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Decade review of teams - Part 3 - England, West Indies & South Africa

Last updated on 26 Jan 2021 | 10:33 AM
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Decade review of teams - Part 3 - England, West Indies & South Africa

We look back at how England, West Indies and South Africa fared in international cricket in the recently passed decade

Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 4


Ranking in January 2011: #3 in Tests, #5 in ODIs

Ranking in December, 2020: #4 in Tests, #1 in ODIs, #1 in T20Is

High-Points: Won the 2019 World Cup, played the 2016 T20 World Cup final, number one Test ranking, won Ashes twice at home, won a Test series in India after 28 years, whitewashed Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka 3-0

Low-Points: 0-5 & 0-4 Ashes scorelines in Australia, whitewashed by Pakistan in UAE, Conceded first Test series to Sri Lanka at home, couldn’t regain Ashes at home in 2019,  2015 World Cup

England cricket went through some exhilarating highs and ignominious lows, probably more than any other side if you consider all formats. They reached the pinnacle of Test rankings in 2011, dethroning India with a 4-0 whitewash but lost it next year to South Africa, both at home. They then defeated South Africa twice in South Africa. They conceded a Test series to Sri Lanka at home but also defeated them overseas. They won a Test series in India in 2012 but then lost to them 4-0 in 2016.

There was absolutely no pattern in the way England played Test cricket in the decade. Except, there was one. They were incompetent in Australia. England regained the Ashes twice in home conditions but lost nine out of the 10 Tests they played Down Under, with one draw. Their bowling was a primary reason. They won in the 2010/11 season but were thoroughly outclassed on the subsequent tours. It was clear that England’s bowling was one-dimensional, suited to their home conditions which aids lateral movement. However, the aforementioned juxtapositions reveal that they were not winning consistently at home as well. 

At 24 percent, England lost the highest percentage of Tests at home 2011 onwards amongst the current top four Test sides - New Zealand, India and Australia being the other three. England as a host country became a challenging place to score runs when batting became tough in Test cricket and England’s own batsmen were not immune. 

Consequently, it is tough to judge England’s decade in Test cricket. They currently possess all the major bilateral trophies except the one which matters the most to them - The Ashes. They have also fallen behind in the race to contest the World Test Championship Final. 

The mixed returns from England’s batting were also a result of their surge in white-ball cricket. The fulcrum of England’s Test batting was similar to that of their ODI line-up. Pitches were flat for white-ball cricket, complete opposite of what they were like for red-ball cricket and demanded different technique. England put all their focus on improving their white-ball fortunes. 

Like Tests, England saw both nadir and zenith in white-ball cricket. Until 2015, they were still figuring out how to play the shorter formats of the game. From then onwards, they introduced others to new ways of playing the game. When ODI cricket was normalizing scores of 350, they lifted their game to 400. Eoin Morgan’s methods did wonders. From losing a quarter-final spot to Bangladesh in the 2015 World Cup, they lifted their first 50-over World Cup trophy in 2019. They also reached the final of the 2016 T20 World Cup. This is by far England’s best white-ball side. In Tests, it is still tough to take a call on their decade. 

What lies ahead: This is by far England’s best white-ball side and they would not change anything about it. After the ODI World Cup, they have their eyes set on the T20I variant. In Tests, their first priority is to get the urn back and build a side that can beat Australia in Australia and push for the summit of Test rankings. On a positive note, they seem to have identified a problem with their one-dimensional bowling attack and are working on it with the arrival of Jofra Archer and Mark Wood. 

West Indies

Ranking in January 2011: #7 in Tests, #8 in ODIs

Ranking in December, 2020: #8 in Tests, #9 in ODIs, #10 in T20Is

High-points: Won the 2012 and 2016 T20 World Cup, defeated England 2-1 in Tests in 2019

Low-Points: Everything apart from their high points

The decline of West Indies cricket started in the 1990s itself. The descent continued in the 2010s, observing the team falling down to number 8 and 9 in Tests and ODIs respectively. Although, they found a new identity for themselves in the newest format of the game - T20 cricket.

When teams were figuring out this format, West Indies packed themselves with T20 superstars who were wanted in domestic/franchise T20 leagues around the world. The sad part is, those T20 leagues occupied the bandwidth of these stars more than West Indies itself. Hence, in spite of winning two of the three T20 World Cups to be held in 2010s, West Indies still rank number 10 in the format. 

Long-lasting issues between the board and the players didn’t let stars like Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Chris Gayle and many others come together to ‘rally round the West Indies’. 

Back to the on-field stuff, West Indies showed glimpses of resilience towards the end. They outclassed England 2-1 in the Test series in 2019 under Jason Holder, who alongside emerging as a fine allrounder also developed into an inspirational leader. Pollard led the white-ball side with zeal and maybe there is hope after all. 

What lies ahead: It is no doubt that West Indies will continue being a T20 force, especially in the world events when all the stars line up, but the same needs to be achieved in other formats as well. World cricket will do better with a competitive West Indies team. For that to happen, the board needs to sort things out within itself first. 

South Africa

Ranking in January 2011: #2 in Tests, #4 in ODIs

Ranking in December, 2020: #5 in Tests, #5 in ODIs, #5 in T20Is

High-points: Test series wins in England, Australia and Sri Lanka, number one Test ranking, Test series win versus Australia at home after 48 years, ODI series win in India in 2015

Low-Points: Lost 3-0 in India in 2015, lost 2-1 to England at home in 2015/16, lost 3-1 in England in 2017, whitewashed in Tests in Sri Lanka in 2018, semifinal defeat in the 2015 World Cup, finished 7th in the 2019 World Cup, lost ODIs 5-1 to India at home in 2018, lost Test series to Sri Lanka at home in 2019

South Africa began 2011 with a team of world-beaters, each of whom justified their potential in every possible way. The ICC tournaments stayed away from their grasp but they won Test series in England, Australia, Sri Lanka and clinched the number one Test ranking to be pronounced as one of the greatest Test teams of all times. But as it happened to the earlier sides with such tags, maintaining the consistency appeared to be a farfetched prospect when those world-beaters retired or showcased their human side. 

After the retirements of Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith, South Africa’s nine-year old golden run of undefeated overseas Test series ended with a 0-3 thumping in India. It was the beginning of the end of South Africa’s glorious days as a number of surprising defeats followed. In between, they reached a World Cup semifinal (in 2015), a celebratory point for most cricketing nations. But South Africa flunked it, leaving themselves crestfallen in another world event they should have won given their squad. 

South Africa’s problems are an amalgamation of those of West Indies and Sri Lanka. The transformation has not been smooth and the board imploded. The racial quota policy encouraged more players to sign Kolpak deals. Morne Morkel and AB de Villiers’ announced premature retirements. Morkel’s retirement hinted at lack of financial stability with Cricket South Africa and the hoopla around de Villiers’ announcement did not help a side which was losing its charm. 

South Africa underwent a free fall. Losing five consecutive Tests to a dwindling Sri Lanka in 2018/19 and an awful 2019 World Cup highlighted the massive void left by the absence of their elapsed heroes. 

What lies ahead: It won’t be wrong to say that South Africa hit the rock bottom towards the culmination of the decade and the only way forward is up. With Faf du Plessis’ retirement, which will most probably come within the next couple of years, the onus will be on Quinton de Kock and Kagiso Rabada to ignite the Protea fire again. A lot also relies on how their board fixes itself. For that, the man in charge is the same guy who engineered the high points mentioned above - Graeme Smith.

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