The sacking of Kevin Pietersen dealt a death blow to my support of England. The 2013/14 Ashes whitewash wasn’t fun, but I’m used to supporting losing teams. It’s a lot more difficult to support a team that has sacked one of its best players.
Since then, not much has made me change my mind. I resolutely cheered for Sri Lanka against them, then was ambivalent both about India’s win and England’s comeback later last summer. Their World Cup was embarrassing, and it wasn’t until the tour of the West Indies that I could even not actively root against them
Since then, through a pulsating Test series, and new era defining one-day series against New Zealand, slowly but surely, this new era of England has wormed its way back into my affections.
If nothing else, you can’t be neutral in the Ashes. It’s Australia; you have to beat Australia. Oh, and they did.
But also, it’s this team. Gary Ballance plays ridiculously deep in his crease and takes his shirt off in nightclubs. Ian Bell may be of the old era, but his cover drive is still technical perfection. Joe Root laughs at his captain getting hit in the balls and salutes Ben Stokes. The ginger allrounder himself smites sixes and has stopped punching lockers.
Jos Buttler is soft spoken and hard hitting, Moeen Ali is the beard that is feared, maybe the best number eight in history, and a full time spinner (no matter what you might say). Mark Wood has an imaginary horse, reverse swing, and even hit a six then grinned.
The old guard is just four deep. Cook, Bell, Broad and Anderson. The team is losing culpability for the sacking of You Know Who, and for that it’s gaining my support back.
If you wanted an obvious metaphor for the teamwork in this new England team, you could look at the dismissal of Mitchell Starc as the captain put his body on the line at gully to push an edged cut up in the air, ripe for Adam Lyth to snaffle. A new opening partnership, working together in the field.
But ultimately, it’s nothing concrete that’s brought me back to this team, it’s just the feeling that this team is positive, not tainted by the past. There’s tangible hope around this team.