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By Tausif Salim

If Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden were to open the bowling attack for Australia, England would still lose. Or so it seems.

Lately, the inventors of the game itself seem to find themselves in a spot of bother... No scratch it, a big growing patch of ignominy. It all started in the Champions' Trophy, against India, a team pretty well known for its bowling shortcomings, when England was bundled out for a paltry 125. If the defeat to India was not enough, next match they lost to Australia, which was predictable to say the least. They ended their tournament with a comeback win against the West Indies but it was too little, too late, as they ended the forgettable tournament pinned at the bottom of their group.

But it was just the beginning. The Ashes tour to Australia started in the worst possible manner for them when England went down in the first test by 277 runs in Brisbane. Although the result of the next match of Adelaide was somewhat 'respectable', a loss by 6 wickets, it was evident by then that the mission to retain the Ashes had already gone out of hand. After having another comprehensive win at Perth, Australia celebrated retrieving the Ashes and seized the opportunity to nail the battered team, bulldozing them to make it 5-0. In the end it was a story of happy record hunting for the Aussies as they piled up personal and team milestones throughout the entire tournament.

If the English team thought their nightmare was over, they were wrong. The Ashes blunder was followed by a crushing defeat in the one off 20-20 match by 77 runs. The Commonwealth Bank series has started in the same fashion, where England lost all three of their matches so far against Australia, and one against New Zealand where they were bundled out for 120 runs chasing 210. The only solace of the series so far is the lone win against New Zealand, and that too by a modest margin. The chances of retrieving anything significant from the tour seems light-years away, as England must win their next match at W.A.C.A. to stay alive in the series.

Needless to say things could not have gone wrong at a worse time than this as after being stripped off their Ashes glory, England now face the challenge of either shaping up soon or facing similar consequences in the World Cup this year. But then again, is the World Cup more important than the Ashes for England? A recent survey shows that more than 90% of the British fans feel that defending the Ashes comes before anything else, even the World Cup.

If that is indeed the case, then Fletcher's apology to England supporters is not unfounded. In fact, even Bangladesh has fared much better than them in their series against Australia, both in the context of the test and one-dayers. This shows where the standard of England cricket is at the moment, if there is at all any standard.

England was the only team that opposed the test status of Bangladesh till the last moment. Perhaps they felt this would hurt the game by lowering the standards. Speaking in that context they should consider going into self-exile for a few months. Play county matches, refresh, regroup and then consider coming back.

After all, it is not good for the game to have consistently under performing teams... is it?


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