Andrew Strauss said Monday a collective fear of failure on the part of England's batsmen risks damaging the team's chances at next year's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
One longstanding complaint about England's recent one-day international performances, which have seen them lose five of their last six 50-over series, is that an essentially orthodox approach to batting allied to a lack of big-hitters means they are not getting enough runs to be competitive.
Last week saw India's Rohit Sharma score an ODI world record of 264 against Sri Lanka -- a total bigger than seven of England's last 10 ODI innings, albeit that includes the meagre 73 Alastair Cook's men needed for a 10-wicket win over a Sri Lanka side skittled out for just 68 at Old Trafford in May.
England have never won the World Cup despite having competed in every edition since hosting the inaugural tournament in 1975 and former captain Strauss said that, from his own experience, the problem had more to do with batsmen's approach rather than their techniques. (Also read: England set for bumper South Africa tour)
"I think the England players, even throughout my time, have played too fearfully," Strauss said in an interview with the BBC.
"They've been far too fearful of getting out. And you can't make 400 if you've got that kind of attitude," added Strauss, England's captain at the last World Cup in Asia four years ago where they suffered a 10-wicket quarter-final thrashing by Sri Lanka in Colombo.
"I would argue it's not the strategy that is wrong, it's that players haven't actually played well enough. And it's very hard to score 400 in ODIs if you're not confident," the former opening batsman added.
- Find winning way -
England begin their World Cup preparations in earnest next week with the first of a seven-match series away to Sri Lanka ahead of a triangular contest in Australia also featuring reigning champions India.
It means that, unusually, England will not be playing any Test cricket between the end of their own season and the start of a World Cup as they concentrate all their efforts on 50-over glory.
But Strauss warned England's morale could collapse ahead of the World Cup if they didn't enjoy victories in their 'warm-up' matches.
"They've got to find a way of winning that series in Sri Lanka to get some confidence," said Strauss.
"The real danger of this is they're playing against three very good one-day sides, and if they don't get on a bit of a roll and start winning then confidence could be eroded rather than enhanced before the World Cup," the 37-year-old added.
Much of the criticism of England's batting has focused on the performance of opener Cook, who has not scored an international century since May 2013.
But Strauss said the fact his old first-wicket partner could now concentrate solely on one form of cricket for several months would benefit the 29-year-old Essex left-hander.
"When he's played well he's scored quickly and he's led by example," Strauss explained.
"Now he needs to do that again for the next six months because that sets the platform.
"Bearing in mind this is his one shot of playing and captaining in a World Cup he'll be incredibly motivated and he'll have all his focus on that."