The England cricket team is riding the crest of the wave after usurping India as the world’s number one Test team.
Yet not so long ago the new powerhouses were literally the world’s worst. England ranked ninth in the Test standings and were ridiculed by the media and fans alike.
West Indies should note the rise from the depths, particularly because England plunged to their lowest ebb against the Caribbean side in Jamaica only two years ago when dismissed for a pathetic 51.
Wholesale changes and restructuring were essential for England to overcome the embarrassment they suffered that day in Kingston and they’ve turned it around faster than a James Anderson bouncer.
England captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower are most credited for the renaissance, but they are just a minute aspect of the success, which recently culminated in the Test whitewash of previous supreme incumbents India.
The legendary Sachin Tendulkar was comfortably subdued throughout the series, denied his 100th century as the Indians were humbled by the overwhelming brilliance of an England side that rarely missed a beat.
The West Indies must wish they could emulate the English. After dominating cricket for over a decade from the mid-Seventies, the last 20 years have been almost barren.
Theo Cuffy, technical director of Cayman Islands cricket, admires the way England have completely turned their fortunes around.
“There are a number of factors over the years that indicate the rise of the English Test team,” Cuffy said. “The foundations were there but the final piece was the positioning of Andy Fowler as coach.”
Cuffy sees the changes to the Championship to a promotion and demotion format creating a more competitive formula.
“Now players have to perform to earn their keep. They also introduced a national academy which took the talented and produced a finished product. They also found the right personnel to assist the national coach with batting, bowling and fielding coaches.”
Cuffy also pinpoints the funding to keep the best people available and not acting as mercenaries elsewhere which is what the best West Indies players tend to do today, partly out of frustration at the intransigence of the West Indies Cricket Board and also because of the lure of lucrative contracts outside of the Caribbean.
Unlike the West Indies, Cuffy admires the way England have “a proper working relation with the players’ association, putting the players first.”
He added: “England also make an in depth study of players, correct selections and most of all keep faith with out of form players with the knowledge that the group collectively is willing to carry each other.
“They also have proper planning of each Test series in terms of timing, opposition and location. Fowler has built on the excellent work of his predecessor Duncan Fletcher. Andy has an excellent track record.”
This England team is prematurely being compared to the greatest of the past. Too early for that because longevity is the only absolute measurement, but Cuffy likes the fact that unlike the West Indies, who relied on luck for talented players to replace the greats, there is a strong England programme to ensure continuity.
“England emphasise on the nurturing of the youngsters with a great programme of school and county.
“How good England performs over a period of time will determine whether this group is only good on English soil. We accept that they defeated Australia Down Under but performances over a period of time overseas is necessary to join the greats of West Indies (15 years) and Australia (12 years).
“The team has outstanding performers and a good captain. The England Cricket Board’s vision to separate the captaincy for the three versions has produced good results. When you take an ordinary talent as Paul Collingwood who performed beyond all expectations, one must congratulate the ECB for their strategic planning.”