28 Days’ Data

Published: 2016
Pages: 352
Author: Miller, P and Tickner, D
Publisher: Pitch Publishing
Rating: 3.5 stars

As a child of the 1960s I was there at the start of limited overs cricket. I am just too young to recall the very earliest days when, for a couple of seasons, it was 65 overs a side. But I have enjoyed all of the various formats I have seen, be it 60, 55, 50, 40 or, after a few initial misgivings, 20 overs per side. I was initially a little disappointed when the decision was made to standardise ODIs at 50 overs, but am content now that the right call was made.

For me one major distinction between ODIs on the one hand, and Test matches on the other, is that the former almost never linger in the memory. I remember the first World Cup in 1975 vividly, but that is about all. Generally the game’s short formats are a case of here today gone tomorrow.

My inability to remember specific ODIs is something I have always taken to be the natural order of things, and I firmly remain of that view, but this new book from Pitch did get me thinking about the point. As part of the fleeting nature of the ODI experience I had never really put my mind to the question of just how unsuccessful England have been in 50 over cricket on the world stage.

Would it be the case, I wonder, that more of these games would have stuck in my memory had England ever won a World Cup? After all I have always recalled England getting to the 1979, 1987 and 1992 finals, although I have to admit I can’t recall any of the details of the matches. A glance at the scorecards quickly reminded me why. I had also forgotten just how badly we have done since.

Just as those thoughts are going through my mind, and at this stage I’m still reading George Dobell’s foreword, the point is made that when England recently beat Australia 4-0 at home and then Pakistan away by the same margin we were ranked number one in the world in the format.  That had not registered with me either, so the reality seems to be that when push comes to shove the average English cricket fan, whilst he or she might enjoy watching the games and feel as partisan as ever whilst they are being played,  simply doesn’t lose too much sleep over ODI failure, or celebrate for too long over success.

Authors Miller and Tickner acknowledge this problem early on in their prologue, and I suspect such relative indifference is likely to be the biggest barrier to 28 Days’ Data selling as many copies as it should, which is a great shame because it is a book which achieves exactly what it set out to do. It tells the sad story of England’s progress in the post 1992 World Cup and, sets out to identify the causes and the cures.

The book is particularly authoritative because of the men who gave their time and thoughts to the authors. Former captains Mike Atherton, Adam Hollioake, Andrew Strauss, Graham Gooch, Nasser Hussain and Alec Stewart are the most important figures, but the thoughts of Peter Moores, coach when the 2015 debacle took place are illuminating as well. I am not sure I actually heard it at the time, but Moores was the man who was the victim of a crackling phone line that resulted in the misquote that gives the book its title.

In 1996, when Atherton was captain, the England supremo was Raymond Illingworth. The only teams England beat in that World Cup were, I am reminded, the UAE and the Netherlands. It was still enough to get to the quarter finals where Sri Lanka taught England a very harsh lesson indeed. One of the book’s strengths is that there are some shafts of humour amongst the tales of disappointment and strife. Picturing Illy telling whichever of the authors interviewed him that if only Atherton had listened to his advice about field placings to Jayasuriya the result would have been different is a personal favourite.

The narrative is not entirely concerned with the 50 over format, and there is an interesting chapter on the T20 version of the game. Ultimately success has not been so elusive for England in the shortest version of cricket, and a reminder of how we got where we are will be appreciated by the many who have only recently come to accept that there is something to be said for T20. And of course we finally seem to have got to grips with what is needed in 50 overs as well, so 28 Days Data is not all doom and gloom.

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