ODI-focussed England bury their head in the sand over Ashes debacle

England's head coach Trevor Bayliss carried the can for the Ashes defeat to Australia but he's hoping to make amends in the ODI series. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Updated 14 January 2018

ODI-focussed England bury their head in the sand over Ashes debacle

CENTURION: By the time Trevor Bayliss took over as England’s cricket coach, after a World Cup in which the team were the tournament’s laughing stock, the winds of change had already cleared some of the dressing-room gloom. Paul Farbrace, who had been Bayliss’s deputy when Sri Lanka reached the final of the World Twenty20 in 2009, was the man managing transition, and he had already loosened the straitjackets that had doomed the Peter Moores regime.
Bayliss came with a stellar resume. Less than two years after reaching that World T20 final at Lord’s, he took Sri Lanka to a World Cup final in Mumbai, where only an unprecedented run chase from India denied them the trophy. After that, and a successful stint with the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League, he took over a side that was even more of a joke than England’s World Cup team.
The Kolkata Knight Riders started off with a movie star owner, Shah Rukh Khan, and a local hero, Sourav Ganguly, as captain. John Buchanan, whose coaching reputation plummeted like the global stock markets in 2008 once he left Australia, then experimented with the idea of multiple captains during the IPL’s second season. That was as effective as a lead balloon.
Under Bayliss, and with the side now led by the combative Gautam Gambhir, Kolkata won the IPL twice in three seasons. Bayliss was not prone to the eccentricities of his predecessor. Instead, he empowered his stars to take responsibility. Freed from quixotic ideas and playing without fear, they went from being a team others mocked to one that they wanted to emulate.
When he was appointed to the England post, the mandate was clearly to win the biggest prize in the white-ball game, the World Cup. Since reaching the final for the third time in 1992, England have not even made the last four, with each outing more embarrassing than the last.
The numbers have certainly vindicated the appointment. Despite the Champions Trophy disappointment, where they were undone by an inspired Pakistan in the semifinal, England’s win-loss record under Bayliss, 32-13, is the best of any team, better than India (30-16) and South Africa (27-13). Australia, the world champions, who England crushed at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday on the back of Jason Roy’s dazzling 180, are way behind (25-22).
“Trevor’s been fantastic for us, he creates a brilliant atmosphere around the team which allows people to go out and play in that free fashion,” Jos Buttler told the BBC recently. “He doesn’t miss a beat, he sees everything that goes on and his great strength is he’s a great man manager. He really looks after people and gives them confidence. Any coach who can make the player feel 10 feet tall when they go out is fantastic.”
Why then is there so much unease over Bayliss recently announcing that he would leave the job after the 2019 World Cup and home Ashes? That’s easily explained. The hardcore of English cricket support, who follow the team around the world at considerable expense, enjoy the one-day jinks, but it is Test cricket that really matters to them.
And in that arena, Bayliss’s England have been poor. The 4-0 Ashes drubbing followed a 4-0 hammering in India the previous winter. But for an Ashes win immediately after he took over and home and away successes against a South Africa side managing some tricky transformation issues, England just haven’t been good enough. The win-loss ratio (15-18) leaves them trailing way behind the leading trio of India, South Africa and Australia.
Worse still, the one player to have improved as a Test cricketer under Bayliss, Ben Stokes, is now in limbo. And the selection of the Test squad to New Zealand suggests that the authorities aren’t really bothered by the downturn in red-ball form. After an Ashes series where all the leading lights apart from Jimmy Anderson failed — Alastair Cook’s double-hundred with the series already lost should not get too many brownie points — it is the fringe players that have paid the price.
Gary Ballance is gone without even playing a game, Jake Ball after just one in Brisbane. Tom Curran, who had the misfortune to bowl on the two most sluggish surfaces while showing plenty of gumption with the bat, is also omitted.
Time was when an Ashes debacle resulted in the kind of purge that accompanies revolutions. By burying their head in the sand after this latest disaster, English cricket’s decision-makers have clearly shown that it is the white ball that is uppermost in their thoughts.


Beckham's stadium complex for Inter Miami taking shape

Updated 22 October 2019

Beckham's stadium complex for Inter Miami taking shape

  • For now, it's a construction site. Before long, Inter Miami will call it home.

FORT LAUDERDALE: Piles of steel sit at one end of the property, waiting to be lifted into place. Workers were going in all directions, some pounding nails into wood, others ready to pour concrete, others driving heavy equipment over piles of dirt.
For now, it's a construction site.
Before long, Inter Miami will call it home.
"Organized chaos," Inter Miami sporting director Paul McDonough said as he took a look around the site of the now-demolished Lockhart Stadium where work on a new complex is happening 12 hours a day, seven days a week. "But we'll be ready."
These are hectic times for McDonough and Inter Miami, the team headlined by football icon David Beckham that will embark on its inaugural MLS season starting early in 2020. The team doesn't have a coach yet. Or players. Or a schedule. Or even the first blade of grass for its new field.
Over the next few weeks, all those issues — and countless others — will be addressed. Construction is on schedule, with all signals pointing toward everything being ready for the team's first home match that's likely to come in March.
Still, that doesn't do much to help McDonough's sleep cycle.
"This takes up a ton of time and everything keeps me up at night," McDonough said. "But it's OK. We're just on an accelerated timeline. There's so much stuff going on. But this is expansion. It's awesome. Everything we're doing here, we're trying to do it right."
At any given time, there are about 225 workers on the job site — the whereabouts of all of them tracked with an app that gets data from a chip attached to the back of their hard hats. If there's lightning in the area, work gets halted for 30 minutes until the cell passes. And that's a big deal, because even with next season still months away every minute counts.
Nothing is ready, yet — but it will be.
"The way it was built out, we're thinking of the athlete first from the minute they walk in," said Jacklyne Ramos, the team's vice president of communications as she stood inside what will be the building containing the locker room and other key spaces for the team. "The main stadium, that's for the games. Where we are now, this is where they'll live."
The Associated Press got a tour on Monday of what will be Inter Miami's inaugural home. The shell of the team's headquarters — locker rooms, equipment room, dining area, coach's office, what will become the sports performance lab, the academy workout facilities and more — is coming together. Every detail has been thought of; the walk from the players' parking lot to the building will be short, the training room will be small ("I don't want them comfortable in there," McDonough said), and an area will be built just off the outside wall of the locker room to air out cleats after training sessions.
"They'll never be in the building," McDonough said. "Boots can stink."
Beckham spent about five years trying to get MLS back in South Florida, and after many sites were considered — there's still plans for the team to eventually play in another stadium that Beckham and his partner Jorge Mas want built in Miami — they settled on the former Lockhart site. Lockhart is where the MLS' Miami Fusion played from 1998-2001, eventually folding because of poor attendance.
Inter Miami plans to play in Fort Lauderdale until the Miami stadium is complete, but what they're building at the Lockhart site is permanent; the training complex will remain the facility for Inter Miami's MLS, USL League One and academy teams.
The centerpiece of everything is the 18,000-seat stadium, and parts of what will become the field are already largely marked off. Drainage was installed first, followed by four inches of rock for a base. From there, sprinklers go into place and four thin pieces of wood are set in place to mark where the goalposts will go. About a foot of soil will be added in the coming weeks, watered and compacted and graded. Sod is scheduled to go in Nov. 14; from there, it'll be protected and fenced off and finally, what now seems like an oversized sand pit right now will look like a place to play soccer.
Behind that are more fields, including a turf one that can be used for high school football and other events. The other half-dozen grass fields will be for training and the team's affiliate clubs.
A coach will be hired soon. A roster is coming. There are plans for a soft opening a few weeks before the season and then, when the first match is played, all the mess and chaos will be forgotten.
"I wasn't ready for this. I'm still not," McDonough said. "I'm learning as we go. Conduits, positioning of poles, there's so many things that you don't realize until you live it. But that's what it takes and we're getting it done."