Looking for self-belief

England needs to develop a winning culture again. "There is now the challenge for all the players and management to try and buy into a strategy, try to get some consistency together and build towards a good World Cup for us all." Michael Vaughan in conversation with Richard Gibson.

Michael Vaughan, 32, believes England needs to repair mental frailties for its World Cup campaign. The England skipper missed 18 months of one-day cricket due to his career-threatening knee trouble and — before a hamstring injury interrupted his comeback — he began the Commonwealth Bank Series in Australia with a team that had won just half-a-dozen of its previous 25 one-day internationals against Test-class opposition.

Vaughan's first assignment on taking charge of the dressing room once again was to promote the fun culture that prevailed in the 2005 Ashes success. Habitual defeats naturally led to anxiety and a lack of belief at the shorter form of the game.

"I always believe you get a really good vibe for a team in the dressing room, the way they talk to one another and the way they react and the way they're preparing," said Vaughan. "My job as captain has to be going in and making sure we get our preparation right, and we work hard and talk together, make sure we're communicating all the time.

"If we do all these things the results look after themselves. Sometimes I think we look a little too soon at the results without doing all the two-per-cent things that I'm quite keen on doing."

England's biggest problem in planning for the World Cup has been the huge turnover of players. A combination of retirements, illnesses, injuries and losses of form meant 34 different men wore the red-and-blue in the 18 months between the tied NatWest Series final with Australia in 2005 and their first one-day defeat down under.

"What is important now is that we draw up a strategy and stick with it. It might just be to go back to the basics of one-day cricket and not try to be too clever and try to just gain momentum by doing the basics well," Vaughan said.

Huge series defeats to India and Sri Lanka during 2006 exposed the shortfalls in each department of the game. "It has been a tough year but this is a great challenge for myself and the team to see if we can make 2007 a lot better," Vaughan said.

And England has begun its run-up to the World Cup on a winning note by vanquishing the mighty Australia in the Commonwealth Bank Series final.

"We want to try to learn from the mistakes that we've made over the last year or so and try to develop a winning culture again," said the England skipper. "There is now the challenge for all the players and management to try and buy into a strategy, try to get some consistency together and build towards a good World Cup for us all."

That is not to say the current England side has much to live up to in terms of the tournament's history. It has been 15 years since a campaign of any credit, when Graham Gooch's team went down to Pakistan in the final at the MCG.

"If we're honest since then we've been very average in World Cups," admitted Vaughan. "We've had little periods where we've beaten the best sides in the world in one-off occasions, but we've been inconsistent."

Just to be attempting to improve upon the failed campaigns of 1996, 1999 and 2003 will be a joyous event for Yorkshire's Vaughan, whose battle to get back to the top proved long and painful. The low point came in the middle of the 2005 summer, while England's top brass deliberated on who should replace him as captain.

"About six months ago someone told me I wouldn't play again," said Vaughan, without wishing to elaborate. "I have been very determined to make sure I did play again because I've realised how much I enjoy playing cricket.

"Time away from the game, you do realise how much you love things and I enjoy the aspects of going out and playing cricket for England.

"I hope I've got that opportunity now to try to revitalise my career and make sure I play for a few more years. I'm confident I still have a few more years left in me. I just hope we can win a few games, entertain a few people and try to get that freedom of expression back in the players."

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