Give England a break

Jimmy Anderson and Tim Bresnan during the defeat to Bangladesh
Jimmy Anderson and Tim Bresnan during the defeat to Bangladesh
Picture: Shutterstock

STEVE CANAVAN: The case of the 'kitchen' door is open and shut

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Burnout and fatigue are behind England’s erratic form and shock defeats at cricket’s World Cup.

Some of the players have had three nights at home in the past four and a half months.

I suspect they are sick of the sight of each other and, it is my guess, that a few of them would not be exactly heartbroken to catch an early plane home.

The petrol gauge is flickering on ‘empty’, so this team will find it hard to eke out the win they need to stay in the World Cup against the West Indies on Thursday.

Of course, Kevin Pietersen is home already and has been spotted enjoying himself at one of London’s nightclubs.

His pleas of injury and intolerable pain clearly did not convince coach Andy Flower.

Ex-England paceman Steve Harmison – admittedly never the greatest tourist himself – describes this winter’s schedule as ‘crazy and insane’.

He has a point.

The team’s entire focus was on retaining the Ashes in Australia – and this they achieved in handsome fashion.

But then there were no fewer than seven one-day internationals Down Under followed, after a one-week break, by this long, drawn out World Cup.

Think of all the bag packing, hotel rooms, check-ins, air miles, injuries, team talks and sponsors functions they have to fit in around all those high-pressure matches.

Yes, I can hear a few of you saying: ‘It is better than real work.’

But no matter how good they are, cricketers are not machines. Minds and bodies start to flag.

Very few can manage to maintain peak performance, energy and intensity for an entire winter.

That surely is the chief reason for the stunning defeats at the hands of unfancied Ireland and Bangladesh, when Jimmy Anderson, in particular, looked totally shattered.

Even the normally-affable Graeme Swann is getting grumpy and short-tempered.

A cameraman friend of mine working at the World Cup told me: ‘Half the players just want to go home. They are clearly not enjoying it.’

BBC correspondent Jonathan Agnew said as much on the radio after the bowlers had been savaged by a Bangladesh tail ender with a batting average of five.

If England lose to the West Indies in two days time and are eliminated, it will be disappointing but understandable and predictable.

In any case, if you had asked most English cricket devotees in October, most would have taken the Ashes over the World Cup any day.

Frankly, what the players need is not another match – but three weeks sleep.