By RICHARD BOOCK
If Thomas Edison was right about restlessness and discontent being the first necessities of progress, then the England one-day side should be feeling well on their way towards a healthy future.
Hot on the heels of the soccer team's shock elimination from Euro 2004 and Tim Henman's perpetual Wimbledon agony, the England cricketers left a pall of gloom hovering over the country this week after being knocked out of their own tri-series final.
It was only the second time since the inaugural tri-series five years ago that England had failed to attend their own party, and the alarm bells are now ringing frantically in terms of the Champions Trophy tournament in September.
And well they might. For all the success England enjoyed during the test series against New Zealand, their one-day game has appeared in continual disarray, and some of their recent tactics might have been devised by WG's grandparents.
The selectors initially opted for a squad that included part-timers such as Anthony McGrath, Ian Blackwell and Rikki Clarke, before waking up to the fact that the trio were only really all-rounders in so much as they couldn't bat or bowl.
Their response? To field a side so immobile it might have been selected from Madame Tussaud's wax museum - featuring still life in the form of Ashley Giles, Steve Harmison and Robert Key.
It was, at least, a variation on the previous blunders - like forgetting to pick a batting line-up at the start of the tournament, and then opting for some of the most harmless pie-throwers an opposition batsman could hope to face.
It might have worked about 10 years ago.
But just as bemusing was the suggestion that England's one-day future would be boosted by the advent of the twenty20 competition (read Cricket Max), a third-generation game that has so far proved immensely popular for English cricket's fast-food type culture.
More than 100,000 tickets were pre-sold for one of this week's rounds as supporters clamoured for a piece of the action, including twilight barbecues, musical interludes, family picnics, and a bit of cricket on the side.
The bad news, however, is that the spin-offs for the England team have not yet materialised. Duncan Fletcher's side have not won a match batting first in their past 11 attempts, dating back to the World Cup win over Pakistan at Cape Town.
It might be argued that the toss has played too much of a part in the tri-series, but even if accepting that, England - on most occasions - have been guilty of either forcing the pace too soon, or becoming over-cautious.
Only eight weeks out from the second-biggest one-day tournament on the calendar, the hosts could possibly do themselves a favour by looking at a reshuffle in their top-order, something that would allow Michael Vaughan to drop down to No 3 or 4 for the upcoming commitments.
His replacement at the top of the order could easily be Andrew Strauss, who appears to have the temperament and technique to make a go of it, or wicketkeeper Geraint Jones, who has already shown his natural attacking inclinations.
Whatever the selectors decide, it's important for England's sake that the one-day team's batting is not only capable, but experienced and well-versed in analysing conditions, and creating a successful tempo.
Whether eight weeks is enough for that penny to drop, however, is another matter.
By RICHARD BOOCK