World Cup worries Fletcher
England coach Duncan Fletcher concedes the World Cup may come round too soon for his team following their ICC Champions Trophy defeat by Australia.
England’s Caribbean campaign gets under way in less than five months but Fletcher admits they must improve on their performances in the current competition if they are to stand any chance next March.
Barring an unlikely chain of events - India would need to complete landslide victories over Australia and West Indies in addition to England thrashing the latter - England are out of the Champions Trophy.
The six-wicket loss in Jaipur saw them collapse from 83 without loss to 169 all out, again failing to occupy their full allocation of overs at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium.
“To some degree the World Cup is coming a bit too soon,” said Fletcher. “If you look at the big picture you could say it is coming too soon.”
Despite setting out to build a side capable of mounting a challenge after failing to get out of the group stages in the 2003 World Cup, England are still trying to hone their limited-overs formula.
Though injuries have not helped, they have fielded 34 players in the last 24 matches, 19 of which have been lost.
Asked whether England’s chances of challenging for the World Cup were now based on hope rather than expectation, Fletcher said: “You could say that.”
But he continues to believe his side are capable of winning the competition, adding: “I believe that in any tournament there can be a surprise package.
“It is a young side. Two years ago we beat India from nowhere in a series, we got to the final of the Champions Trophy and we were on our way.
“With a young side things suddenly fall into place - that’s what can happen.
“Four years ago we had quite an old side and we thought, ‘hang on, can we grow?’ At least with a young side you can go forward.
“When we last rebuilt the side, it didn’t come overnight. You have to give it two or three years.
“We built a very competitive one-day side and got the results last summer when we competed against Australia on equal terms.
“When in the one-day side since have we had fewer than three or four players missing?”
Captain Michael Vaughan has not played for 15 months, Simon Jones only has eight career appearances to his name and Ashley Giles’ injury problems have also kept him out of action for long periods this year.
Fletcher admits all three are badly missed, while the absence of Marcus Trescothick at the top of the order and Andrew Flintoff from the bowling attack are huge setbacks.
The Test team has been able to deal with the same kind of disruption, holding India to a draw on the subcontinent earlier this year and more recently beating Pakistan 3-0, but Fletcher insisted: “In the one-day side players’ roles are more defined.
“You have 50 overs - it is a rush job. In Test cricket they can just sit in and develop their games.
“If our major players Flintoff and Pietersen had fired yesterday we would have had a good total.”
Fletcher also expressed concern over the form of Steve Harmison, who returned figures of 4.5-0-45-1 against Australia following a wayward spell in the defeat by India.
“He has to work hard at his game and not take his game for granted,” Fletcher said.
“In the one-day game he seems to have some concerns about his control, which he can get away with in Test cricket, and I think that puts a little bit of pressure on him.
“Everyone has some sort of technical flaw but it is the mental side of knowing you have worked at your game, done everything you could to prepare and be mentally strong which counteracts your technical deficiencies.
“When your confidence goes your technical deficiencies become accentuated and you don’t seem to have control.”
Harmison improved markedly in his second spell, dismissing man-of-the-match Damien Martyn late in the game.
“You would say if his confidence had gone he would have cracked altogether and lost control of all his bowling,” Fletcher added.
“That sometimes happens if you give him a break - he comes back, thinks about it and puts in a performance with his next spell and gets confident again.”