ENGLAND go home from a World Cup disappointed to go out in the quarter-finals.  It sounds all too familiar – but this time it is different because our cricketers have done us proud.

When was the last time our over-paid, over-rated English football team beat the best in the world?

It has been a long five months away from home for the cricketers. But during their long haul Andrew Strauss and his team have gloriously retained the Ashes and finally succumbed to co-hosts Sri Lanka after providing the most thrilling matches of the tournament at the Cricket World Cup.

Lest we forget it was only last May when England’s cricket team was crowned World champions in the Twenty20. What would England’s footballers – underachievers ever since our sole triumph in 1966 – give to be World Champions at any form of the game.

What would they give to have a formidable captain in the mould of Andrew Strauss who has been colossal and a true role model, unlike John Terry  (so permananetly re-instated as our football captain that he will miss Tuesday’s friendly with Ghana)

The big problem with our cricket team is the management who have failed to take notice of the players and insist on flogging our heroes to the brink of exhaustion in search of every last buck they can earn out of them.

As Strauss poignantly  said, it has been tough for players to tour Australia for three months and then head straight to the World Cup without any time at home.

“The scheduling is not good, it doesn’t give you the best chance,” he admitted after the 10-wicket quarter-final defeat by Sri Lanka. “But that’s not an excuse, you’ve still got to go out and play.”

England will not play an Ashes series and a World Cup in the same year in the future. But you can bet the powers that be will not relent in their over-exploitation of our national team.

“Lessons have been learnt, and the cycle is changing,”  adds Strauss. “Although it would have been better if that had been the case before. It’s a huge amount to ask players to tour Australia for three months, playing as high intensity cricket as you can get, and then go to a World Cup without spending time at home .”

In my opinion,  it is no coincidence that Michael Yardy had to go home suffering from depression – whatever James Corrigan argues in today’s Independent on Sunday

As former England captain Michael Vaughan said on Test Match Special: “I’ve said for a long time that the international cricket schedule is ridiculous, and maybe this will highlight the fact.”

Despite the rigors and partly because of their marathon five-month tour, England’s cricketers took part in the most exciting  matches at the Cricket World Cup . . . and who will ever forget the amazing scenes when Bangladesh beat England?

BY JOHN GUBBA

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