Matthew Mott admits some ageing England players face ‘line in the sand moment’

Head coach Matthew Mott accepts England’s World Cup disappointment could represent “a line in the sand moment” for an ageing side.

England arrived in India as reigning champions following the highs of 2019, but leave the country among the also-rans after racking up six defeats and three wins.

They signed off with perhaps their best all-round display against a dangerous Pakistan side, posting 337 for nine at Eden Gardens and then bowling their opponents out for 244.

But with 11 of the travelling squad aged 30 or older, the appetite for change will surely prove overwhelming.

Mott was eager not to get caught up in specific cases before discussions have been held in private, but appreciates that David Willey’s retirement is unlikely to be the only change to the landscape.

“We’ve got an opportunity to sit back and reflect and have individual conversations with all the players,” he said.

“Win, lose or draw at this tournament, there was always going to be players that would look at this as a line in the sand moment. Every good squad has that blend of experience and youth. Four years is a long way so we always look to pick our best side, learn from where we’ve missed out on here and try to build on that with some good honest conversations about how we’re going to move forward as group.”

Captain Jos Buttler was more guarded, suggesting he had no desire for mass change and a full-scale rebuild like the one his predecessor Eoin Morgan oversaw almost eight years ago.

“The World Cup as a whole has been a disappointment, but it’s not going to be a drastic change of playing style, like 2015,” he said.

“We know where we need to go. That doesn’t mean a huge clearout, it’s just pushing on from here.”

Back-to-back victories over the Netherlands and Pakistan to finish the competition recovered a modicum of pride and, more importantly, secured Champions Trophy qualification for 2025.

David Willey has already announced his retirement from international cricket
David Willey has already announced his retirement from international cricket (Altaf Qadri/AP)

That took some of the heat off Mott and Buttler, whose partnership had begun to draw scrutiny during a five-match losing streak. Director of cricket Rob Key, who flew back out to join the team in Kolkata, is not thought to have any desire to axe a duo who won the T20 World Cup together last autumn, and all signs point to both avoiding martyrdom.

Asked if he expected to stay in place, Mott said: “Absolutely, I do. If anything I’m more determined than ever.

“We’ve had a poor tournament, but you can learn some great lessons from defeat. Not always do you learn as much about yourself while you’re in full flow. I think the character that has been shown by this group to fight back and show what we’re about.

“And I think Jos has got a great future. You judge leadership in times that are tough and he’s continually tried to motivate the boys. He’s clearly disappointed with his own contribution, but none of that has affected the way he’s led the team. I’ve been really impressed by the way he’s kept the team together. He’s a player who is immensely talented and will bounce back.”

There are question marks around Ben Stokes' 50-over career
There are question marks around Ben Stokes’ 50-over career (Bikas Das/AP)

Among those players whose futures are in the balance, Moeen Ali and Dawid Malan have publicly accepted that their time could be up, while Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root have gone on record aiming for the 2027 World Cup.

Ben Stokes, meanwhile, has already retired once and was only tempted back by the prospect of defending the crown he helped win at Lord’s four years ago. He is heading back to England now for a long-awaited knee operation, but Mott is not taking it for granted that the Test captain will leave the 50-over format behind again.

“I certainly haven’t heard otherwise,” he said.

“He’s a key player and I think he’s really enjoyed it. He’s only been glowing about the environment we’ve got here. He’s got some work to do to get back to full fitness, but knowing what I know about him, he’s a very determined guy and I can’t wait to see him doing well over the next couple of years.”