The managing director of England men’s cricket, Rob Key, acknowledged that he should bear the primary responsibility for England’s World Cup 2023 disappointment.
Former batter admitted prioritising Test matches over the 50-over format, a choice that contributed to the defending champions’ elimination with six defeats in their initial seven games.
Key defended Captain Jos Buttler and expressed full support for coach Matthew Mott, conceding that he failed to provide them with the opportunity to prepare with their optimal team.
“That’s not their fault,” Key said.
“I feel like it’s harsh if I turn around and blame the captain and coach when I hold myself accountable for that.”
Key addressed the media extensively on Sunday morning, 12 hours after England departed from the World Cup with a consolation victory against Pakistan in Kolkata.
While offering a purposeful defence of Buttler and Mott, Key acknowledged that England had “got a lot wrong” in India, lost their identity and “overthought” tactical decisions.
Since securing the T20 World Cup in November last year, Mott and Buttler only had their complete 50-over squad at their disposal during a series against New Zealand in September.
During series against Australia, South Africa, and Bangladesh, players involved in both Test and white-ball teams were chosen for the red-ball format when scheduling conflicts arose.
“It’s hard for me to be critical of Jos Buttler and Matthew Mott when I’m the one who, every single time the decision has been made for whether or not we focus on 50-over cricket, Test cricket or T20, I’ve always chosen Test cricket,” admitted Key.
After clinching the 2019 World Cup, England entered this tournament as one of the favourites. However, their position at the bottom of the table persisted until victories against the Netherlands and Pakistan in the final week elevated them to seventh place.
“I made the mistake of thinking that actually it will be alright when we get there and that’s not been the case,” Key said.
“You sort of made the assumption that, without playing lots of 50-over cricket, actually this is such a good team that will just slip into old habits and away we go.”
‘This will be the making of Mott but if it isn’t we move on.”
England’s dismal World Cup started with a defeat by New Zealand. There was the brief high of victory over Bangladesh but that was followed by a string of losses against Afghanistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Australia and India.
They were bowled out in all five of those games, as a batting line-up that powered England to the title in 2019 failed miserably.
Key said they went away from the aggressive style that had previously brought them success.
“We have to get back to defining every single role. Who do we want, who is the best player to fulfil that role,” he said.
While supporting Mott, Key said the Australian had to get every player “playing to their potential”.
He added: “We’ll have some pretty honest conversations and say, right, what are you going to do to improve this? But he gets my full backing and an opportunity to try and turn it around.”
“This actually should be the making of those two [Buttler and Mott] as a partnership.”
“If it isn’t, it isn’t and you move on but we have to make sure some good comes out of what has been a very poor World Cup.”