Perhaps it was 2005, the open-top bus and the MBEs that so exercise Shane Warne, but no cricket nation has grown more suspicious of crowing than the English. Witness the two strands of angst that have emerged since they won the World Twenty20 on Sunday. First, the South African Poms. Second, the 50-over fate of absent friend Andrew Strauss.
We’d always wondered what it would feel like to win a global one-day event, and now we know: it feels good, but not so good we’ve felt able to stop being world champions at nit-picking too.
The first source of angst requires a doctoral thesis to do it justice, and even then there would be no agreement about what really constitutes Englishness. It is, essentially, a matter of taste. But the immediate future of Strauss is a different beast, and it is here where – amid the concern, manufactured or otherwise – that Andy Flower and Co should be trusted to get on with their jobs.
Selector-bashing has long been a national pastime. Len Hutton failed to recognise Graham Gooch on the eve of his Test debut. Alec Bedser insisted on sacking Ian Botham before Botham could offer his resignation. Ted Dexter waxed lyrical about Malcolm Devon. Even the current lot came up with Darren Pattinson.
But England under Flower have barely put a foot wrong – and when they have, redemption has been swift: Ravi Bopara was dropped for the Ashes decider, Owais Shah booted out of the one-day team, and Paul Collingwood rested from the NatWest Series. There is a decisiveness about Flower that makes the old days of wrongly aligned planets and Calcutta smog look like low farce.
Selection for the World Twenty20 was neck-on-the-line stuff too. What previous regime would have dared drop their shop-window fast bowler? Or drafted in a pair of relatively untested openers? Or encouraged the slow bouncer? Mike Yardy as a second spinner? Luke Wright at No 6? These were all products of a coaching mind that knows itself and isn’t swayed by others.
What’s the relevance to Strauss? Only this: Flower is no mug and no sentimentalist. If, as he is stating for public consumption at the moment, Strauss remains in charge of the one-day side, it will be because Flower doesn’t buy Collingwood’s argument that 50 overs is “only” 30 more than 20 – in other words, he doesn’t believe Twenty20’s do-or-die philosophy can simply be reworked in the longer format.
Flower will be equally wary of overburdening Collingwood, who could barely buy a run in the Caribbean and who had to be persuaded to take the Twenty20 job in the first place. And in any case, the whole “Strauss out” argument is predicated on the idea that he is incapable of adapting. Anyone who witnessed Alastair Cook outpacing Craig Kieswetter in the one-dayers in Bangladesh recently may question such sweeping statements.
But whatever decision Flower and the others reach, they should be trusted to make the right one. They have earned their leeway and – with an Ashes win, a one-day series victory in South Africa and a World Cup to their name – can look the armchair critics squarely in the eye. And, hell, England may even be able to enjoy the next couple of days without wondering whether winning isn’t actually all it’s cracked up to be.
Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for the Daily Mail and you can sign up here for his weekly newsletter ‘the Top Spin’, which was recently named Online Column of the Year at the Sports Journalists’ Association awards.