
The ODI series against Australia at the height of the summer felt pointless then, and feels pointless now. But it also detracted from what would otherwise have been a fairly sensible schedule against India. Three T20s, three ODIs and five Tests builds the anticipation for the main event well, and the longer white ball format perhaps gives a better indication of the merits of the sides than the shortest form (until the ECB create their latest, anyway).
So in all, this has the potential to be an interesting match up, and cricket finally has the chance to move up from footnote to byline. Progress of a sort.
Comments on the game below.