Bristol: Graeme Swann believes England "do not have a cat in hell's chance" of winning next year's World Cup unless they add more firepower to their top-order batting. Sunday saw England captain Alastair Cook suggest that the team's prospects for the tournament in Australia and New Zealand were "very good".
But former England off-spinner Swann was far more pessimistic. Swann, speaking to BBC Radio's Test Match Special as rain washed out the first one-day international against world champions India in Bristol without a ball bowled on Monday, insisted England were "so far behind other teams" in their approach to the limited-overs game.
"If he (Cook) truly believes England can win this World Cup...I am the greatest patriot there is but we do not have a cat in hell's chance," Swann said. Opening batsman Cook's position in the one-day side has been called into question, with many pundits arguing his orthodox approach, while well-suited to Test cricket, has increasingly little place in a one-day context where big hitters dominate at the top of the order.
"I love Cooky totally, but I do not think he should be bothering playing one-day cricket any more," said the 35-year-old Swann, who played 60 Tests and 79 ODIs for England before retiring during the team's 5-0 Ashes thrashing in Australia.
"Let young people (play) who want to smash it everywhere," he added as he called for promising batsmen James Vince and Jason Roy to be added to the squad. If the rain had held off in Bristol, England would have given an ODI debut to dynamic Nottinghamshire opener Alex Hales. The 25-year-old scored England's first Twenty20 international century when he made 116 not out from 64 balls against Sri Lanka at the World Twenty20 in March.
Swann played in the last World Cup in 2011, where England bowed out with a 10-wicket defeat by Sri Lanka in the quarter-finals in Colombo. Recalling that match, Swann said: "I remember (Jonathan) Trott getting 86 in Colombo. We'd batted to our batting plan perfectly, got 229. "They (Sri Lanka) knocked it off in 40 overs. "That's how we always played it. It's crazy.
The batsmen who won't win you World Cups in Australia will probably do very well in England. "If you're not getting over 300 now on good wickets you're not going to win games." Michael Vaughan, England's captain at the 2007 World Cup, added: "We've made the same mistake now as we did in my time, five to six years ago and in the 1990s. "We're picking one-day squads on Test form.
"English cricket has always had Test cricket at the pinnacle, but the games are so different. "England are looking too much at these new white balls. The other teams have gone power at the top and all the way through. "India have got power strikers all the way down. South Africa, Australia are all exactly the same.
"It's a completely different era because of Twenty20." England have yet to win the World Cup in nearly 40 years of trying since staging the first of the tournament's 10 editions in 1975. The last of their three losing appearances in the final was more than 20 years ago when the tournament was last staged in Australia and New Zealand in 1992.
England and India are due to play the second one-day international of their five-match series in Cardiff on Wednesday. Swann added: "I've just seen that the (series) sponsors are Royal London (insurance). "The tagline on their adverts is 'we're so yesterday' and they couldn't sum up the England one day team any more in my view."