England could be playing for the future of head coach Matthew Mott in the final weeks of this disastrous World Cup campaign… he has credit in the bank but it is vanishing quickly

England enter the final fortnight of their horrendous World Cup campaign playing not just for pride and Champions Trophy qualification, but maybe too for the future of head coach Matthew Mott.

Comments by former captain Eoin Morgan before Sunday’s 100-run mauling by India in Lucknow have been interpreted as code for a rift in England’s dressing-room, and led to Mott’s insistence after the match that he was presiding over a happy camp.

But Mail Sport understands that Morgan’s dismay stems from England’s departure from the kind of clear gameplan that helped his own 50-over team win the World Cup four years ago, and has since transformed the fortunes of the Test side under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum.

Morgan, who has been in India working as a commentator and exchanged pleasantries with Mott when they bumped into each other at Lucknow airport on Monday, had scoffed at claims that England’s malfunctioning title defence was a result of everyone losing form at the same time.

But it was a subsequent comment – ‘I think there’s something else going on’ – that set the ball rolling, and encouraged speculation that Morgan, who remains close to white-ball captain Jos Buttler, knows more than he is letting on.

England may be playing for the future of head coach Matthew Mott over the next two weeks

And, after the India game, he reiterated his belief that a team as talented as England should be in the position they now find themselves: ‘If you had told me on the flight over that England would be sitting bottom of the tournament, I’d have laughed in your face.’

During his own time in charge, Morgan never wavered in his public pronouncements: England would keep attacking, regardless of the criticism.

McCullum, too, held the Bazball line during the Ashes, saying after England went 2-0 down at Lord’s that ‘3-2 has a nice ring to it’. But for rain in Manchester, he might have got his wish.

Mott has credit in the bank after his part in England’s T20 World Cup win in Australia last winter. But that credit is vanishing quickly in India, where he has been unable to explain the reversal in English fortunes, and repeatedly emphasised his players’ loss of confidence.

England's attempt to retain their World Cup trophy could not have gone much worse

England’s attempt to retain their World Cup trophy could not have gone much worse 

It is a window into their soul that Morgan would never have countenanced, and McCullum would regard as anathema. It has also been music to opponents’ ears, with ever-more dreadful consequences for English hopes.

Worse, perhaps, the notion has taken hold in the dressing-room. ‘Losing doesn’t really breed confidence,’ said all-rounder Liam Livingstone after the India defeat, ‘and we’re all just lacking a bit of confidence at the moment.’

The apparent helplessness of the management to stop the rot has been mirrored by the repeated insistence that there is no ‘golden bullet’, or ‘silver bullet’, or even ‘magic bullet’. Buttler suggested in Lucknow that he wanted ‘answers on a postcard’. The lack of authority is reflected by the hollowness of the cliches.

The players, of course, must take their share of responsibility for what is turning into the worse title defence by a reigning champion in any sport.

Joe Root is averaging 29 (and only four from his last four innings), Jonny Bairstow 23, Stokes 16, Moeen Ali 13 and Livingstone 11. Harry Brook, who is averaging 32, has been ignored for the last two games.

And apart from Reece Topley, who has gone home with a broken finger, and David Willey, who has fire in his belly after becoming the only squad member not to secure a central contract, the bowling has been mainly anodyne.

England can yet salvage something from the wreckage if they win at least two of their remaining three games – against Australia, the Netherlands and Pakistan – and achieve the top-eight finish that would guarantee them a place at the Champions Trophy in Pakistan in 2025.

But it’s a pretty low bar. And the inability of Mott and Buttler to recreate anything like the environment that has made England double world champions – to say nothing of the Test revolution – has raised the question of whether their double act will still be in place in two years’ time anyway.

A strong conclusion to the World Cup may strengthen Mott’s hand, and allow him the chance to rebuild the 50-over team in time for the 2027 tournament in southern Africa.

Yet if England continue to perform so feebly, managing director Rob Key will have no choice but to scrutinise the coach’s role in the debacle. If he feels a change of direction is necessary, there is a candidate who understands how to make a white-ball team tick, and still cares passionately about England’s fortunes: Eoin Morgan.

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