2011 World Cup Preview - England
Cut back to the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies. England won that tournament, surprising and silencing many who have baulked at their inability to win a champions’ crown in the very sport they gave birth to. But Paul Collingwood led a different team there – one that left behind any untoward notions about their capabilities and exerted themselves on the field, the way only eventual winners can. Nearly a year ago their long-standing duck was finally broken!
One believes that tournament is an important marker in English cricket history after all these years. Finally, they have been able to forge together a team that is quite a few notches above mediocrity that reigned supreme in their ranks in the nineties, and extended pretty much into the eighties previously as nearly also in the first half of the decade just gone by. But more than anything the win in the Caribbean represented a tectonic shift in their temperament; that they could indeed psyche themselves up for a prize other than the Ashes.
2005 was when they realised that the two-decade long dominance of Australia could indeed be broken, but there was a flip side to it. Earlier hope would only be seeded for world competitions or ones that didn’t involve their arch-rivals. That epic win changed everything and further deepened the roots of expectations. The 2006-07 Ashes were a wake-up call in more ways than one and the ensuing 2007 World Cup was a waste, just like Andrew Flintoff floating somewhere in the sea. It brings forth the question – what of this year? For truth be told, they will play in the sub-continent very much in the shadow of their Ashes victory Down Under.
The 6-1 loss in the just concluded ODI series gives enough pointers to what England side will turn up for the World Cup. Tired, injury-hit and a bit drunk on their success achieved after a long gap of twenty-four years. That the scheduling has taken a toll on their senses was proven when the coach Andy Flower asked to be included in drawing up their annual fixture-list.
As if his work load isn’t heavy enough, but that is a marker of the times international cricket is played in today. Ideally Andrew Strauss and his men should have taken the first flight out after the fifth Test got over, and only after considerable rest and celebrations back home should they have flown out to the sub-continent. Instead they are landing here immediately after their southern hemisphere sojourn.
You would want to say that beyond scheduling and hangover, the cricketing ability exhibited on the previous tour needs to be detailed as well. For as much as tiredness growing over them, it is their play that will carry them forward and not whining about choked travel plans. Well, to that it can be said that winning in Australia is no mean feat and only the second team to achieve so in nearly two decades certainly won’t forget its craft in a hurry. If there is any residual doubt though, take a look at their chosen fifteen names then: Andrew Strauss (captain), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Eoin Morgan, Kevin Pietersen, Matthew Prior, Ajmal Shahzad, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, Jonathan Trott, Luke Wright and Michael Yardy.
Strauss is at a good place in his career today. Winning the Ashes twice means he has already achieved legendary status amongst his peers and if only a World Cup can be added to that collection, England’s rise in the rankings wouldn’t need any further justification. He is getting runs though there was a time when he was considered a misfit in the ODI plans. To turn it around the way he has, in all matters, shows the team is being led by the right person at the right time. With Trott having the time of his life too, and Bell and Collingwood to follow, the trio will try to lend solidity from one end while Pietersen, Prior and Yardy will bring out the explosives.
The main cog in their wheel though remains Eoin Morgan. He is a special talent this young man, a combination of all the players named above, if you can say so. Solidity and charisma combined together with a sane head, he is the optimum finisher/late order batsman you would want with the ability to perform if promoted up. Now only if he be fit enough and not close to missing the tournament as is being reported at the time of writing.
The good thing about their bowling is that they will have two different players to bank upon for striking it rich in the sub-continent. Broad would have been disappointed with missing much of the Ashes but he is fresh enough to vent that frustration in the World Cup. And by his set standards Swann didn’t really light up the Aussies, which is something he would want to rectify on more helpful wickets here. Though they may be a slow bowler short while Monty Panesay will be sitting home twiddling thumbs, it is still enough for Anderson, Shahzad and the all-rounders to build their attack around these two and maybe just maybe, England will challenge enough for one of the four semi-final spots. After that it is anybody’s game!
© Cricket World 2011