20th June, India v South Africa, 09:30 GMT
Back in November, when the Stanford Superstars smashed England by ten wickets to win the Twenty20 for Twenty million contest, I have to say that I was shocked by England’s reaction to the comprehensive defeat.
Judging by comments that the tourists made in the aftermath of that crushing loss, they were almost relieved to have been beaten by the men from the Caribbean. Indeed, Kevin Pietersen, who was captain at the time, stated rather oddly that seeing those less fortunate win so much money bought a tear to his eye.
On face value these comments seem to be those of a man wanting to help those with less than him, but in reality such comments could be interpreted as being patronising - after all Pietersen’s men were playing for their country albeit in an unofficial match - this was not a benefit match aimed to raise money for the needy.
Many pundits and experts were quick to blame the concept of the Stanford Super series seeing it as crass and a danger to international cricket, but as it turns out Sir Allen Stanford has since had his properties in Antigua seized as authorities in the US had reason the believe that he and his brand were guilty of fraud. And while this news shocked the cricketing world, the reality is that if England were so against the concept of the Stanford Supers series then why agree to play in it? Would England have donated the $20 Million to the Stanford Superstars had they won the match? I think you know the answer to that as well as I do.
The reality is England were beaten by the better team on the night, and as the Superstars Captain Chris Gayle said 'how can anyone not want to win $20Million', sometimes you have to just be humble and take defeat on the chin and vow to come back stronger. Australia did a great job of this; Ricky Ponting’s men were comprehensively beaten by South Africa in Australia in December last year, the first time Australia had lost a Test series at home for 16 years. Australia acknowledged they were outplayed, but now in South Africa they were seen as the underdogs yet they hold an unassailable lead - that is the stuff that champions are made of.
Strangely enough, prior to the 20 million dollar match, England were enjoying an impressive run of form under the leadership of Kevin Pietersen. Pietersen replaced Michael Vaughan as England skipper during the Test series against South Africa, and England subsequently won the dead rubber before empathically winning the ODI series 4-0.
However, since then England have lost an ODI series to India 5-0 and a Test series 1-0 to the same opponents, and they have seen controversy within the camp which saw the back of Pietersen as captain after just six months at the helm.
After the poor showing against India England were expected to bounce back in the Caribbean, but a rejuvenated West Indies team played some inspirational cricket, with Ramnaresh Sarwan leading the way. The Guyanese batsman scored three centuries and a 94, with a best score of 291, also a career best, as the West Indies sealed a 1-0 series triumph to regain the Wisden trophy for the first time in nine years.
Following that disappointing series, I honestly thought that England would be very competitive in the Twenty20 match against the West Indies last weekend, after all since England’s loss to the Stanford Superstars they haven’t won a competitive international match so surely this was their chance to show that without $20 million on the line and in a match that counts in the record books they were the better team from the men from the Caribbean. Well this was not how it materialised as England were shot out for a paltry 121 - only marginally better than the 99 that they managed in the Super Star game.
It is time for England to take accountability and accept the fact that right now there is much work to be done in order for Andrew Strauss’s men to be a force against the major teams in all forms of the game, and the sooner this is acknowledged the sooner we are likely to see England move in the right direction.
The West Indies on the other hand have shown a dramatic improvement in all forms of the game and on current form few would bet against them adding the ODI series trophy to their cabinet, and leave the tourists going home with nothing.
© Cricket World 2009
Aaron Kumar is Cricket World's globetrotting international reporter and in the last year, he has visited Canada, Costa Rica and the United States among other countries. He writes a weekly column for CricketWorld.com each Wednesday.